(9) Utah Utes (-5.5, 134 o/u) at Oregon Ducks
The second best team in the Pac-12, the No. 9 Utah Utes (21-4, 11-2 Pac-12), will face a stiff test tonight when they travel to Eugene to meet the Oregon Ducks (19-8, 9-5 Pac-12) at Matthew Knight Arena (3:00 p.m. Eastern).
Utah is tied with Arizona at the top of the Pac-12 standings, but they trail the Wildcats by virtue of a head-to-head loss earlier in the year.
Since dropping a surprise road game to UCLA, the Utes have rebounded with five straight wins, including a sensational defensive performance last time out against Oregon State (47-37). The Utes held the Beavers to just 33.3-percent shooting.
“We weren’t even hitting shots. We knew that if we kept to the defensive side and really locked down defensively, we knew we would get this outcome,” said Utah guard Brandon Taylor after downing the Beavers.
Oregon’s 9-5 conference record is good enough for third in the Pac-12 at the moment. After a mediocre 4-4 start to conference play, the Ducks have won five of the last six games, including a 73-60 romp over Colorado Buffaloes in their last game.
Oregon coach Dana Altman will likely be focused on stopping Utah forward Jordan Loveridge (10.1 PPG) tonight . Though guard Delon Wright is the Utes’ leading scorer (14.1 PPG), Altman knows his small team struggles with skilled big men.
“Size has given us problems,” Altman said, “There’s no hiding it; everybody knows it.”
Turning to the trends,
The Utes are 18-6 against the spread this season, while the Ducks are just 12-14. The total has gone over in five of the last seven games between Oregon and Utah.
Expect the defensively sound Utes to frustrate the Ducks’ shooters tonight and cover the modest 5.5-point spread.
(Photo credit: Beaverbasketball (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)