Fresno State vs. Utah Valley: Get To Know The Wolverines
The Bulldogs host a pretty solid WAC school this weekend.
Fresno State will be tested.
Fresno State wraps up its non-conference play as it hosts 10-4 Utah Valley out of the WAC. Just because it is a WAC school does not mean this will be a tough game. The Wolverines are a decent 140 in KenPoom and both of those teams match up well in what they do on offense and defense.
- Who are the key players for this Utah Valley team that Fresno State needs to look out for?
Jake and Conner Toolson. These two distant cousins are the only Wolverines scoring in double figures and when one doesn’t play well, it usually means bad news for UVU. Jake averages 16.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. Conner chips in 14.9 points per game along with 3.1 rebounds. Conner also leads UVU in steals with 25 on the season. Jake is shooting 58 percent from the field while Conner shoots at a 48 percent clip.
- Both of these teams matchup very similarly in KenPom on offense, but it seems defensively Fresno State is a bit better, so what will the Wolverines need to do to play well on that side of the ball?
There two keys here for UVU. The first is to be more physical than Fresno State. Transfer forwards Baylee Steele and Connor MacDougall are big, strong bodies who can bang with the best of them. The problem is, they tend to get into foul trouble. And, considering UVU isn’t deep in 2018-19, this is the second key. The Wolverines have to stay out of foul trouble.
I know it sounds cliche but it is the truth for the Wolverines. The only other big man who has played a lot of minutes is true freshman Wyatt Lowell. Richard Harward is also on the bench but the 6-9 forward doesn’t have the experience to really impact a game.
- The Wolverines are extremely good at home with 20 straight victories but just so-so on the road, what is the reasoning behind that?
In all reality, it is because of the type of competition the Wolverines play away from Orem. BYU, Saint Mary’s, Utah State, Arizona were all road games and all losses for the Wolverines.
UVU has won two straight road games but the quality of competition that the Wolverines have to play on the road compared to at the UCCU Center is much different, especially in the non-conference portion of its schedule. Plus, as with any team, there is a level of comfort playing at home. In its four road losses, UVU shot 37 percent from the field and in their home wins, they have shot 52 percent from the field.
- Time for a broader look: What are the expectations for UVU for WAC play, and possibly beyond?
Right now, UVU is in an uphill battle as New Mexico State is the king of the WAC, Seattle University has gotten better under second-year head coach Jim Hayford and Grand Canyon is always difficult, especially now that they are postseason eligible.
With a lack of depth and lack of true scorers outside of the Toolson’s, UVU will finish as either the third or fourth seed heading into the WAC tournament in Las Vegas in early March. I figure the Wolverines will finish the regular season with another 20-win season and potentially earn an invite to the CBI or CIT postseason tournaments. I just don’t see anyone knocking off New Mexico State in 2018-19.
Moving forward, I think the 2019-20 season might be the year for UVU. Yes, it’s way too early for most to say that but looking at who the Wolverines have on the roster for next season, should make UVU fans excited. Oklahoma State transfer Brandon Averette is eligible after sitting out a year due to transfer rules. Boise State transfer Casdon Jardine is also eligible as is Fordham transfer Ege Havsa. Junior college transfer Jacob Heese will also be part of the 2019-20 squad that loses just two players in Conner Toolson and Hayden Schenck. UVU will be deep and talented next season, in what could be a special year in Orem.
- How do you see this game playing out?
It will all depend on how well UVU shoots the basketball. Look at the loss at BYU in November. Every statistical category was identical to the Cougars except the shooting percentage in 10-point loss. Look at the Arizona loss where UVU shot 50 percent from the field in the first half and held a 12-point lead over the Wildcats in the McKale Center. In the second half, UVU shot just 31 percent from the field and ended up losing by 11 points. So, for UVU it will all depend on how they shoot the ball.
For Fresno State, it’s about making use of the home-court advantage as the Bulldogs haven’t lost at home in the 2018-19 season.
Both teams like to play up-tempo basketball. Four Bulldogs average in double figures led by New Mexico State transfer Braxton Huggins at 18.7 points.
I think that Fresno State wins at home in a high-scoring affair, improving to 8-0 at the Save Mart Center and snapping UVU’s four-game win streak.