Washington Huskies (26-8) (17-16-1 ATS) vs. Utah State Aggies (28-6) (18-16 ATS)
NCAA BB: Friday, March 22nd, 2019 at 6:50 pm ET (Nationwide Arena, Columbus, OH)
Line and Odds: Utah State -3, O/U 135
March Madness Pick Utah State Aggies vs. Washington Huskies
Great opening day to the tournament. Ready for day two? The round of 64 is probably the most exciting part of March Madness. So many teams, so little time. But lots of excitement in these first two days. Here we go! The winner of this gets UNC or Iona.
The Washington Huskies have had some polarity this season. The Huskies began their year in the cold Northwest drizzle. They couldn’t get a decent quadrant win away from the Pac-12 as Auburn, Minnesota, Gonzaga, and Virginia Tech all went dawg hunting. Texas A&M was their only worthy non-conference win they picked up.
Washington started warming up as March came blooming. The Dawgs picked up 10 consecutive conference wins and a 17-4 overall Pac record en route to the season title. Down south, however, were the Oregon Ducks who, like rivals usually do, made things difficult. In the Pac-12 championship Husky loss, the Washington guards contemplated the whole game in getting shots up over the bigs of Oregon and their long stretched arms. The Huskies shot 33% from the field, went 5-23 from 3-point, and no player scored over 10. What’s more is that UW couldn’t surpass 48 points in their last two trial defeats from Oregon.
Which leads me to this; these Huskies always find a way to bounce back after a bad loss, Oregon’s in their rear view mirror, and they have yet to lose two consecutive. I believe they’ll shore up the down performances from several players such as Matisse Thybulle (9.26 PPG, 3.41 SPG, 2.18 BPG) who attempted a dismal 2-8 shooting to go on four points. Look for him to make a bigger impact in not just scoring but defending especially. Jaylen Nowell, David Crisp and Noah Dickerson will also look to make corrections. They combined for only 18 points in the defeat, yet these three athletes are the only ones above 10 PPG on the team and account for more than 61% of the Husky scoring output.
As a pack, they’re not too explosive. UW’s #163 in offensive efficiency and have a Kenpom adjusted offensive efficiency rating of 107.2 points per 100 possessions. That number is only good for #50 out of the 64 teams in the tourney. So they’re pretty average, except on defense. Against the ball, Washington is #19 in Kenpom defensive efficiency rating letting teams score 93.8 points per 100 possessions. And much in part to Thybulle, this team is #2 in the country in steals/play taking it away 11.4% of the time. Purple and gold is also #2 nationally in blocks/play
The Aggies are in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011 and what greater time to make an appearance. They’re winners of 10 straight and to top that, they’ve conquered 16 of their last 17 opponents. There is a “but” and that’s the non-conference performance. Utah State has quality wins against St. Mary’s and UC Irvine outside of the MW. Their key defeats, however, are to Arizona State, BYU and Houston.
Then I’m going to play devil’s advocate again and say they took care of business in the MW. Utah’s only defeats to Nevada, Fresno State, and then San Diego State were eventually avenged. In fact, they doubled up the latter two getting one more on each in the MW tournament including the Mountain West championship over San Diego State. Many could argue against Arizona State being the lone power-5 team in their schedule. How about the win over a Nevada team that went 3-0 against the power-5, in particular the Pac-12.
If the Oregon front line wasn’t enough, Utah features the 6’11” Neemias Queta (11.48 PPG, 8.85 RPG) and Washington’s going to have their hands full trying to evade his 7’5″ wingspan. Queta averaged 3.0 BPG in the tournament. And while so much attention is on the Zion’s and the Barret’s, Utah St. has Sam Merrill (21.2 PPG, 4.18 APG, 46.0 FG%) who’s recorded 18 games of 20 points or more with 13 of those coming in 2019.
Washington’s offense might not be explosive, but Utah State’s is. The Aggies are 26th in offensive efficiency and average 113.1 per 100 possessions in Kenpom adjusted offensive efficiency. This number puts them at #24 out of the field of 64. Next is that they rebound and assist well, and rank 9th and 10th in the country, respectively. Defending the rim they’re #45 in the nation in Kenpom defensive efficiency letting teams score 96.6 per 100 possessions. Queta has a lot to do with his team being #4 in 2-point % and foes shoot a low 39.2% against the Aggies
Washington is 4-3 SU in its past seven games
1-6 ATS in its past seven contests
The UNDER has hit in 10 of its last 14 games
Utah State is 10-0 SU in its last 10 games
5-1 SU in its last neutral site tilts
8-4 ATS in its last 12 games vs. non-conference opponents
March Madness Predictions Washington Huskies vs Utah State Aggies
Pick Washington here. One thing about teams who are fresh off a defeat is they adjust and I think Washington’s looking at Utah State and sees Oregon. They’re going to have to deal with length, some above average shooting, and a tough defense to match, again. It’s nothing they haven’t seen. I think they learn from their mistakes.