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WSU vs. Utah basketball: Utes are heavy favorites in Salt Lake

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A trip to Salt Lake City will bring one of the toughest tests of the season for Washington State.

Delon Wright is really good and so are the Utes.
Delon Wright is really good and so are the Utes.
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

I'm sure most of you are aware of the Seahawks' improbable comeback win over Green Bay on Sunday, where Seattle trailed by 12 points with less than four minutes to play. I've seen the Packers' win probability at that point quoted from 96 percent to a touch under 100 percent. When Utah hosts Washington State in basketball on Wednesday night (6 p.m., Pac-12 Networks), the Utes' odds of victory will be just about the same at the tip.

KenPom.com projects Utah to beat the Cougars 97 out of 100 times. There's good reason for that too - Utah is one of the best teams in the nation on both offense and defense, and save for a rough day in Tuscon, it has dominated Pac-12 foes. The Utes are scoring 115 points for every 100 possessions in Pac-12 play, while allowing just 90.

Washington State, despite just being one game behind Utah in the standings, is light years behind in efficiency. The Cougs are scoring 103 points for every 100 possessions while giving up 109.

How has Utah taken such a leap forward this season? Having Delon Wright certainly matters, but the player of the year candidate has more help this season in the form of a dynamic pair of freshmen bigs.

Jakob Poeltl has immediately become a force in the paint - an excellent rebounder on both ends and an intimidating shot blocker (UPDATE: Poeltl is out with an injury). Brekkott Chapman is a more rounded scorer, capable of hitting jumpers and finishing inside.

There's also the improvement of junior Brandon Taylor, who has cut down on turnovers to become a highly efficient perimeter player.

Put it all together and Utah has the 10th-best effective field goal percentage against Division I competition, including the 10th-best 3-point percentage and 26th-best 2-point percentage.

What the Utes don't do a whole lot of is push the ball, which makes its shooting numbers all the more impressive. Utah takes the 95th-lowest percentage of its shots in transition and only one team in the Pac-12 averages longer possessions on offense.

While the Utes have been red hot on offense, they've also been super stingy on defense, allowing just a 41.7 effective field goal percentage (7th best against D1 competiton).

Utah has been good at keeping teams out of the paint. It allows just under 31 free throws per 100 field goal attempts, six below the national average. Opponents have taken just 29 percent of their shots at the rim, while an extremely high 43 percent of field goal attempts allowed are on 2-point jumpers. The Utes are forcing teams into the least efficient shots on the floor, and it is working extremely well.

Last Saturday WSU succumbed to exactly the type of game Oregon State wanted it to play - hoisting contested jumpers repeatedly. Against Utah, it looks to be more of the same and a rough night on offense.

What can the Cougs do? Well, Utah is only average in preventing transition opportunities, so the WSU could have opportunities to run. The only problem? It's going to need to make stops first.

Stopping this Utah offense is only slightly easier than scoring on it, and they are both difficult tasks.

All stats come from KenPom.com and hoop-math.com.