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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Basketball: Poeltl and Co. look to clean up on the glass against Lumberjacks

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Each year when the NCAA Tournament rolls around America is put on pause. Fans of the game tirelessly study and watch film in an attempt to concoct that coveted perfect bracket, but for freshman center Jakob Poeltl, that was never an experience he had in Austria.

“I knew all the results [of the tournament games], but I couldn’t really watch too many games because most of the time they were in the middle of the night,” Poeltl said.

All season long has been chock-full of new experiences for Poeltl, and he will go through another one when the Utes tip-off against Stephen F. Austin in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday in Portland.

Although the basketball scene wasn’t as popular over in his homeland as it is here in America, the freshman understands the magnitude of an event like this, but he still couldn’t help but show emotion when thinking about it.

“It’s exciting, it might be the most exciting because it’s the NCAA tournament,” Poeltl said. “Everybody knows about it, national attention from everybody.”

Unfortunately for Poeltl, Austria sits clear across the globe, making it difficult for friends and family of the freshman to make the trip. While players such as Brandon Taylor and Delon Wright will have loved ones in attendance when the Utes take on the Lumberjacks, Poeltl will be tackling this challenge on his own.

Throw in the fact that Poeltl is also just a freshman and it’ll be interesting to see how he handles the new situation. Poeltl believes that he will have a good showing against SFA, and according to his teammates, they will be looking to Poeltl early and often.

“Milk our bigs and establish the post early,” Taylor said of what the key to the game is. “Establish a post presence early in the game and let it go from there.”

The reason why Poeltl and Taylor are confident in that gameplan is because Stephen F. Austin doesn’t boast anyone that stands taller than 6-foot-9, a considerable three inches shorter than Poeltl and backup center Dallin Bachynski, and the Lumberjacks don’t start anyone over 6-foot-6. While both teams average around 34 boards per game, it’s safe to assume that the Utes will have the advantage on the glass thanks to their size.

However, the Lumberjacks play more like Jackrabbits, causing mayhem all over the court. SFA currently ranks ninth in the country in points and first in assists per game, all while using a full-court pressure against their opponents to cause a ridiculous amount of turnovers.

Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak likened the Utes’ Thursday opponent to a team Utah is quite familiar with — Oregon. While the Ducks toppled the Utes twice this season —once in the regular season and the other just last week at the Pac-12 Tournament — Krystkowiak hopes to see more success against the Lumberjacks than he saw against Oregon.

“There’s some similarities, a lot of similarities actually,” Krystkowiak said of the two teams. “I wouldn’t say [playing Oregon] is an advantage, but it certainly isn’t a disadvantage.”

Time will tell if the Utes will be able to handle the high-powered offense and pressure of Stephen F. Austin, but they are feeling good heading into their first game of the Big Dance.

“I like where the guys are,” Krystkowiak said of his team. “They are all focused and hopefully ready.”

[email protected]

@GriffDoug

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