It's difficult to call Seattle University's season disappointing.
After having an outstanding first campaign in Division I basketball last season, they had a tougher schedule than last season and were without a standout pro prospect in Charles Garcia.
But at 8-15 the Redhawks will have to win their final seven games of the season - including their February 22 meeting with the Washington Huskies - to finish .500 this season. That final stretch begins tonight and the hot Utah Valley Wolverines aren't exactly a cupcake opponent.
14-9 Utah Valley is currently first place in the Great West conference and has won 8 of their last 9 contests, including an 89-73 win at home against Seattle U. And although they don't play at quite the pace of the Redhawks, the Wolverines know how to score as their 78.1 points per game rank 22nd in the nation and they go about it aggressively with the 1th highest free throw rate in the nation.
But the bigger concern for the Redhawks might be neither the Wolverines' scoring or ability to get to the line, but their rebounding.
Key statistical battleground: rebounding
Utah Valley is not necessarily a dominant offensive rebounding team, but they hold an outstanding differential with their opponents because they are indeed a dominant defensive rebounding team. They are currently ranked second in the nation with 28.3 defensive rebounds per game, which helps them to a healthy 7 percent offensive rebounding percentage differential.
Players to watch
Geddes Robinson, F (6-foot-5, 235, Jr.)
If rebounding ends up being the difference in tonight's game, Robinson figures to be a factor. He is the top rebounder in the Great West with 9.21 per game and also has the best free throw rate on the team, getting to the line just over four times per game. So if nothing else, the Redhawks will have to watch him for second chance opportunities.
Isiah Williams, G (6-foot-1, 190, Jr.)
Williams' impact on his team is pretty well summed up by his Great West Conference Player of the Week award for last week's performance.
UVU players earn conference honor | The Salt Lake Tribune
Utah Valley’s Isiah Williams and Sammie Jensen have been named the Great West Conference Players of the Week.
Williams led the Wolverines to two conference wins last week, scoring a career-high 33 points, including a school-record tying 7 of 10 from beyond the arc, in an 88-84 win at Texas-Pan American. The junior from Chicago then scored 24 points and had five rebounds in a 73-66 win at Houston Baptist.
Williams leads the team in scoring with 18 points per game and is going to have the ball as the team's primary option on a majority of their possessions. Although he has the lowest free throw rate of any player on this aggressive team, he also hits the second highest percentage at 86%.
At the very least, the fact that their leading scorer and primary offensive option isn't the one responsible for their outstanding free throw rate says that this is a balanced team that can find multiple ways to beat you.