Utah 2009 NCAA Tournament Preview
Utah Utes - Mountain West Conference (24-9, 12-4)
Seed: #5 - Midwest Region
Big Wins: 12/31 Gonzaga (66-65), 1/6 LSU (91-61), 1/27 BYU (94-88)
Bad Losses: 12/6 at Idaho State (68-72), 1/24 at UNLV (65-75), 3/3 at New Mexico (71-77)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2005, Sweet Sixteen loss to Kentucky
Coach: Jim Boylen (First NCAA appearance)
Probable Utah Starters:
Luka Drca, Junior, Guard, 7.8 ppg, 3.5 apg
Carlon Brown, Sophomore, Guard, 9.4 ppg, 3.2 apg, 5.2 rpg
Lawrence Borha, Senior, Guard, 11.7 ppg, 1.5 apg
Kim Tillie, Junior, Forward, 3.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg
Luke Nevill, Senior, Center, 16.9 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.7 bpg
Key Utah Roleplayers:
Shaun Green, Senior, Forward, 10.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.0 bpg
Tyler Kepkay, Senior, Guard, 10.1 ppg, 1.2 apg
Why The Utes Can Surprise:
Utah usually plays smart basketball. They take good shots and that is why they are one of the best shooting teams in the nation. It helps that they have good shooters too. The field-goal percentage numbers are boosted by the play of center Luke Nevill. The 7-2 center hit an amazing 60.7 percent of his attempts from the floor. Most of those shots are right next to the basket, but that is still an impressive number. Nevill is the heart and soul of this team and he leads the squad with 16.9 points and 9.1 rebounds per contest. Nevill is also a great free-throw shooter and that is very important for a big man who spends a lot of time at the charity stripe.
Shawn Green and Kim Tillie are the other forwards that see significant playing time. Tillie usually gets the starting nod, but he is not much of a scorer and rarely plays as many minutes as Green. However, it is Tillie who has the size and the tenacity to free up space for Nevill under the basket. Green is more of an outside shooter and when Coach Jim Boylen needs to stretch the defense he will call on Green.
Why The Utes Can Disappoint:
Utah does not force many turnovers and they commit quite a few. That has resulted in one of the worst turnover margins by any team that made a postseason tournament. Carlon Brown and Luka Drca are the primary ball handlers, and both are quality passers and scorers, but the turnover numbers can get out of hand on occasion. The Utes take advantage of their offensive possessions with their smart shot selection, but if they want to be able to pull off an upset or two, Drca and Brown have to take care of the ball.
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Who To Watch:
Nevill is good for about 20 points and ten rebounds every game. It is the consistency of the rest of the team that is a bigger issue. Six players average at least 7.8 points per game and Utah will need a few guys to step up every night. Lawrence Borha and Brown do most of their damage getting to the basket, although Borha also compliments his game with the threat of an outside shot. Along with Borha and Green, Tyler Kepkay and Drca are also dangerous three-point shooters. Even if one or two of those guys are cold, the others will not be. It is very difficult to defend the Utes when Nevill gets so much room in the paint because the opposition has to cover so many players beyond the arc.
Utah By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 72.3 (98th in nation, 4th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 64.9 (98, 6)
Field-Goal Percentage: 48.2 (17, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 40.5 (43, 2)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.3 (73, 2)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 38.6 (28, 2)
Free-Throw Percentage: 78.4 (4, 1)
Rebound Margin: 5.2 (33, 1)
Assists Per Game: 13.5 (125, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.8 (163, 8)
Joel’s Bracket Says: : Sweet Sixteen loss to Louisville
By Joel Welser
CollegeSports-fans.com Senior Basketball Writer
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