We’ve got one really late game in college basketball tonight, so that becomes our spotlight game by default as the Utah Utes visit the Oregon Ducks in some Pac-12 After Dark action. Oregon is favored by 12.5 with a total of 138.5 from the fine folks at 5Dimes Sportsbook and across most of the betting board.
There are a lot of early games on the docket today, including some that made an appearance in my college basketball situational spots article. That will be updated this evening with the next round of games, so be on the lookout for that and also on the lookout for college basketball content on the next week of BangTheBook Radio.
Northern Iowa came up short in overtime for us on Saturday. Once a short underdog goes to overtime, you basically have to win the game all over again and that didn’t happen. Both meetings went to OT. We’ll look forward to what should be a third one in the MVC Conference Tournament.
With that, we shift our focus to tonight’s tilt and Oregon as a big favorite. The Utes are doing the Oregon double with stops in Corvallis and Eugene. This is obviously the second of those two games. Depending on who you ask, Oregon is the team with the highest ceiling in the Pac-12. If you asked me, that’s what I would tell you. They avenged their loss to Colorado on Thursday night and now set their sights on one of the weaker teams in the conference.
Utah didn’t look all that competitive in a 19-point loss to Oregon State on Thursday night. For the fifth straight game in a row, the Utes fell short of .94 points per possession. In four of those five games, the Utes didn’t even get to .90 PPP. This isn’t that bad of an offensive team from the full-season numbers, as Utah ranks 73rd in 2P% and 199th in 3P% per Bart Torvik. The Utes do have some turnover issues, but they are 110th in eFG% offense.
If we go to conference-only numbers, though, Utah is clearly in the bottom half of the conference. The Utes are 11th in eFG% at 46%, a massive drop from 50.9% for the season. Their 52.1% from two-point range is down to 46.3%. Their three-point percentage is the second-worst in the league at 30.3%. Larry Krystowiak’s team just doesn’t have enough guys that can create offense. Utah, despite the low output, is first in the league in assist rate.
Freshman point guard Rylan Jones may be hitting something of a wall. He’s averaging 4.7 assists and 10.2 points per game, but he only has 14 points over his last three games. Fellow freshman Mikael Jantunen seems to be doing the same with 19 points over his last five games. He had 16 in the January 25 win over Washington State and 18 earlier this season in a win over BYU, but he just hasn’t been much of a factor lately.
Timmy Allen leads Utah with 17.9 points per game, but he has more assists than turnovers on the season. He’s a scorer by output more than anything, as he is only shooting 23% from 3 and 46% from 2, including a 29% success rate from the mid-range.
Oregon’s offense disappeared momentarily in losses to Stanford and Oregon State, with just .885 and .847 PPP on consecutive Saturdays. The team looked a lot better on offense against Colorado and scored a nice win, but the maddening inconsistency of Oregon makes it tough to lay big numbers. In conference play, Oregon has only won by at least 13 points once and that was against UCLA on January 26. This is a really good team that has either underachieved on offense or has done so on defense throughout the course of the season.
Up until the game against Colorado, Oregon had allowed over a point per possession to UCLA, Cal, Stanford, and Oregon State. That was a Cal team on the road, too. Oregon actually ranks 84th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency per Torvik. They’ve allowed too many offensive rebounds and have had some misfortune at the free throw line, where opponents are shooting 74.5%. That ranks just outside the bottom 20 in the nation.
It is really more of a matter of how much better this team should be. The Ducks are 51st in the country in eFG% and opponents are only shooting 45.5% from two. But something still seems off with the team. Not to mention, opponents are up to 46.6% from two in conference play and that eFG% goes up to 48.7%, which ranks in the middle of a very mediocre conference.
Perhaps Dana Altman’s team is just waiting for March to go on a run again, much like they did last season. They would be wise to conserve their energy, as this isn’t a team that runs super deep or gets a lot of bench production. The playing time is spread around a bit, but most of the guys at the bottom of the roster haven’t contributed much. Payton Pritchard leads the way with 19.3 points per game and has been playing a whole lot of the conference minutes. He needs a more consistent wingman.
Maybe Oregon cracked a code against Colorado and will start playing better, but that seems unlikely. This is a team that has had one flaw or another for a while now. Utah isn’t any good, but this is a flat spot off of getting revenge against Colorado. This is also a bit of a flat spot against a bad Utah team with the Arizona trip on deck. It’s the Utes for me.
Pick: Utah +12.5