Larry Krystkowiak smiles when thinking about the criticism he took full bore when the Utah men’s basketball nonconference schedule surfaced publicly.
National and local media branded the nonconference slate as a joke, saying it was built for easy wins and confidence before the Pac-12 season began. And while it appeared that way in August, it isn’t the case now.
“It’s gotten just a little tougher,” Krystkowiak said.
Utah will face Boise State at the Huntsman Center on Wednesday, the night the program will honor former coach Rick Majerus, who died last Saturday. The Broncos practically are the same team that cleaned out the Utes last season. They are the same team that went to Creighton last week and handily defeated the Bluejays. And they are the same team that almost beat Michigan State at home earlier in the season.
Krystkowiak and his players won’t kid themselves about this one. They know this is a huge week, with Boise State on Wednesday then at BYU on Saturday. If the team can stay competitive and play well, the progress made behind closed doors could become tangible to the fan base.
But if the Utes don’t play well and are on the receiving end of two blowouts, the thoughts of last season likely will return.
“It’s definitely a huge week for us,” sophomore center Dallin Bachynski said. “These next two games will tell us a lot and give us a sense of where we are at. It’s important that we learn from the road trip last week and come out and play well. We have to play well defensively first.”
The Broncos have proven to be one of the better offensive teams in the country. They have scored 80 or more points four times in seven games. They’ve scored fewer than 70 points just once.
By comparison, the Utes have scored 70 points or more just twice against Division I competition. Utah did score 104 on Willamette, a Division III school.
Boise State at Utah
P At the Huntsman Center
Tipoff • 6:30 p.m.
TV • Pac-12 Network; Radio • 700 AM
Records • Boise State 6-1; Utah 5-2
Series history • Utah leads 3-2
Last meeting • Boise State 80, Utah 59 (Nov. 17, 2011)
About the Broncos • Derrick Marks ranks fourth in the Mountain West Conference with 18.7 points per game. … The Broncos defeated Creighton 83-70 last week. … The Broncos’ lone defeat this season came vs. Michigan State.
About the Utes • Utah went 1-1 on its recent Texas road trip. … The program will honor Rick Majerus on Wednesday with a moment of silence and a video. … Utah currently has the top scoring defense in the Pac-12.