Midwest Region First Round Prediction & Free Pick: #8 Utah State vs. #9 Washington

Date | AuthorAllen Moody

Last Updated: 2019-03-21

Perhaps the best game in the Midwest will take place on Friday, when No. 8 Utah State battles No. 9 Washington at 6:50 p.m. EST at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Utah State captured the Mountain West title with a victory over San Diego State, while the Washington Huskies had to settle for an at-large bid after being upset by Oregon in the Pac 12 Conference Tournament, which also knocked UW down a bit in the seedings.

Utah State opened as a 2.5-point favorite and have been bet up to Aggies -3 after 62% of the early wagers came in on Utah State. The total has moved slightly from 134 to 135.

Neither team has what you could say is a location advantage, as fans of both teams will have a bit of a haul to reach the Midwest.

Washington: The 26-8 Huskies were the best of a relatively weak Pac 12 Conference this year, although a pair of losses to Oregon in the span of a week has Washington relegated to No. 2 in the conference in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings. The Huskies didn’t have much of a problem when playing weaker foes, despite a rather ugly loss at a dismal California team. But UW struggled when facing quality teams, going 1-7 straight up when playing teams in Pomeroy’s top 60. The lone win was a victory over Oregon in Eugene, but the Ducks got the best of the Huskies in the other two meetings.

The Huskies are pretty average on offense, despite averaging fewer points than their opponents allow, as Washington plays a slower-paced game and attempted four fewer field goals per game, but did hit at a higher percentage than their foes allowed. Defense is where the Huskies live and die and UW held foes to 9.1 fewer points than they averaged, although a bit of that is due to the style the Huskies play.

Utah State: The Aggies weren’t expected to do a whole lot this year and entered the season ranked No. 168. Utah State has also had its share of troubles against better teams, as they were 2-3 against teams ranked in Pomeroy’s top 60, but their wins over St. Mary’s and Nevada are more impressive than any of the wins Washington picked-up over the course of the season.

The Aggies are definitely a more-balanced team that Washington, as Utah State is better offensively by a decent margin and while not quite as good as Washington on defense, aren’t a bad defensive team by any stretch of the imagination, holding foes to 5.9 fewer points than they average, while scoring 7.1 more points than their opponents allowed.

Game: Utah State is your average team in terms of pace and won’t be trying to force the tempo, but won’t be slowing things down, either, which is what the Huskies will look to do. The Aggies are the better shooting team from the field, but the Huskies get a slight edge on 3-point shooting, which they’ll have to make some of to stay in this game.

The Huskies are good at forcing turnovers, so the Aggies are going to have care of the basketball and not give Washington extra opportunities from the field.

Pick: Utah State – 3

This isn’t a pick on Utah State as much as it is a pick against Washington and the Pac 12 Conference, which frankly, wasn’t very good this season. While the Huskies can shoot the ball a little bit, they’re more of a one-trick pony and getting by on just defense is a tough task in the NCAA Tournament. The Aggies can shoot and also hold foes to less than 40% from the field and think they’re diverse enough to get the win in this one.

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