Beehive Classic will give dormant Utah-Weber State hoops series a boost

(Michael Mangum | Special to The Tribune) Utah Utes forward Timmy Allen (1) dives out of bounds trying to save the ball in front of Brigham Young Cougars forward Yoeli Childs (23) and Brigham Young Cougars forward Dalton Nixon (33) during their game at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019.

Utah and Weber State have played each other in men’s basketball 40 times, including every year from 1975-2011.

On Dec. 22, 2011, Larry Krystkowiak’s first Utes team, which went on to finish 6-25, lost to the Wildcats in Ogden, 80-51. Damian Lillard, then a junior at Weber State, had 22 points and helped deliver a signature non-conference win over a Pac-12 program. That Weber State team won 25 games and advanced to the second round of the CIT.

Krystkowiak has not scheduled the Wildcats since.

The Beehive Classic took care of that. In this final installment of the three-year, four-team round-robin event, Utah will face Weber State at 2 p.m. at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Utah State and BYU will square off in the nightcap at 6 p.m.

With Utah and Weber State renewing acquaintances, the fact that Krystkowiak has not scheduled the perennial Big Sky contender on his own in eight years is not lost.

“No, I can’t [explain why], we just haven’t scheduled them,” Krystkowiak said. “I don’t know why it was done 35 straight years, but we can’t play everybody in-state every year.

“I didn't want to play them because they kicked our butt the last time we played them.”

“As far as Larry, I completely understand where he’s coming from,” Wildcats head coach Randy Rahe told the Salt Lake Tribune. “When he got there, he was trying to build his program up and he made the decision to not play us."

In fairness, based on how the NCAA Tournament selection committee has come up with the field of 68 in recent years, there is little to be gained from Utah scheduling Weber State.

The Wildcats’ KenPom rating as of Tuesday night was a paltry 274. A Utah win Saturday does little to enhance its resume, but a loss to the Wildcats would torpedo it. Forget about the optics within the state and beyond if Utah takes a loss there.

For what it’s worth, Utah and Utah State have played 111 times, another non-conference rivalry that went uninterrupted for decades. The teams played early in the 2010-11 season, an Aggies win, and then not again until they were matched up in the first Beehive Classic in 2017.

If in-state diehards are waiting for Utah-Weber State to return on an annual basis, they could be waiting even longer for Utah-Utah State to return. The Aggies went 28-7 last season, winning the Mountain West regular-season and conference tournament crowns on their way to the NCAA Tournament.

Utah State has looked formidable over the first five weeks of the season, starting out 10-1, while potential NBA Draft pick Neemias Queta made his season debut last week after suffering a knee injury in July while playing for the Portuguese under-20 national team.



At Vivint SmartHome Arena

When • Saturday, 2 p.m.


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