Utah basketball beefs up its non-conference schedule for 2014-15
SAN FRANCISCO – Utah was one of the major surprise teams in college hoops last year. Two years removed from a six-win campaign, the Runnin’ Utes ran off 21 victories in 2013-14 and put a scare into just about every team they didn’t beat.
Usually, 21 wins in a power conference will be good enough to have a team in the discussion for an NCAA tournament bid. But when the non-conference slate features two non-NCAA Division I teams and no schools from other big-name leagues, a trip to the NIT is the result.
As the season wore on and the Utes racked up more and more conference victories, it became clear that the major thing holding Utah out of the Big Dance was the non-league schedule. A selection committee isn’t going to be impressed by a 124-51 win over St. Katherine College.
Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak knew that if his boys were to reach the NCAA tournament this season, the November and December months needed to provide more resistance. So he scheduled road games at San Diego State, BYU, Kansas and UNLV while getting Wichita State to head to the Jon M. Huntsman Center.
Now that’s a résumé.
“On paper I don’t know how intelligent I am to bite off some of that. I just felt like our team was ready for it,” Krystkowiak said Thursday at 2014-15 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Media Day. “At the end of the day I think it’s becoming pretty clear to coaches around the country that if you want to be considered [for the NCAA tournament], you have to go up against those types of teams.”
With their top six scorers from 2013-14 all back in Salt Lake City, the Utes were picked by the media to finish second in the preseason Pac-12 men’s basketball poll.
“We truly have a good group,” he said. “A lot of what’s going to be determined lies in their work ethic, our practice, what we’re doing in practices and being ready to play some of these teams.”