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January 25, 2015 at 10:54 AM

Pac-12 predictions: Washington has tough task at No. 12 Utah

Andrew Andrews, left, and Delon Wright are two of the central figures when Washington and No. 12 Utah clash Sunday at Huntsman Center. (Photo credit: Ethan Miller - Getty Images)

Andrew Andrews, left, and Delon Wright are two of the central figures when Washington and No. 12 Utah clash Sunday at Huntsman Center. (Photo credit: Ethan Miller – Getty Images)

The revenge motive never came up Saturday when coach Lorenzo Romar and Nigel Williams-Goss met with the media to talk about Sunday’s game at No. 12 Utah.

A year ago, the Utes knocked the Huskies out of the Pac-12 Tournament with a 67-61 first-round win at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas.

Both teams are dramatically improved since that meeting on March 12, 2014. Utah (15-5, 5-1) s rolling towards its first NCAA tournament since 2009 and challenging Arizona for a Pac-12 regular-season title.

Washington (14-4, 3-3) is a lot better too.

It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster season for the Huskies who began the season with 11 straight wins followed by four consecutive defeats. They’re riding a three-game winning streak into Huntsman Center, which has become one of the toughest venues in the Pac-12. The Utes are perfect at home this season and their 14-game winning streak dates back to 2013-14.

The word that comes to mind when describing Utah is efficient. The Utes aren’t loaded with McDonald’s All-Americans. They don’t rely on gimmicky schemes. They simply play sound basketball under the direction of coach Larry Krystowiak who has built a juggernaut in his fourth year with the Utes.

Here’s Romar on Utah: “Defensively, they’re difficult to score on. Really difficult to score on. They play great position defense. Very rarely do they get themselves extended where they’re out of position. Very rarely is there not help, and they get back, they keep you out of transition. They make it difficult for you to score. And then offensively they have a phenomenal – I mean a phenomenal – point guard in Delon Wright. And then Brandon Taylor who kind of plays off of him. Those two guys, they make so many plays for the team. And the rest of the group plays around those guys. They set the table. They distribute and they score and the rest of the group plays off them. It seems like everyone on their roster can knock the shot down from the perimeter, so they have some good pieces that fit their system.”

Because Washington has switched to a 2-3 zone, the Huskies can’t necessarily assign anyone to try and contain Wright, who is one of the favorites to win the Pac-12 MVP award. Still, it will be interesting to see which UW guard Wright defends.

It’s a reunion of sorts for Washington junior Andrew Andrews and Utah’s Jordan Loveridge, Taylor and Krystowiak who participated with a Pac-12 all-star team that played exhibition games in China last summer.

Not sure if Andrews picked up any inside information that can assist him today. The Huskies will need all the help they can get to confront a Utah team that leads the Pac-12 shooting 49.7 percent from the field and 40.7 percent on three-pointers.

Romar said he’s not inclined to use a six-man rotation like he did in Thursday’s 52-50 win at Colorado. So conceivably, reserves Quevyn Winters and Darin Johnson will see some action.

It’s uncertain if Utah 7-foot center Jakob Poeltl will play. He missed the previous game with an undisclosed injury, but returned to practice Friday. If the Utes are full strength, they’re deadly.

Utah’s average margin of victory in five Pac-12 wins is a whopping 24 points. The Utes hammered USC 79-55, UCLA 71-39, Colorado 74-49, Arizona State 76-59 and Washington State 86-64.

Utah might be the best team Washington plays this season.

THE PICK: Utah 75-60.

GUESS THE UW SCORE WINNER: Baba Au Rum picked Washington 58-51 and wrote: “Colorado is a 1.5 point favorite. Vegas and Allen have the wrong team favored.” The Huskies won 52-50. Contact me (pallen@seattletimes.com) to claim your prize. Thanks for playing.

Comments | More in Guess the UW Score | Topics: Utah

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