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For the Utah basketball fans who griped last season about a soft nonconference schedule, coach Larry Krystkowiak was listening.
The Utes' 2014-15 schedule, released on Friday, will be no easy stroll to conference play.
Consider this 17-day stretch starting Dec. 3: Utah will host Wichita State, go to Provo to face BYU, fly to Kansas City for a date with the Jayhawks, then wrap up one of its most challenging segments at UNLV.
For the Utes, the nonconference schedule now has the power to either forge them as a team competing for an NCAA Tournament berth, or expose them. And Krystkowiak and his program are comfortable with that challenge, with what they believe could be a memorable slate of games.
"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," he said in a statement. "We also wanted to ensure our student-athletes have experiences that they can treasure and keep with them after their playing days."
Including its conference schedule, Utah has 18 opponents that reached the postseason last year, and Wichita State, Kansas and BYU each went to the NCAA Tournament.
The home schedule includes dates with Ball State on Nov. 14, UC Riverside, South Dakota State, Carroll College and the aforementioned Shockers. The Cougars, Jayhawks and Rebels are the only teams the Utes face on the road before Pac-12 play.
Utah will host its now-annual tournament from Nov. 26-29 with North Dakota, Alabama State and Texas-Pan American.
The Utes also have a tentative agreement to play a home-and-home series with San Diego State that is being finalized. The game was not included in the school release, but ESPN 700 reported the first game would be Nov. 18 at Viejas Arena.
Utah also released its tentative conference dates, beginning with home games against UCLA, USC and Colorado. The conference season wraps up on the road at Washington and Washington State. Those dates and times will be finalized Sept. 1 by the Pac-12.
Utah's 2014-15 basketball schedule
Nov. 6 • Pacific (exhibition)
Nov. 14 • Ball State
Nov. 18 • at San Diego State (pending)
Nov. 21 • UC Riverside
Nov. 26 • Texas-Pan American (home tournament)
Nov. 28 • North Dakota (home tournament)
Nov. 29 • Alabama State (home tournament)
Dec. 3 • Wichita State
Dec. 10 • at BYU
Dec. 13 • at Kansas (Sprint Center, Kansas City, Mo.)
Dec. 20 • at UNLV (MGM Grand, Las Vegas)
Dec. 23 • South Dakota State
Dec. 30 • Carroll College
Pac-12 (tentative dates)
Jan. 2 • UCLA
Jan. 3 • USC
Jan. 10 • Colorado
Jan. 15 • at Arizona
Jan. 17 • at Arizona State
Jan. 22 • Washington
Jan. 24 • Washington State
Jan. 29 • at USC
Jan. 31 • at UCLA
Feb. 7 • at Colorado
Feb. 12 • Stanford
Feb. 14 • Cal
Feb. 19 • at Oregon State
Feb. 21 • at Oregon
Feb. 26 • Arizona
Feb. 28 • Arizona State
March 5 • at Washington
March 7 • at Washington State
March 11-14 • Pac-12 Tournament