March Madness is finally here! And with that, Utah and Weber State will represent the state in this year's tournament field, with Utah receiving a No. 3 seed, facing No. 14 Fresno State in Denver on Thursday. Weber State, the Big Sky Conference champions, received a No. 15 seed and will play No. 2 Xavier on Friday.
In this week's episode, DeseretNews.com writer Carter Williams takes a deeper look at Utah and its analytical tournament odds, where Utah is the probability favorite to make it to the Sweet 16 from the Denver pod of the Midwest Region. Also, listen to audio from Utah players Brandon Taylor, Kyle Kuzma, Jakob Poeltl and Jordan Loveridge as they reacted to the news on Sunday, as well as head coach Larry Krystkowiak.
Utah, of course, made it to the Sweet 16 last year before losing out to eventual champion Duke. This year the team is looking for more with experience under its belt.
"I think it's big difference as in we've been (to the tournament) before, I think that's the biggest thing for us," Utah forward Kyle Kuzma said on Sunday. "We have at least seven guys that have played for us in the dance. I think that'll help out big time for us."
Finally, Carter chats with Mountain West Connection writer Matthew Kenerly to get a better picture of the Mountain West Conference champion Fresno State Bulldogs (25-9). Fresno State comes into Thursday's matchup on a nine-game winning streak, and guard Marvelle Harris leads the way averaging 20.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.2 steals per game this season.
Kenerly says Fresno State isn't the best jump shooting or 3-point shooting team and could struggle in the paint against Poeltl, but the key to success this season and especially down the stretch has been forcing turnovers, which the Bulldogs lead the conference in steals at 8.2 per game and with a +4.29 turnover margin, and a better shot selection.
"I feel like theyâve been more successful when theyâve avoided the temptation to throw up a lot of 3-pointers," he says.
He adds Fresno State is a team that knows how to rally, which makes it a difficult team to play.
"This is a team that (if they get) down, you're not going to see any panic on the court," Kenerly say. "This is a team that has three or four guys that can score, two or three guys that can rebound, that can play defense and that can work their way back into a game and make it competitive. They found a way to come back, I believe, six times on the season from double-digit deficits, so even if Utah gets ahead at any point, I wouldn't get too comfortable because Fresno State is a team that can come back."
This and much, much more on the Deseret News Sports Podcast!