BYU will play its second true road game of the season when they go up the street to take on UVU tonight in Orem. After opening as a 14.5-point favorite, BYU is a 13.5-point favorite now as of this writing (depending on where you look). KenPom gives BYU an 85% win probability and predicts a 75-63 score in favor of BYU. The game tips off at 7pm MT on BYUtv.
UVU is 6-1 on the year and on a 6-game winning streak after dropping their season opener to Boise State by 20 points. Three of the wins have come in overtime and none of the teams are ranked in the top 220 of KenPom, but UVU is finding ways to win.
The main player to watch for the Wolverines is 6-foot-11 big man Fardaws Aimaq. After averaging 14 points last season and leading the nation with 15 rebounds a game, Aimaq is averaging 20.3 points and 13.7 rebounds through 7 games this season. Aimaq is one of the top big men in the country and the focal point of everything UVU does. BYU has done a fantastic job on the glass this season with Caleb Lohner, Gideon George, Fousseyni Traore, Gavin Baxter and others, and it will take a team effort once again versus Aimaq. Texas Southern and Utah game into the games last week as two of the best rebounding teams nationally and BYU owned both of them on the glass.
In addition to Aimaq, UVU has threee former BYU Cougars on the roster. Blaze Nield starts at point guard and Connor Harding starts alongside him in the backcourt. Colby Leifson comes off the bench. Harding is UVU’s second leading scorer at 11.9 ppg and is shooting 50% from three. Harding battled lingering injuries last season and seems to be fully healthy and playing really well for Mark Madsen’s squad. Nield was a walk on a BYU, but has find a nice home at UVU and is averaging 9 points and a team high 4.6 assists. Leifson has scored in only two games this season, but in a win over Antelope he shot 6-8 from three and had 18 points.
UVU unfortunately has been without last year’s leading scorer Trey Woodbury this season as he recovers from injury. He is not expected to play tonight.
BYU won last year’s game in Provo 82-60 where they held Aimaq to a season low 7 rebounds. If BYU continues to rebound well, I expect a fairly comfortable victory once again. Aimaq is a load to handle inside, but BYU has the better guard line and is much more athletic and longer at the wings and inside with Gideon George, Seneca Knight, Caleb Lohner, Gavin Baxter and Fousseyni Traore.
UVU doesn’t shoot many threes and BYU so far has the #1 3-point defense in the country, so owning the paint once again will be key for BYU to come out on top. Three-point shooting offense has been a glaring weakness for BYU, so it will be worth monitoring if BYU can turn things around from behind the arc tonight.
UVU by the numbers:
KenPom Ranking: 181
D1 Wins: Pepperdine, Long Beach State, Idaho, Nicholls State, Denver