On the day college basketball programs were able to begin practicing, the University of Utah’s schedule finally began coming into focus.
It will include, among other things, an originally-scheduled trip to Provo.
Speaking minutes after the Utes completed their first of 30 preseason practices Wednesday afternoon, coach Larry Krystkowiak said they will play BYU this season as part of what will ultimately be a truncated seven-game nonconference schedule.
That nugget only came after Krystkowiak confirmed the widely-believed assumption that the Pac-12 will stick with a 20-game conference schedule, with two of the games being played in December. The league is expected to release its conference schedule within the next week.
On a related note, Utah women’s head coach Lynne Roberts said earlier Wednesday on a Zoom call with reporters that she expects the Pac-12 will go with a 22-game, double-round robin format for the women.
“BYU, as far as I know, we’re moving forward with that game and there will be three other games to come up with,” Krystkowiak said.
On April 10, the Salt Lake Tribune was first to report a new four-year agreement between the Utes and Cougars. BYU will host in 2020 and 2022, with Utah hosting in 2021 and 2023. The original pre-pandemic date of the 2020 game in Provo was Dec. 12, but it is unclear if that date will stick.
Earlier Wednesday, the Sanford Pentagon announced the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic will take place at the 3,250-seat arena in Sioux Falls, S.D. from Nov. 25-27. The eight-team field will include Utah and the rest of the original Battle 4 Atlantis participants with the exception of Dayton replacing Duke.
Utah Nonconference schedule thus far
Nov. 25, vs. Creighton
Nov. 26, vs. Wichita State or Dayton
Nov. 27, vs. West Virginia or Texas A&M or Ohio State or Memphis
Dec. 12, at BYU
The sticking point on getting a deal done for the Crossover Classic, as is the case with a slew of multi-team events being put together across the country, is testing protocols.
Tournament officials in Sioux Falls were vague on testing protocols during a Wednesday press conference. One Pac-12 source told The Tribune that testing at the event will mirror that of the Pac-12, and that Utah has been assured of it. All Pac-12 athletic departments have the capability to conduct daily-antigen testing, which is a big reason the league is able to play football beginning Nov. 7.
Dr. Jeremy Cauwels, Senior VP of Clinic Quality at Sioux Falls-based Sanford Health, which will handle testing for the event, said Wednesday that the expectation is teams begin arriving in Sioux Falls Nov. 23, two days before the first game, and undergo testing three times before anyone plays a game.
The three testing instances would be the day teams arrive, the following day, and the day of the first game.
“That’s been one of the partial reasons for the delay [in announcing the event], is the security and safety,” Krystkowiak said. “MTEs are a little bit more complicated than a four-team tournament or obviously a home-and-home. You’ve got eight teams here and a lot of logistics and things to work out, but I think they’re well-prepared to handle it and it seems all systems are go, so we’re excited.”
No matter what the other three nonconference games wind up being, the four games now known offer Utah a hugely-critical opportunity to build a resume towards its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2016.
BYU will challenge Gonzaga at the top of the WCC, while Utah’s first opponent in South Dakota will be Creighton, a potential preseason top-10 outfit buoyed by Big East Player of the Year candidate Marcus Zegarowski, a junior guard.
Utah’s side of the bracket has Wichita State-Dayton as one quarterfinal, while the other side features Ohio State-Memphis and West Virginia-Texas A&M.