Part 2 – Cache Valley Daily


Utah State are 5-0 this season, one of just 18 undefeated teams remaining and, after an eight-day break for Thanksgiving, the Aggies are ready to continue what’s been an exciting a great season so far. Part one of this schedule breakdown was published back before the season started. Now with one month gone it’s time to look at the remaining games of Utah State’s non-conference basketball schedule and how those teams have done so far.

Dec. 1 – Utah Tech (3-4)

  • Location: Dee Glen Smith Spectrum (Logan, UT)
  • Tip-off time: 7 p.m.
  • TV Broadcast: Mountain West Network

Starters

  • G – Cameron Gooden (5-11, Sr.) – 16.1 points | 3.6 rebounds | 2.3 assists
  • G – Noa Gonsalves (6-1, So.) – 7.1 points | 3.6 rebounds | 1.4 assists
  • G – Isaiah Pope (6-5, Jr.) – 10.1 points | 3.1 rebounds | 1.4 assists
  • F – Jacob Nicolds (6-5, Sr.) – 5.9 points | 2.4 rebounds | 1.3 assists
  • F/C – Tanner Christensen (6-10, So.) – 10.1 points | 7.6 rebounds | 1.4 assists

Current KenPom Ranking: 257th

The Trailblazers have faced a fairly tough schedule, going up against Nevada, Washington and Arizona, but they haven’t fully taken advantage of their easier games. Utah Tech recently lost by 15 points to North Dakota who ranked 314th in KenPom at the time. It’s going to be an uphill climb for the Trailblazers to reach last year’s record of 13-18.

Head coach Jon Judkins altered his starting lineup after the team’s win over Idaho on Nov. 19, sliding Dancell Leter and Frank Staine to the bench and inserting Jacob Nicolds and Isaiah Pope into the starting five. It’s made that opening five a rather short lineup as the only player standing taller than 6-foot-5 is Tanner Christensen.

Utah Tech will likely be in contention for the weakest Division I opponent on Utah State’s schedule this year.

Dec. 4 – San Francisco (6-1)

Game Info

  • Stadium: Chase Center (San Francisco, CA)
  • Tip-off time: 6:30 p.m.
  • TV Broadcast: WCC Network

Starters

  • G – Tyrell Roberts (5-11, Sr.) – 14.0 points | 3.7 rebounds | 2.7 assists
  • G – Khalil Shabazz (6-1, Sr.) – 15.1 points | 4.7 rebounds | 3.9 assists
  • G – Julian Rishwain (6-5, Jr.) – 6.0 points | 2.9 rebounds | 1.1 assists
  • F –Josh Kunen (6-8, Jr.) – 7.1 points | 5.3 rebounds | 0.9 assists
  • C –Saba Gigiberia (7-1, Jr.) – 4.3 points | 4.4 rebounds | 0.7 assists

Current KenPom Ranking: 92nd

The Dons started the year 6-0, falling for the first time in a road contest with Davidson. The schedule hasn’t been super-tough as San Francisco’s first three opponents were against teams that are below 250 in the KenPom rankings (or are non-DI opponents). The Dons do have several solid wins, downing Fresno State on the road and beating Northern Iowa and Wichita State on neutral sites.

Leading the way this season is guard duo Khalil Shabazz and Tyrell Roberts. The two are both 6-foot-1 or shorter but haven’t had any trouble scoring, combining for 29.1 points per game between them. Both are volume 3-point shooters with each attempted at least six threes per game. Roberts has been a sharpshooter, making 40.5 percent of his attempts though Shabazz hasn’t been as spot-on, making just 31.1 percent of his shots. San Francisco isn’t limited to just its two guards for scoring as forward Zane Meeks comes off the bench as a small-ball five to average 11.6 points per game to go with a team-leading 6.7 rebounds per game.

San Francisco ran into a serious shooting slump in its first few games. For the season the Dons rank 237th in 3-point percentage, a bit of a problem considering they rank sixth in 3-point attempts. They absolutely are capable of going off as they made 11 of 23 triples in the season opener and 14 of 36 against Northern Iowa. And over the last three games San Francisco has made 36.6 percent of its threes as opposed to the 28.1 percent it made in its first four games.

Dec. 10 – Loyola Marymount (6-2)

Game Info

  • Stadium: Michelob ULTRA Arena (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Tip-off time: 10:30 p.m.

Starters:

  • G – Cameron Shelton (6-2, Sr.) – 16.1 points | 5.3 rebounds | 3.8 assists
  • G – Jalin Anderson (6-4, Jr.) – 9.5 points | 2.8 rebounds | 3.3 assists
  • F – Justin Ahrens (6-6, Sr.) – 7.9 points | 2.9 rebounds | 1.3 assists
  • F – Keli Leaupepe (6-6, Sr.) – 15.6 points | 7.1 rebounds | 1.4 assists
  • C – Rick Issanza (7-1, Jr.) – 4.3 points | 3.6 rebounds | 0.3 assists

Current KenPom Ranking: 123rd

Loyola took a couple of early losses, including a bit of a surprise home loss to UC Riverside. But the last four games have been far more productive, with Loyola winning all four including a win over Wake Forest on a neutral site. Two of those games required overtime which has Loyola sitting at 2-1 in games that finish with a margin of victory under three points.

