The Saturday slate around the Western Athletic Conference has some intriguing matchups. But, the biggest matchup of the day takes place Saturday afternoon in the Pacific Northwest at the Redhawk Center.
After a dismantling of the defending champs on Thursday, Southern Utah makes the short trip to the Emerald State to take on league-leading Seattle U.
The Redhawk Center will be rocking when the battle for first place in the WAC standings tips of at 3 p.m. PT. Not only is it a battle for first place, it is a battle of the birds. The T-Birds of Southern Utah and the Redhawks of Seattle U.
It is also a battle of the two hottest teams in the WAC.
Southern Utah has won four straight, including wins over Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin and New Mexico State. In fact, the T-Birds won all three games by double figures at the America First Events Center.
Seattle U has won seven straight dating back to the Diamond Head Classic. The Redhawks are the lone unbeaten team in WAC play and a perfect 8-0 at home this season.
Southern Utah averages 87.3 points per game. Seattle averages just over 75.
The T-Birds are led by a WAC Player of the Year candidate. The Redhawks are led by a WAC Player of the Year candidate.
Southern Utah has a player that can light it up from the perimeter. Seattle U has a player that can light it up from the perimeter.
Do you get the drift? The T-Birds and Redhawks are two very similar teams. Both have high-quality point guards in Drake Allen and Alex Schumacher. Both have a complimentary player to their stars in Harrison Butler and Riley Grigsby.
And both have that do-it-all-type in Maizen Fausett for the T-Birds and Emeka Udenyi for the Redhawks.
So, who has the advantage?
In all reality, that is unknown. Perhaps the Redhawks do playing at home at the Redhawk Center. However, the last time Southern Utah played at the Redhawk Center, the T-Birds came away with a 73-70 win over the Redhawks. That was in Todd Simon’s third season as the Southern Utah head coach.
But, it is 2022-23 and not 2018-19. And both teams are fighting for a conference championship.
Here are two things to keep an eye on Saturday at the Redhawk Center.
10-Plus Made 3-pointers
Both the T-Birds and Redhawks like to shoot from the perimeter. And why not? Tevian Jones and Cam Tyson are deadly from 3-point land. Southern Utah is coming off a win over New Mexico State where the T-Birds hit 20 3-pointers. Yes, you read that correctly…20!
Zion hits ANOTHER ONE ?
— SUU Men's Basketball (@SUUBasketball) January 20, 2023
In its win on Thursday over Tarleton, the Redhawks knocked down nine 3-pointers.
So, the first one to knock down 10 3-pointers will most likely win this battle for first place. In all reality, that number could be increased to 15. But, for the sake of the preview, it will just be 10-plus.
SUU has mad 174 3-pointers. Seattle U has made 177.
The T-Birds shoot around 35 percent from distance. And the Redhawks shoot just under 33 percent from distance.
So, it will be raining 3-point attempts in the Redhawk Center.
Jason Spurgin vs. Seattle U Bigs
High basketball I.Q., sneaky athleticism, and length. Those are attributes that come to mind when talking about Southern Utah big man Jason Spurgin. It comes to light especially late in games. Whether it is a dunk or a big block, Spurgin seems to make a play when his team needs it most.
So, how will the 6-11 sophomore handle the combination of Brandton Chatfield and Kobe Williamson?
Chris Victor has two bigs who can defend, shoot from the perimeter, and can block some shots.
Who will win the battle in the paint? And, if Spurgin gets in foul trouble, can Parsa Fallah come in and make an impact?
We all know the guards are the story in this ball game. But, the battle in the paint, usage in the pick-and-roll, and perhaps getting a huge block at the right time could be the difference on Saturday afternoon at the Redhawk Center.