Southern Utah, at least on paper, is an unusual team. They have beaten Nebraska and took future UCLA opponent BYU to the wire. But they did not do it the way underdog teams usually do it against Majors.
First off, they stink from three. Against BYU, they went 0-12 and, for the season, they are shooting 21% from three. This is not the underdog that pulls off upsets by hitting threes.
On the other hand, they outrebounded BYU by 7 and Nebraska by 14 in a double overtime game. They are averaging 10 more rebounds a game than UCLA this season which has been outrebounding their opponents by 10. In fairness, the double overtime win is inflating the rebound average a bit. They also shoot better than UCLA at 48% clip to UCLA’s 44%.
Also, like UCLA, they are a deep team with 8 players averaging 20 or more minutes a game and 12 averaging 10 or more. In their three games, three different players have led them in scoring. Again, this is unusual for a team like Southern Utah.
So what does this mean for matchups and UCLA?
1. Unlike UNLV, when UCLA went small, this game UCLA may be going big. More Alex Olesinski and maybe some Shareef O’Neal. They like to score inside.
2. They do turn the ball over, 18 times against BYU and Nebraska. UCLA’s defense forced a lot of turnovers against UNLV and, without having to extend to cover three-pointers as much, they can jump passing lanes some. UCLA may be able to rout Southern Utah as UCLA’s offense is best on the open floor when its defense is forcing turnovers.
3. It will be interesting to watch how Jalen Hill and Cody Riley do this game. Riley has rebounded poorly so far for a player of his size. Hill dominated UCSB’s backups, how will he fare against Southern Utah’s multiple rebounding bigs? Utah has 20 blocks this year to UCLA’s 14. It might be a war inside and the best test yet for Hill and Riley.
You have to like UCLA’s chances, but this is a different sort of opponent than UCLA has played so far.