Pac-12 play will resume in earnest tonight as the Washington State Cougars head to the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City to meet the Utah Utes. Tipoff is set for 8:30 p.m. ET and the game will air on the Pac-12 Network.
Washington State (9-2, 0-0 Pac-12) opens conference play after a solid run through the non-con portion of its schedule. The Cougars were able to pick up a solid Quad 2 victory right before Christmas, knocking off Boise State 66-61 in Spokane last Thursday. Up by one in the final minute, the Coogs were able to clamp down on the defensive end and make their free throws to close out the game.
Utah (9-2, 0-0 Pac-12) also had a solid run through its non-con schedule and is riding a six-game win streak heading into tonight’s showdown. The Utes were last seen pounding Bellarmine in an 85-43 rout last Wednesday, a game where they held the Knights to just 32.7% shooting. The team received votes in this week’s AP poll, so they are on the doorstep of being ranked.
This game will be a battle of size as both teams have an average height of just over 6’7”. The Cougars have been able to use that to their advantage on the defensive side of the floor, ranking fifth in defensive effective field goal percentage at 42.5% while also checking in as one of the best shot-blocking teams in the country. That presents a tough challenge for a Utah team that ranks 26th in offensive efficiency per KenPom and is one of the best teams at avoiding blocked shots. The battle to watch will be Branden Carlson banging up against the likes of Oscar Cluff and Rueben Chinyelu in the paint.
What this game means for Washington State
This has the chance to be Kyle Smith’s best team in his five seasons at Wazzu and a Quad 1 victory to open Pac-12 play would make a huge statement. The Cougars would not only establish some momentum right out the gate in conference play, but would add a big bullet point to their postseason resume.
What this game means for Utah
Utah is on the cusp of national recognition and is inching closer and closer to being ranked in the AP Top 25. A victory over a tough Washington State team to open Pac-12 play would establish the Utes as an early contender for the league’s regular season title.
Washington State vs. Utah odds from DraftKings Sportsbook
Spread: Utah -8
Moneyline: Utah -360, Washington State +285