The two names to keep an eye on are Cameron Shelton and Keli Leaupepe. Those two are the offensive engine for the Lions who rank top 50 in points per game and top 80 in offensive rating. Leaupepe is a physical 250-lbforward capable of shooting from the outside (45.2 percent from three this year) and attack a closeout to finish at the rim. Shelton isn’t quite as deadly from outside (32.4 percent from three) but can find his shot just find as well as dish out assists. Shelton’s also dangerous on the defensive end as he’s averaging 2.4 steals per game so far.

Dec. 15 – Westminster College

Game Info

  • Location: Dee Glen Smith Spectrum (Logan, UT)
  • Tip-off time: 7 p.m.
  • TV Broadcast: Mountain West Network

Starters

  • G – Jeremy Dowdell (6-2, Fr.) – 9.8 points | 1.8 rebounds | 1.5 assists 
  • G – Taylor Miller (6-2, Sr.) – 8.6 points | 3.6 rebounds | 2.4 assists
  • G – Donaval Avila (6-3, Jr.) – 10.6 points | 4.4 rebounds | 1.6 assists
  • F – Lewis Johnson (6-6, So.) – 7.0 points | 4.0 rebounds | 1.6 assists
  • F/C – Trey Farrer (6-9, Jr.) – 20.0 points | 9.0 rebounds | 1.6 assists

Current KenPom Ranking: N/A

This will be the only non-DI opponent on Utah State’s schedule this season. It’s about as guaranteed a win as it gets, but the game must be played regardless. After all, non-major opponents beat Division I teams ever year. No team is immune and the Aggies will never be an exception.

The Griffins have a couple of Division I transfers on their roster, most notably Jeremy Dowdell who transferred from BYU and Trey Farrer who came by way of Utah Valley. Dowdell is a former standout for Olympus High School (and a former teammate of Aggie guard Rylan Jones) who scored 28 points per game as a senior. Farrer has been the offensive lynchpin for the team and anchor in the frontcourt. He leads the team in scoring, rebounds and blocks.

Dec. 19 – Weber State

Game Info

  • Location: Dee Glen Smith Spectrum (Logan, UT)
  • Tip-off time: 7 p.m.
  • TV Broadcast: Mountain West Network

Starters

  • G – Keith Dinwiddie (6-0, So.) – 8.2 points | 2.0 rebounds | 1.7 assists
  • G – Junior Ballard (6-3, Sr.) – 8.7 points | 2.0 rebounds | 1.0 assists
  • G – Steven Verplancken (6-4, Jr.) – 12.5 points | 0.8 rebounds | 0.8 assists
  • F – Dillon Jones (6-6, So.) – 15.6 points | 7.1 rebounds | 1.4 assists
  • C – Alex Tew (6-11, So.) – 6.3 points | 1.8 rebounds | 0.0 assists

*Weber State have had four unique starting lineups. Other starters include forward/center Handje Tamba (3 starts), forward Dyson Koehler (2 starts).

Current KenPom Ranking: 258th

Weber State have faced a tough, road-heavy schedule to start the year. Just one of its games in November was played at home with three away contests and three neutral site games. Unsurprisingly the Wildcats struggled to get wins in these games away from home and against tough opponents.

Along with a tough schedule, Weber State are struggling to deal with a lot of losses. First off the Wildcats lost long-time head coach Randy Rahe, who headed the team for 16 seasons and a 316-191 (.623) record. On top of that, the team lost Koby McEwen, Jamison Overton and Seikou Sisoho Jawara – three of the team’s top four leading scorers from last year’s 21-12 team. The lone returner from the top four scorers last year, Dillon Jones, has done his best to fill in and take on his part of replacing those players. Jones is averaging 12.4 points per game and leads the team in rebounds (9.0 per game) and assists (3.8). His co-star so far has been Steven Verplancken who’s averaged 12.5 points per game so far.

