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BYU vs. Utah: The Holy War is renewed on the hardwood

The Cougars and Utes will meet in Salt Lake City tonight for the final-time as non-conference opponents.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 24 Vegas Showdown - NC State v BYU Photo by Jeff Speer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Holy War will be renewed on the floor of the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City this evening as the No. 14 BYU Cougars hit the road to face the Utah Utes. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. ET and the game will air on the Pac-12 Network.

The interesting element about this year’s rivalry game is that it will be the final time these two will face each other as non-conference opponents, as both will be members of the Big 12 next season. The landscape of college sports is rapidly changing for both schools, and a surefire way to put yourself on stable footing is having the edge on your hated rival.

BYU (8-0) enters this game still unbeaten with all of its victories coming by at least nine points. Its signature victory came against San Diego State roughly one month ago and it most recently dominated Evansville in a 96-55 rout on Tuesday. The Cougars held the Purple Aces to just 33.3% shooting and dominated them on the boards 47-34.

The team has handled its business and the metrics have backed it up by being the top ranked team in NET and the No. 6 ranked team in KenPom. However, they haven’t necessarily played the toughest of schedules and that’s reflected by AP voters slotting them at No. 14 this week. However, a road win over a rival in Utah would be a good victory to add to the resume and the Cougars are going to have to rack up as many of these as possible before walking into the gauntlet that is Big 12 play.

Utah (6-2) has also mostly handled business during the non-conference portion of its schedule with a few hiccups along the way. Those hiccups came during the Charleston Clasic a few weeks ago when the Utes lost back-to-back games against Houston and St. John’s. They’ve since won three straight, most recently edging Southern Utah in an 88-86 on Tuesday.

Tonight’s game is important for Utah not just because of the the fact that it’s a big rivalry showdown, but also the fact that it could help or hurt the perception of this team moving forward. The Utes haven’t fared well against elite competition so far and how they perform in these types of matchups could be the difference between them getting into the NCAA Tournament and them being left out of the big dance altogether. Craig Smith’s guys need to acquit themselves well at home tonight.

BYU holds the advantage on both sides of the floor as it ranks as a top 15 team in both offensive and defensive efficiency on KenPom. The Cougars have one of the nation’s best effective field goal percentages in the country at 59% and are holding opponents to a nation-low 22.4% shooting from three on defense. What BYU will have to maneuver around is the length of Utah as the Utes are the nation’s tallest team with an average height of 6’7” across the board.

BYU vs. Utah Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

Spread: BYU -4
Total: 152
Moneyline: BYU -166, Utah +140

Pick: BYU -4