Bracket Buster No. 9: Utah

Justin KundratCorrespondent IMarch 1, 2009


We are sort of running out of viable options since most of the serious threats have already been mentioned. But if we choose to include the Mountain West Conference, a league that has been making some serious noise this year, then Utah can easily qualify. 

The Utes currently hold a 20-7 record and have just about clinched the regular season title at 11-2. Yet unlike most of the previous Bracket Busters, this team is probably a lock in the NCAA tournament.

They have done enough over the course of the season to be a strong candidate for an at-large bid, but closing the season out strong and making a run in the MWC tournament would be a good idea. 

Led by 7'2" senior center Luke Nevill, Utah has won eight straight now and have convincing victories over Gonzaga, LSU, and Mississippi, while also defeating BYU and UNLV in conference play.

And although Nevill, who averages 17.4 points and 8.5 boards per game, has been a key factor, three other players contribute over 10 points per game, all of whom are seniors.

Experience is a critical component in pressure games such as the conference tournament, and Utah has plenty of it. The Utes also return four starters and a majority of their scoring options from a team that nearly made the sweet sixteen last season.

And for a team that struggles at times with their defense, having multiple guys who can knock down shots is important. Which is the reason why Utah ranks 8th nationally in 2-point field goal percentage at 55.2 and 27th in three-point percentage at 38.8. This all adds up to a stunning 1.44 points per shot thanks to Nevill’s 61.1 percent conversion rate.

An efficient offense and tough-to-guard big man are what make Utah such a dangerous team this March. Many teams have struggled to slow down Nevill and have been forced to double him and leave a guy open. And since they shoot 79 percent from the stripe as a team, Utah is very good in late game situations.

The Utes will be a tough out this year.


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