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Matt Piper and Kyle Goon cover University of Utah sports teams for The Salt Lake Tribune. Matt Piper is on twitter at @matthew_piper, Kyle Goon is on twitter at @kylegoon

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Utes play Thursday at UCLA — sort of

When the Utes' joined the Pac-12, this was the road trip fans envisioned.

UCLA and USC, soaking up rays in Southern California, now members of one of the premier basketball conferences.

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"Premier" doesn't quite describe the Pac-12 this season, but the UCLA/USC trip represent the marquee portion of the Utes travel schedule, in terms of history and image.

"We're going to play two great basketball schools, tradition," Larry Krystkowiak said, "We haven't played well on the road, so our opportunity is to prove that we can play a little better on the road, come together and try to get a road win."

But playing UCLA on Thursday won't be much like playing UCLA. The Bruins were picked in the preseason to win the conference, but this season are just 10-9 and have lost four of their seven conference games. They are just one game ahead of the Utes in the standings.

Beyond that, historic Pauley Pavilion is undergoing a renovation, so the Utes and Bruins will play at the L.A. Sports Arena.

Krystkowiak said it didn't make much difference to him where the Utes played the Bruins, although he played at Pauley in college and at the Sports Arena as a pro.

"They're all kind of new arenas for me to begin with," he said, "so that was something I never gave too much thought about."

Krystkowiak appeared most concerned about UCLA's post presence and the presume advantage it will have against Utah's thin frontline. Center Josh Smith scores 9.5 points and grabs 5.2 rebounds per game, while twin brothers David and Travis Wear, 6-foot-10 forwards, combine for 21.9 points and 11.5 rebounds per game.

"They've got a lot of different pieces and firepower," Krystkowiak said, "they're really long and athletic."

— Bill Oram

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