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Utah basketball: Larry Krystkowiak "fine" with only playing D-I opponents, but says it's costly

Published July 10, 2017 3:43 pm

Utah basketball notes • Conference takes stand against lower-division foes.
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Next season, the University of Utah men's basketball team will play neither an NAIA, NCAA Division II or Division III opponent during nonconference play for the first time during coach Larry Krystkowiak's tenure.

The Pac-12 Conference implemented a rule prohibiting teams from scheduling games with non-NCAA Division I opponents. Last season, during which the Utes played a pair of games against Division II opponents, the Utes placed fourth in the Pac-12 regular-season standings but did not earn an NCAA Tournament bid after a first-round exit from the conference tournament.

"I have no problem with the rule," Krystkowiak said. "Obviously, if you can't play non-D-1 teams that means you have to spend money. The rule sounds great, but not everybody has got deep pockets to where you can go out and schedule a non-D-1. There's games you want to have that are kind of a tune-up, that you don't anticipate losing. Although we managed to lose one — I think Adams State — our first year here."

Krystkowiak acknowledged that data show that playing only Division I opponents increases the possibility of getting more teams into the NCAA Tournament. Last season, the Pac-12 had only four NCAA Tournament squads. All four won at least one game, and Oregon advanced to the Final Four.

"I'm fine with that," Krystowiak said. "It raises numbers. The non-D1s don't count at all, and there's evidence that playing a D-1, regardless of the scenario, is helpful."

The Utes' addition of a home game with the University of Missouri came late out of necessity. Xavier bought itself out of the contract that would've had it finish a home-and-home against the Utes this season at Utah on Nov. 16. That left the Utes with a hole in its schedule .

The Big East Conference forced Xavier, which had been ranked as high as No. 7 in the nation last season, out of the game because Xavier will play at Wisconsin on that day as part of the Gavitt Games between Big East and Big Ten conference teams.

The Utes filled that date with a home game against Missouri, which hired former California coach Cuonzo Martin this offseason and will feature projected No. 1 draft pick Michael Porter Jr.

"Actually, we were pretty lucky to be able to get that, but I think it is important for our fans to know that there's certain dates circled on the calendar that they want to be apart of and see a potential number one pick in the NBA draft," Krystkowiak said. "It's going to be a heck of a team with a coach that's been in our conference. I think we were pretty lucky. We could have been really scrambling to find that game that late."

The Utes released their nonconference schedule on June 26. They have room to add one more nonconference game. While they have nothing set in stone either way, they are exploring options for adding a game.

Three and counting

Forward Kyle Kuzma became the third consecutive Utes player picked in the first round of the NBA draft when the Brooklyn Nets selected him 27th and later traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Kuzma's selection made the Utes the only Pac-12 school to have at least one first-round pick in each of the past three drafts. Kuzma joined guard Delon Wright (20th overall in 2015) and center Jakob Poeltl (ninth overall in 2016), both Toronto Raptors selections.

"I always said — before I was in a position to be losing guys early — that I would much rather have guys leaving to the draft early and try to figure out a way to overcome than never be in that category," Krystkowiak said. "It's not a pity part for us that, 'Oh my gosh we lose this guy.' It is good for the program, and whatever minutes Kyle would've had in place for us, those other guys will have to step up and divide them."

Krystkowiak said assistant coaches Andy Hill and DeMarlo Slocum would likely watch see Kuzma and Poeltl play in the NBA's Las Vegas Summer League.


Twitter: @LWorthySports —

Runnin' Utes nonconference schedule

Nov. 2 • Montana Tech (exhibition)

Nov. 10 • Prairie View A&M

Nov. 13 • Mississippi Valley State

Nov. 16 • Missouri

Nov. 20 • vs. Mississippi at Las Vegas

Nov. 22 • vs. Rice or UNLV at Las Vegas

Nov. 24 • Eastern Washington

Dec. 2 • Hawaii

Dec. 5 • at Butler

Dec. 9 • vs. Utah State at Vivint Smart Home Arena

Dec. 16 • at BYU

Dec. 20 • Northwestern State






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