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No. 1 Stanford women’s basketball set to visit Utah as Pac-12 schedule remains unrelenting for Utes

Utah will play the No. 1 team in the country Friday for only the second time ever.

(Darryl Webb | AP file photo) Stanford head coach Tara Vanderveer talks to her team as they play Arizona State during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Tempe, Ariz.

Lynne Roberts knows what she signed up for when she agreed to coach a Pac-12 women’s basketball team. If any of her players aren’t quite sure what they signed up for, they’re quickly finding out.

Life in the Pac-12 on the women’s side is often unrelenting. The league has five teams ranked in the AP Top 25, with a sixth receiving votes. Most recently, the Utes (3-7, 2-7 Pac-12) lost a last-second crusher at USC on Friday night, then were overwhelmed two days later at No. 9 UCLA.

“That’s what I told them,” the University of Utah women’s basketball head coach said Wednesday morning on a Zoom call with reporters. “You committed to play here and you’re committed to keep swinging.”

Utah gets to come home now, but the level of competition is only going to get tougher Friday afternoon when No. 1, unbeaten Stanford pays a visit to the Huntsman Center.

Under the direction of Hall of Fame head coach Tara VanDerveer, the Cardinal are a near-annual threat to win the national championship, let alone the Pac-12.

“It’s not a mystery, we know who we’re playing, we know they’re very, very good and they’re the best team in the country,” Roberts said. “It’s not a preseason thing, they’ve proven it.”

UTAH VS. NO. 1 STANFORD

At the Huntsman Center

When • Friday, 1:30 p.m.

TV • Pac-12 Network

Stanford, which is receiving all but one of the 30 first-place votes in the AP Poll, will mark the fifth top-15 on Utah’s schedule, a group that includes a win over No. 15 Oregon State back on Dec. 8. The fact that the Cardinal just happen to be ranked No. 1 doesn’t phase Roberts, nor does she believe it should affect her team, which had Tuesday off before getting back to practice on Wednesday.

The way Roberts sees it, essentially, the Utes are playing top-10 teams every weekend, so why should Stanford be any different? To say that out loud, Utah playing top-10 teams every weekend, may feel like a slight exaggeration, but it isn’t.

The Utes split a season-opening trip to the two Oregon schools, both of which were ranked in the top-15 at the time. They lost at No. 6 Arizona on Dec. 20, and the ninth-ranked Bruins on Sunday. All told, Utah has played four multi-game weekends against Pac-12 teams this season. Three of those four weekends have included a ranked opponent, the one outlier being a pair of home games earlier this month vs. Washington and Washington State.

“You just kind of get used to playing these teams, these top-10 teams,” Roberts said. “There’s definitely a level of respect. It’s Stanford, it’s Tara and what she’s achieved in her career. There’s a level of that, but it doesn’t feel any different than playing at UCLA or playing at Oregon. It all kind of runs together I guess.”

Beyond Friday, Utah gets a Pac-12 reprieve of sorts on Sunday against winless Cal, but things crank right back up next weekend with a trip to the Arizona schools, beginning Jan. 22 with the Wildcats, who are ranked ninth this week.

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