This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
One day last summer, Jim Boylen visualized the future and summarized the major attraction of the University of Utah's Pac-12 Conference membership in five words: "UCLA in the Huntsman Center."
So as the Utes prepare for their first season of Pac-12 basketball, this is how reality compares with what Boylen was picturing:
UCLA is not coming to the Huntsman Center in 2011-12.
The Utes are not even playing in historic Pauley Pavilion in 2011-12.
Boylen will not be coaching the Utes in 2011-12.
Utah undoubtedly will be picked to finish 12th in the Pac-12 in 2011-12.
Otherwise, everything is just as Boylen imagined it that day in July, while addressing Ute radio sponsors.
The Pac-12's basketball scheduling rotation (there are no divisions in basketball) dictates that UCLA is among the six schools Utah will play either home or away not both in each of the next two seasons. The Bruins will host the Utes in January at the Los Angeles Sports Arena while Pauley Pavilion is being renovated. UCLA will not come to the Huntsman Center until 2012-13, before the schools play a home-and-home schedule in 2013-14.
By then, Utah may have a respectable basketball program again.
It will take at least that long for coach Larry Krystkowiak to rebuild the Utes.
In football, fans should be confident the Utes will compete favorably in the Pac-12 from the start, while feeling just enough apprehension about the higher level of play to make it interesting.
In basketball, there can be no mystery about the immediate future only dread, considering the state of the program. Maybe the Utes could propose a trade with BYU and play basketball in the West Coast Conference for a few years. After all, the leagues are in many of the same markets.
Unlike football, Pac-12 basketball will not represent a huge jump from Mountain West Conference competition. But it's not going to be any easier, either. Consider that in 2010-11, when BYU and San Diego State fielded two of their best teams ever, the MWC ranked No. 7 among conferences in the Sagarin Ratings. The Pac-10 was No. 5, and incoming member Colorado (then of the Big 12) may have pushed the league even higher.
So the Utes would be facing a big challenge in this conference, even if they were not starting all over with a new coach and an overhauled roster after the departures of Will Clyburn, J.J. O'Brien and others. The Utes have signed eight new players, including transfers Aaron Dotson from LSU and Glen Dean from Eastern Washington, who will redshirt in 2011-12.
The early entrances into the NBA draft of many of the Pac-12's top players will help Utah, but not enough to make much difference this season. The schedule offers only partial relief. While the Utes play UCLA and Washington only once each, they have two games each with California and Arizona.
So there's not much fun in Utah's basketball forecast anytime soon, although the program's success in the past offers some hope for the future. So does Krystkowiak's hiring of Westminster College coach Tommy Connor as an assistant. Connor's recruiting ability will make an impact, over time, and Krystkowiak showed at Montana that he could energize a program.
Then again, Utah is much further away than Montana was when he took over the Grizzlies. The Utes someday may be able to compete with UCLA and celebrate having the Bruins visit the Huntsman Center.
As for this season, having them stay away is a blessing.
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