Runnin' Utes to Play UNLV in Las Vegas Dec. 20

Center Dallin Bachynski and the rest of the Runnin' Utes won't be able to bull through the non-conference competition this season with teams like Wichita State, BYU, Kansas, and newly revealed UNLV on the schedule. - Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Utah's non-conference schedule is really shaping up to be a much better one than the much maligned schedule from last season. In addition to a home game against Wichita State, Utah has road trips planned to play BYU (Provo), Kansas (Lawrence), and UNLV (Las Vegas).

Oklahoma men's basketball revealed last night (see their Tweet, below) that the University of Utah will play UNLV in Las Vegas on Dec. 20 as part of the MGM Showcase (benefitting Coaches vs Cancer). Adding UNLV (20-13 last season, 10-8 in the Mountain West Conference) to a non-conference schedule that already features a home date against 35-win Wichita State, as well as road games against BYU and Kansas, definitely increases the Runnin' Utes non-conference strength of schedule.

UNLV loses four players from this season, including three of the top scorers. UNLV also loses their top defensive player in Khem Birch, who finished second in the nation in blocked shots. However, UNLV brings in a recruiting class ranked by some experts as the fourth best in the country behind only Duke, Kentucky, and Arizona. The Rebels class features 6-6 shooting guard Patrick McCaw, 6-6 guard and McDonald's All American Rashad Vaughn (rated at the no. 7 overall player in the 2014 class), 6-2 San Francisco transfer guard Cody Doolin, 6-7 forward Dwayne Morgan (rated as high as no. 15 overall), and 6-9 center Goodluck Okonoboh (ranked no. 4 by ESPN).

In addition to the incoming freshman and transfers, UNLV's returning roster is long on guards and forwards, but noticeably light in the post. Only three players, including the incoming Okonoboh, are listed at 6-9 or better, which the Utes, with three players 6-10 to 7-foot, should be able to exploit. Utah is 22-24 all time against UNLV, 2-3 on a "neutral" court.

Oklahoma will play Utah's Pac-12 northern division foe Washington in the first game of the MGM Showcase.

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