Utah’s non-conference schedule this season has taken plenty of heat.
They kicked off their season against something called Evergreen. On Dec. 28th, they play something known as St. Katherine’s. In between those two non-conference bookends, the Utes have 10 games on their schedule. None of them are against high-major opponents. Only one of them is a road game, and, at most, two of those teams could earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, although that’s anything-but a given.
Struggling with the likes of Idaho State isn’t exactly going to be keeping Utah fans happy.
But the bigger issue isn’t what’s on the non-conference schedule, it’s what is not on it. Specifically, Utah State and Weber State.
Utah is a basketball state, especially at the collegiate level. They care about their teams, whether they are Aggies, Cougars, Wildcats or Utes, and while it’s not quite on the same level as the folks in Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and Indiana, it’s really not all that far behind.
And Utah didn’t play Utah State or Weber State this season. They play not play them in the future either, as deals to extend those rivalries have not been easy to come by. Krystkowiak doesn’t want to play those games on the road, and it’s understandable. They’re very, very loseable, and while dropping a road game early in the season to a rival is certainly understandable, the NCAA tournament selection committee isn’t as understanding. Those losses could hurt on future Selection Sundays.
Utah still plays BYU. This season, it’s at the Huntsman Center. Next year, it will be at the Marriott Center. But after that? Well, it may not exist anymore, either. From the Salt Lake Tribune:
on his weekly coaches show on KSL Radio on Tuesday night, BYU coach Dave Rose said talks to continue the series beyond that have stalled.
“Coach [Jim] Boylen and I put that [four-game agreement] together. We were both really excited to continue the series even though the conferences were going in different directions,” Rose said. “In the last two years, as we have played through this contract, we have had discussions about extending the contract, but right now, we are kinda stalled. These may be the last two games we get.”
“Really?” host Greg Wrubell asked, incredulously.
“Yeah,” Rose said.
The Utes have said recently they won’t do home-and-homes with Utah State and Weber State any more, and now it appears they don’t want to give them to BYU, either.
Hopefully, this all gets worked out.
Rivalry games in November are a good thing for the sport. Non-conference games that people care about, that bring attention to the sport. For a coach, they bring attention to your team. They get fans in the seats and eyeballs on the TV.
More importantly, getting experience playing in a tough road environment before league play starts will help make a team better.
And what’s tougher than a road environment against a rival?