Men’s hoops: Breaking down Utah vs. Arizona, by position

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By Griffin Adams and Griffin Adams

It’s finally here — Utah vs. Arizona, round two. This matchup has been circled on everyone’s calendars for weeks now, as the No. 13 Runnin’ Utes look to avenge their early-season loss in Tucson when they host the Wildcats on Saturday night. To prepare for the madness, we decided to break down the positional battles between Utah and Arizona.

RELATED: UTES SEND A MESSAGE, READY FOR BIG GAME AGAINST ‘ZONA 

PG — Brandon Taylor vs. T.J. McConnell

— Chris Ayers

In their last matchup, McConnell had the game of his life to the tune of 16 points on 8-for-10 shooting, getting the better of Taylor in Tucson. However, Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak has said on a number of occasions that Taylor is one of the best defenders in the conference, and Taylor has shut down a number of high-volume scorers such as Stanford’s Chasson Randle and Colorado’s Askia Booker. Both Taylor and McConnell have an unteachable passion for the game so expect round two of this bout to be a hard-fought battle.

 

SG — Delon Wright vs. Stanley Johnson

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In last month’s game, Wright had the upper hand early. Immediately after the Wildcats got the tip to start the game, Wright stole a pass and took it the other way for a fast-break dunk. Wright’s play dialed back a bit the rest of the way, but he was still the most productive Ute, stuffing the stat sheet with 10 points, seven assists and four rebounds. But Johnson responded with 18 second-half points and was a big part of Arizona’s second-half surge. Both will likely be drafted in the first round of the next NBA Draft, and it’ll be interesting to watch the two future professionals go at it in the Huntsman.

 

SF — Jordan Loveridge vs. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

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Looking at this matchup, Hollis-Jefferson has a clear athletic advantage over his Utah counterpart. Despite not putting up the same numbers as Johnson, Hollis-Jefferson is ferocious on the boards and is arguably the most important piece to this Wildcat team. Loveridge, who was never known for athleticism or lockdown defense, will have his work cut out for him trying to keep up with Hollis-Jefferson throughout the night. However, Loveridge did have the better game of the two in Tucson, scoring more points on a better shooting percentage than RHJ.

 

PF — Chris Reyes vs. Brandon Ashley

 

Reyes and Ashley are two pretty similar players — both are scrappy, both get after it on the boards, both play great defense and both have somewhat of a shot. However, Ashley has a slight advantage over Reyes due to the fact that he can step beyond the three-point arc and get a bucket. Reyes has converted on some long two-point attempts this season, but the three-point shot is not part of his game. Technically Reyes’ 50 percent clip from deep tops Ashley’s percentage of 33, but the latter has taken 33 attempts while Reyes has only taken two. The pair will battle down low all night, but thanks to Ashley having the three-point shot in his arsenal, Reyes will need to perform well to match Ashley’s production.

 

C — Jakob Poeltl vs. Kaleb Tarczewski

Both Poeltl and Tarczewski have great size, as the two centers both stand at seven-feet tall, but Tarczewski had the clear edge over the Austrian earlier this season. The Wildcat center has 10 pounds on the Ute and pushed Poeltl around the paint like a rag doll. It was later revealed that Poeltl suffered an injury in that game, but he is now healthy and ready for his second chance at Tarczewski. Many consider Poeltl to be an NBA talent, and Tarczewski is the type of player Poeltl will need to have a good game against to back those claims.

 

Bench — Utah vs. Arizona

When these two teams take the floor in the Huntsman Center, it will arguably be the two deepest teams in the nation going at it on Saturday night. Currently, Arizona has eight players who play 10-plus minutes per game, but the impressive statistic is that the Wildcats don’t have a single athlete averaging 30 or more minutes. This is a testament to the well-balanced attack that Arizona head coach Sean Miller has implemented in Tucson. However, the Runnin’ Utes are even deeper, having 10 players who average 10-plus minutes per game. Throw in the fact that Kyle Kuzma and Jeremy Olsen (two players who are currently averaging less than 10 minutes per game) have both been in the good graces of Krystkowiak lately and are now viable options off of the bench for Utah. Keep your eye on the game in this one, because both coaches and benches will be active throughout the entire contest.

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@GriffDoug