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Denver has had an up and down start to their season. After losing a close game on the road to Colorado State, the Pioneers rebounded with a 74-62 win over Utah Valley in their home-opener. Fresh off the victory, they hope they can replicate this success in what should be the greatest test of their season so far.
Standing in their way is Utah State, one of the country's best teams. The Aggies started off the season with a pair of victories including an 89-34 drubbing of Weber State.
Tuesday's game should serve as a good measuring stick for Denver's program. This game takes place at Smith Spectrum with tip-off slated for 9 p.m. EST.
A young Denver squad hopes to pull off the upsetThe Pioneers' roster features plenty of youth, as seven of their 13 players are freshmen. Because of this, Denver relies on many younger players stepping up to score and fill leadership roles. And this inexperience will be put to the test in a hostile road environment against the Aggies.
For Denver to be successful, they must find a way to weather the storm early, as they're facing an Aggies squad returning four starters from last season, including Sam Merrill, who's on the Naismith Trophy watch list. Utah State thrives on high-pressure defense, employing it to force turnovers and create easy transition baskets. This means Denver's guards must maintain composure and make smart plays.
Defensively, the Pioneers must find a way to limit Merrill's effectiveness, which is a tall order given his ability to score. Another player Denver must focus on in the paint is Justin Bean, who uses his size and athleticism to create second-chance scoring opportunities off the glass. If Utah State gains the rebounding advantage, Denver won't be able to keep up.
Utah State is managing expectations wellThe Aggies employ a suffocating defense that makes it hard for offenses to gain momentum. They forced Weber State to commit 19 turnovers and held the Wildcats to 21% shooting.
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ pic.twitter.com/2xTpaVOcxx— USU Men's Hoops (@USUBasketball) November 9, 2019
On Tuesday, they face a Denver offense that doesn't feature many senior players outside of guard Ade Murkey. Because of the Pioneers' youth, look for Utah State to try to fluster Denver with high-pressure defense. If they're successful, the Aggies will force ample turnovers and convert them into easy scores.
Offensively, the Aggies might be without center Neemia Queta, as he's rehabbing a knee injury. If he is unable to go, expect Utah State to lean more on Diogo Brito, Merrill, and Bean to make up the offensive production.
This shouldn't be a tall order either, given they're facing a Denver defense that allows 68 points per game. So, as long as the Aggies make the extra pass to open up scoring opportunities and dominate in the paint in rebounding, they should be able to impose their will all game.
Trends found on Covers.com Utah State is:
- 8-3 ATS in last 11 games following an ATS win
- 2-11 ATS in last 13 games against opponents with a winning record
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Utah State has more experience and a roster that's top to bottom better than Denver. Look for the Aggies to clean up on the glass, holding a decisive rebounding advantage thanks to the solid play of Bean. This, along with Utah State's intense defense will create easy looks on the offensive end. The Aggies will win this one easily.
Prediction: Utah State
Full-Game Total Pick
The Aggies average 85 points per game. I expect them to use their stifling defense to force turnovers for easy scores to reach their average. Inside, they also hold a decisive rebounding advantage. All told, the Aggies have too many weapons they'll employ against a young but feisty Pioneers squad who struggle to keep up. Utah State scores early, often, and cruises to a dominant victory.