Utah just swept the LA schools on the road, including a stunning comeback against UCLA featuring a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Parker Van Dyke. Arizona is on a five-game losing streak, and desperately needs a win. To see if that’s feasible, we talked to Shane Roberts at Block U.
Here’s our Q&A.
Coming off a sweep in LA, including the incredible comeback over UCLA, what’s the current mood around the team?
It’s for sure positive, but I think people are also very realistic about this team. They’re a young squad that have done some nice things, but this is a transition year for the program, as they are breaking in 9 new players. Everyone is excited about the position that the Utes are in as they pursue a first round bye in the Pac-12 tournament, but everyone knows it will still be an uphill battle for the last half of conference play.
Who’s a player to watch for Utah?
Sedrick Barefield is usually the head of the snake for the Utes. He’s a sharp shooter and when he’s hot watch out. Teams have really doubled him and ran at him hard the last couple of weeks, especially from the Oregon game on. The player that has developed nicely is Timmy Allen. He’s a bit of an undersized four, but he’s a hard worker, and he’s been leading the Utes in scoring the last few games. He hangs around the paint, and can be a tough matchup for bigger guys. I’m excited to see him develop over the next few years, since he’s a true freshman.
What’s Utah’s biggest strength? What about their biggest weakness?
Biggest strength, three point shooting. It’s weird seeing a Utah team depend so much on the deep ball, but when the ball is moving around and guys are open, they’re pretty lethal from down town. Weakness, taking care of the ball. This team is careless with the ball, and it’s not unusual for them to turn the ball over 17-20 times. The Oregon game was a disaster with 20 turnovers, and they just have a hard time reeling it in. If they hold onto the ball, they’ll find a good shot more often than not in Coach K’s offense, but it can be a challenge at times.
Utah’s currently in position for a first round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament. Do you see them maintaining that position with seven games left?
Who knows with this league. I tabbed them as a .500 team going into the season and into league play. If that happens, then they’ll drop out of the top four, but with the league being so bad, and Utah being so good on the road, I’d say the odds are good for them right now, but they can’t be swept during any of the remaining weeks.
What’s your score prediction for the game?
I think the two programs are going opposite directions right now, and I think Arizona is a bit distracted by what’s going on with the FBI stuff. I see Utah getting this one, but it’s another Utah/Arizona game, so let’s go 68-66 Utes,