After thinking about next year's expectations, I couldn't help but wonder what the schedule will look like. Prior to this season, Giacoletti had stated the Utes would have a more watered down schedule in hopes of building momentum and confidence heading into the conference season. That didn't help, as the Utes actually looked worse when losing to the likes of Albany, Southern Utah and Colorado than they would have if they lost to some power teams. Giacoletti also said he would schedule more bigger named teams when he arrived at Utah, but did he?
The Giacoletti era saw almost no big names come through the Huntsman Center and rarely did they play a big team on the road. You'd actually have to go back to Giacoletti's first season to find competitive programs that made up Utah's out of conference schedule. That year Utah faced Washington, Arizona and LSU in their preseason. All three went to the NCAA Tournament, with Washington advancing to the Sweet 16, Arizona making the Elite Eight and LSU getting upset in the first round by UAB. Utah only beat LSU, the lone home game of the bunch. However those games were scheduled under Rick Majerus, not Giacoletti and in his second season, the Utes played no one of basketball significance, except for a home game against Arizona -- a blowout loss.
Now with Jim Boylen, we're left wondering how he will schedule. Majerus said he would never schedule a good Power Conference team without a return visit to the Huntsman Center. Because of that, many teams wouldn't schedule with Utah because of how difficult it is to win in Salt Lake City. That limited Utah's preseason to creampuffs and mediocre Power Conference teams. Of course Utah got Arizona back to Salt Lake City last year, but that was a rare occasion.
If I'm Boylen, I think Utah needs to schedule some stiff competition, even if it may hurt their record early on. While I don't think the Utes will get every Power Conference opponent to sign off on coming to play in Salt Lake, I think they can get quite a few. And even if the Utes have to play a good team on the road, the possibility of an upset is always more intriguing than the thought of a blowout win. Of course I'm not asking for Utah to go out and schedule Duke for this upcoming season, but down the line, when the team is looking really good, I wouldn't be opposed to just one road game against the Blue Devils.
I look at what Gonzaga has been able to do over the years and I know a lot of that is built through going on the road and knocking off the perceived Big Boys. Hell, this season the Zags owned a victory over North Carolina, a team given the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. The fact is, Utah won't get any media respect by beating the likes of Southern Utah and IPFW. They'll need to shake things up a bit and it starts by toughening up the schedule. Moreover, I think it will ultimately help attendance if you can get some named programs into Salt Lake for preseason games. The preseason home schedule for this year's Utes was terrible. The only team that turned out to be any good was Washington State, and who would have ever imagined that after Utah gave them their worst drubbing of the season?
So with all that said, I'd like to see some of the following games schedule.
A home and home with Texas. The Utes did this a few years ago and it turned out to be a really good series. I'm not sure if Texas wants to schedule Utah again in basketball, but I don't think it would hurt to see, since I know there is no way in hell they'd come for football.
A home game with Gonzaga. In this case, Utah can be the program that thinks a road game with this opponent is beneath them. Gonzaga is the type of team that will play anywhere at any time and Utah should take advantage of this by scheduling a home game with them. We couldn't before, since Ray Giacoletti said he never liked going up against his friend Mark Few. Plus, I think many Utah fans are tired of hearing how Gonzaga is the elite non-Power Conference team in the West, since Utah clearly is. So kicking their butt up and down the Huntsman Center court would be nice.
A road game with UCLA. I'm not sure the Bruins would schedule a home and home with the Utes, but I would love to play them in hoops. BYU had them on their schedule this year, I would like to see the Utes do the same.
A road game against Kansas. I'm pretty sure Kansas will never come to Salt Lake, so let's go to Lawrence. I'd love nothing better than to stun the Jayhawks on their home court.
Other teams I would like Utah to see Utah at least contact about scheduling, even without a return game:
North Carolina State
Thoughts? What teams would you like to see Utah play?