Larry Krystkowiak’s Utah Utes were certainly an improved basketball team in 2013-14, winning six more games than they did in 2012-13 and earning a spot in the Postseason NIT. However even after closing the regular season with wins in three of their final four games to reach the 20-win mark, Utah wasn’t seen as a team in the mix for an at-large spot in the NCAA tournament.
And the reason for that was a simple one: their non-conference schedule didn’t offer up enough quality wins to supplement a conference slate that included wins over eventual NCAA tournament teams UCLA, Arizona State and Colorado. Friday the school announced its non-conference schedule for 2014-15, and it’s a slate that will be far more beneficial to a team looking to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009.
Six of Utah’s non-conference games will be against teams that reached postseason play, including a home game against Wichita State (December 3) and contests away from Salt Lake City against BYU (December 10) and Kansas (December 13 in Kansas City). Utah will also play UNLV, which did not reach the postseason, in the MGM Grand Showcase on December 20.
“This non-conference schedule contains a challenging slate of games, both home and away,” Krystkowiak said in the release. “We as a staff have a strong belief in this team and this schedule, while getting us ready for the rigors of Pac-12 play, will help us take the next step forward.
“We also wanted to ensure our student-athletes have experiences that they can treasure and keep with them after their playing days. We are very excited for the upcoming season and can’t wait to get things rolling.”
Utah’s non-conference schedule was ranked 341st nationally according to rpiforecast.com, and a number that low won’t do a team any favors when it comes to reaching the NCAA tournament as an at-large. That shouldn’t be an issue in 2014-15, and with talented players such as guard Delon Wright and forward Jordan Loveridge leading the way Utah’s chances of reaching the field of 68 are better than they were a season ago.
And it should be noted that one date, November 18, remains unfilled on Utah’s schedule so they could add another quality opponent in the near future.