Utah vs. Georgetown
Time: 7:45 PM ET, TBS
Spread: UTA -4.5
M/L: UTA -200; GEO +170
Betting odds c/o Bookmaker
No. 5 seeded Utah was able to stave off being a victim of the typical 5 vs. 12 upset against S.F. Austin in second round action on Thursday. Taking on a much tougher Georgetown team is going to prove to be a bit more of a challenge, not that the SF Austin Lumberjacks didn’t give them a bit of a scare. Early NCAA basketball odds at Bookmaker showed the Utes as 4.5 point favorites in the affair, with the total set at 123.5.
Utah is led by star guard senior Delon Wright. The 6’5” 190 pound backcourt stud averaged 15 points per game this season and closed the season strong, posting 17.8 points per game over his past five contests and connecting on 8 of 14 from three-point range over that span. Wright shot 37.1 percent from three-point range this season while hitting 52.9 percent from the floor. While his field goal percentage has decreased from a year ago, it’s come at the benefit of having added a much more prolific three-point shot. In addition to that, he’s dishing over five assists per game, and the adage is that good guard play helps teams advance in March.
Utah lost to Oregon on a buzzer beating three last time out, even though it got 16 points, nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block from Wright. The Utes also received 24 points on 9 of 15 shooting from guard Brandon Taylor, who dialed up six threes in the game and was one of three Utes to see over 30 minutes in the game (36). Taylor seems to be saving his best for this tournament, after having struggled prior to the Oregon game but increasing his marksmanship steadily leading up to it.
In the matchup Thursday against the Lumberjacks, the Utes won it on the strength of defense and by controlling the pace of the game. It also helped that SF Austin couldn’t throw it in the ocean from behind the arc, hitting just 5 of 26 as a team, and those 26 shots comprised over half the team’s looks (which isn’t good when they’re falling at a 19 percent clip). Even so, Utah held SF Austin to just 33 percent shooting overall and Utah’s Jakob Poeltl played a stellar game, hitting all seven of his field goal attempts for 18 points while grabbing eight boards and rejecting five shots. His interior defense will be what enables Utah to advance in this tournament if it can overcome its difficulties with turnovers. Utah had 17 (!) in the win over SF Austin, and that’s just not going to get it done against these tougher teams like G-Town.
For the season, he’s connected on 75 threes at a 43.9 percent clip, and he’s an experienced junior having been a big minute player since his freshman season in 2012-13. Between Wright, Taylor and Jordan Loveridge (10 points and four rebounds per game), the Utes will have the firepower to challenge the Hoyas staunch defense.
Georgetown really doesn’t boast an impressive array of numbers, but there is a lot to be said for program strength and consistency this time of season, and most particularly so in early round matchups. Georgetown closed the season in relatively strong fashion, too, winning three of its final four, notching an impressive 60-54 win over then-No. 21 Butler on Mar 3. In that game, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored 16 points on just nine field goal attempts, as he knocked down a pair of triples and grabbed seven rebounds.
It was enough to edge out Butler in a low scoring affair that featured a total of just 114 points. The Hoyas held Butler to just 35.3 percent shooting and won the game despite being negative-19 (!) on the glass. Georgetown has had its share of struggles rebounding the basketball this season, too, ranking just 133rd among D-1 squads with 35.1 rebounds per game.
Smith-Rivera is the leading scorer for G-Town with 16.2 points per game in 34 minutes a night, while also dishing 3.1 assists and grabbing 4.1 rebounds per game. He’s a good shooter (39.5 percent three, 87 percent free throw) and is the lynchpin to the Hoyas making a run in this tournament. The 6’3” junior guard had a most impressive game in the 60-55 win over Creighton on Mar 12, as he scored 25 points and hit four threes in the game. Even more crazy than that was his 29 point game against St. John’s on Feb 28 when he dialed up seven triples out of 14 attempts. His shooting could easily reverse a game, or in this case, allow Georgetown to prevail as the heady favorite it is.
It should be interesting to see how 6’10” 350 pound senior center Joshua Smith fares. He’s struggled (obviously) with conditioning his entire NCAA career and is accordingly limited to playing about half a game. Even so, he’s played pretty darn well while doing so. Smith is good for 11.1 points per game and 5.9 rebounds while shooting an outstanding 62.6 percent from the floor, and a passable 64 percent from the charity stripe.
The Hoyas were able to win by 10 in its first matchup against Eastern Washington, but will need to play a much tougher 40 minutes against a favored team like the Utes. Smith-Rivera had 25 in the game while getting to the line 13 times and knocking down four triples …but he also had six turnovers and G-Town had 14 as a team. What kept the Hoyas from succumbing to another upset was the plus-8 advantage on the board and some stellar three-point shooting (11 of 23). The Hoyas did a good job of getting quality shots and it was reflected by the 52.1 percent shooting.