Runnin' Utes top Ball State, off to best start in 15 years

USA TODAY Sports

Utah basketball defeated Ball State 88-69 Wednesday night to improve to 6-0 - their best start since the 1997-98 season.

Utah basketball might have a lightweight schedule, one filled with cupcakes and fluff, but they're taking care of business. For a team that only won six games two years ago, it's a helluva push in the right direction.

Wednesday, the Runnin' Utes knocked off a decent Ball State program 88-69 to improve to 6-0 on the season. That puts them only nine wins away from matching last year's total - with an entire slate of conference games still left (as well as a handful of other preseason contests).

So, how good is Utah basketball? It's hard to say. They've still yet to be truly tested, as even the Cardinals, who took Butler to the wire, are not at the level of the teams the Runnin' Utes will face in conference play. Still, after years of dropping games like this (to Albany and Idaho and Southern Utah and Adams State and other equally bad programs over the years), it's good news Utah is finally winning the games they should.

That really was the biggest issue with Jim Boylen's teams - their inability to consistently win against the lesser foes. I mapped it out a few times - how had the Utes just taken care of business against weaker opponents, they would have been a fringe tournament team his final year. They didn't, he got the ax and now it's Larry Krystkowiak's team.

But the free ride ends soon enough.

This coming Tuesday, Utah will travel to take on a very good Boise State team - one they rocked in Salt Lake last year. It will be their first true test of the season and could give us an indication whether this start was nothing more than a fluke built around a horridly weak schedule, or that this team, and program, has finally turned the corner and is ready to make some noise in the Pac-12.

Either way, it's nice having feeling again for the basketball team. There hasn't been much of that lately, and it sorta returned earlier this year during the Pac-12 Tournament. It's appeared to spill over into this season, which makes this game, along with BYU, and Fresno, three important preseason tests. Hopefully the team can come to play and win all three.

If they do, watch out. Utah could be knocking on the door to the top-25.

Of course, that might be putting the cart before the horse.

Still, 6-0 has a nice ring to it.

Let's make that 7-0 Tuesday.

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