The nonconference portion of the 2015-16 Utah Runnin' Utes schedule was announced today and features several high quality opponents. A home contest against San Diego State as part of ESPN's Tip-Off Marathon, a road game at 2015 Sweet 16 qualifier Wichita State, a rematch against reigning national champion Duke in Madison Square Garden and three games at the prestigious Puerto Rico Tip-Off are the highlights of Utah's nonconference schedule for 2015-16.
Including Pac-12 opponents, the Utes will face at least six teams that won NCAA Tournament games last year, four of which advanced to the Sweet 16.
"It's really a challenging schedule," said Larry Krystkowiak. "You'd be hard pressed to find many teams with this difficult a schedule. Last year, we had the best strength of schedule in the Pac-12--and one of the best in the country--and we're setting ourselves up to potentially do that again."
Utah kicks off the 2015-16 season with a Nov. 5 exhibition game against Cal State Monterey Bay in the Huntsman Center. The Utes open regular-season play on Nov. 13 against Southern Utah.
Of the 17 home dates (and an exhibition game) on the 2015-16 schedule, eight are against non-conference teams and nine are against Pac-12 opponents. Utah won all eight of its non-conference home games last season and was 8-1 in conference games played in the Jon M. Huntsman Center (falling only to Arizona). In the last two years, the Utes are 19-0 in non-conference home contests and 34-3 overall at home.
For the second straight season, Utah will play San Diego State in an ESPN Tip-Off Marathon game with this year's matchup on Nov. 16 in Salt Lake City. The Runnin' Utes will be looking to avenge their loss to the No. 16-ranked Aztecs 53-49 in San Diego last season.
Utah's first games outside the Huntsman Center will be at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off from Nov. 19-22. While the pairings will be announced at a later date, teams joining Utah in the ESPN event include Miami (Fla.), Butler, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Texas Tech, Temple and Missouri State.
"With elite teams from eight different conferences, Puerto Rico is one of the premier tournaments," said Krystkowiak. "We're eager to see who our opponents will be there and it's a great opportunity to bond as a team."
Utah will travel to Wichita State for a Dec. 12 showdown. The Utes beat the Shockers in overtime last season in Salt Lake City, 69-68, in a preview of two eventual Sweet 16 qualifiers. The Utes are 7-1 all time against the Shockers and have won the last three games, including a 58-36 verdict on their last trip to Wichita State, 24 years ago on Dec. 21, 1991.
After hosting Savannah State on Dec. 16, Utah goes to Madison Square Garden for a neutral-site game against Duke on Dec. 19. The rematch of the 2015 NCAA South Regional semifinal with the Blue Devils will be televised nationally on ESPN or ESPN2. It marks the second time the two teams have met in Madison Square Garden, where Duke edged the Utes 78-75 in the first round of the 1970 National Invitational Tournament.
The Utah staff is also working on adding a final non-conference home game on Dec. 28 contingent upon the Pac-12 schedule. While the exact dates for the Pac-12 schedule are pending television picks and will not be announced until early September, the Utes have learned their pairings and sites for each week of the 2015-16 conference season.
Utah is scheduled to play home games against nine Pac-12 teams and will go home-and-home with seven of them. Due to the rotation in Pac-12 scheduling, the Utes will meet USC, UCLA, Arizona State and Arizona just once this year, traveling to the Southern California schools and hosting the two Arizona schools.
Overall, playing all of these tough teams in nonconference play is great. It will help boost Utah's RPI and strength of schedule come tournament time, and the team will be battle tested heading into conference play. Utah is playing in multiple ESPN games, which will get many eyes around the nation on the Runnin' Utes, which could also help with recruiting. it is too bad that Utah will only face Arizona once rather than twice, but it is nice that the game is in the Huntsman Center rather than the McHale Center. Utah will have their work cut out for them this season with this schedule, but they have the potential to have a special season if they can win most of their tough games.
2015-16 University of Utah Men's Basketball Non-Conference Schedule
Thur., Nov. 5 Cal State Monterey Bay (Exhibition) Fri., Nov. 13 Southern Utah Mon., Nov. 16 San Diego State (ESPN Tip-Off Marathon)
Puerto Rico Tip-Off
Thur., Nov. 19- Sun., Nov. 22 (3 games TBD: Miami, Butler, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Texas Tech, Temple, Missouri State)
Fri., Nov. 27 Idaho State Wed., Dec. 2 Brigham Young Sat., Dec. 5 IPFW (Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne) Sat., Dec. 12 at Wichita State Wed., Dec. 16 Savannah State Sat., Dec. 19 vs. Duke (at Madison Square Garden) Tue., Dec. 22 Delaware State Mon., Dec. 28 TBA in Salt Lake City
2015-16 University of Utah Men's Basketball Pac-12 "Week Of" Home Schedule
Week of Mon., Dec. 28 at Stanford and California Week of Mon., Jan. 4 at Colorado Week of Mon., Jan. 11 Oregon State and Oregon Week of Mon., Jan. 18 at Washington State and Washington Week of Mon., Jan. 25 Stanford and California Week of Mon., Feb. 1 at Oregon State and Oregon Week of Mon., Feb. 8 Washington State and Washington Week of Mon., Feb. 15 at USC and UCLA Week of Mon., Feb. 22 Arizona State and Arizona Week of Mon., Feb. 29 Colorado