Hawaii Airlines Diamond Head Classic Games

The following graphic from the ESPN Events website will be helpful in visualizing Utah State’s potential opponents in this tournament

Dec. 22 – Seattle (Hawaii)

Game Info

  • Stadium: Stan Sheriff Center (Honolulu, HI)
  • Tip-off time: 3 p.m.
  • TV Broadcast: ESPN Networks

Starters*

  • G – Cameron Tyson (6-2, Jr.) – 25.8 points | 5.0 rebounds | 0.3 assists
  • G – Alex Schumacher (6-3, Jr.) – 12.2 points | 4.7 rebounds | 3.7 assists
  • F – Viktor Rajkovic (6-6, So.) – 5.8 points | 4.8 rebounds | 1.3 assists
  • F – Emeka Udenyi (6-6, Sr.) – 5.0 points | 5.2 rebounds | 2.7 assists
  • F/C –Brandton Chatfield (6-10, So.) – 7.2 points | 6.4 rebounds | 0.8 assists

*Seattle have had four unique starting lineups this year. Other starters include guard/forward Kobe Williamson (1 start), guard Riley Grigsby (2 starts) and guard Paris Dawson (1 start).

Current KenPom Ranking: 131st

Seattle were undefeated through five games on a bit of a soft schedule, downing a couple sub-230 KenPom teams and two non-major teams. The Redhawks did have a 12-point road victory over Portland that served as its best victory in November. The undefeated run ended with a 77-66 loss to Washington on Nov. 28.

Cameron Tyson’s stellar start to the year has fueled Seattle’s great team start. The former Idaho and Houston guard is close to doubling his points per game total from last year (14.7) by averaging 25.8 points per game in four outings so far this year. He’s made 46.9 percent of his 3-point attempt (and he’s taking 12.3 per game so far) though he’s oddly only made 58.8 percent of his free throws. Some of this hot start may cool off (and the free throw shooting will likely rise as he’s a career 82 percent free-throw shooter) but he’s clearly shown to be dangerous on offense.

Dec. 23 – TBD (Hawaii)

Game Info

  • Stadium: Stan Sheriff Center (Honolulu, HI)
  • Tip-off time: 2:30 p.m. OR 5:00 p.m.
  • TV Broadcast: ESPN Networks

The opponents for the second and third games of this Hawaii tournament are to be determined and get harder to predict since there are more variables. Predicting USU’s opponent for the second game isn’t too hard as there are only two possibilities: Iona and SMU. Here’s a quick breakdown of those two teams (stats from Basketball Reference, ranks out of 363 Division I teams)

Iona

  • Pace – 69.3 (197th)
  • Offensive Rating – 109.4 (92nd)
  • Defensive Rating – 97.1 (174th)
  • Field Goal % – 46.2 (120th)
  • 3-point % – 34.1 (179th)
  • Rebounding % – 49.1 (275th)
  • KenPom Rank – 90th

Southern Methodist

  • Pace – 69.8 (179th)
  • Offensive Rating – 94.4 (320th)
  • Defensive Rating – 91.4 (81st)
  • Field Goal % – 40.0 (323rd)
  • 3-point % – 26.8 (345th)
  • Rebounding % – 49.6 (262nd)
  • KenPom Rank – 144th

Dec. 25 – TBD (Hawaii)

Game Info

  • Stadium: Stan Sheriff Center (Honolulu, HI)
  • Tip-off time: TBD
  • TV Broadcast: ESPN Networks

For the third and final game it gets harder as there are four possibilities: George Washington, Washington State, Pepperdine, and Hawaii. Here’s the breakdown on those teams.

George Washington

  • Pace – 68.7 (228th)
  • Offensive Rating – 112.6 (54th)
  • Defensive Rating – 99.8 (223rd)
  • Field Goal % – 49.8 (29th)
  • 3-point % – 33.8 (189th)
  • Rebounding % – 54.1 (72nd)
  • KenPom Rank – 214th

Washington State

  • Pace – 66.2 (308th)
  • Offensive Rating – 115.1 (30th)
  • Defensive Rating – 94.3 (117th)
  • Field Goal % – 46.3 (119th)
  • 3-point % – 44.4 (6th)
  • Rebounding % – 53.4 (89th)
  • KenPom Rank – 60th

Pepperdine

  • Pace – 74.2 (30th)
  • Offensive Rating – 107.6 (117th)
  • Defensive Rating – 98.4 (197th)
  • Field Goal % – 49.7 (32nd)
  • 3-point % – 40.9 (12th)
  • Rebounding % – 50.7 (208th)
  • KenPom Rank – 160th

Hawaii

  • Pace – 62.4 (360th)
  • Offensive Rating – 111.8 (59th)
  • Defensive Rating – 91.1 (78th)
  • Field Goal % – 46.5 (106th)
  • 3-point % – 34.9 (150th)
  • Rebounding % – 55.0 (53rd)
  • KenPom Rank – 135th

Who wins the first game, second game and whether Utah State wins its first or second game all play into which team ends up playing which team. If the tournament follows the KenPom rankings (with higher rankings winning all games), Utah State would Washington State in this game. Using the same criteria for winners, if USU were win its first game and lose the second, it’d likely face Pepperdine. If the Aggies lost both they’d face either George Washington or Hawaii. But again that’s based on the chalk.







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