The COVID-19 pandemic has turned college basketball scheduling into a constantly-evolving situation, where even one program dealing with a virus-related stoppage can trigger schedule changes across a conference.
Take the University of Utah, which is at Colorado for a Saturday matinee. When a Jan. 6 game vs. Oregon State was postponed because the Beavers had COVID issues, the Utes took the brunt of it. As a result of the one postponement, the Pac-12 moved the Utes’ Jan. 10 game vs. Oregon up a day to Jan. 9, a March 6 game vs. Colorado to Jan. 11, and a Jan. 13 game vs. Stanford back a day to Jan. 14, while leaving Utah’s visit from Cal on Jan. 16.
Combining all of those scheduling moves produced the unintended consequence of giving Utah four games in eight days. Furthermore, the Colorado game being moved from March 6 to Jan. 11 meant that the Utes played the Buffaloes less than 48 hours after facing Oregon. Colorado came to Salt Lake City for that Jan. 11 game off three days rest, having played Oregon on Jan. 7.
At the time, Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak didn’t view what was happening as being equitable, nor did he view what happened last week with his schedule as equitable.
On Jan. 22, the Pac-12 announced that Utah’s postponed Dec. 22 game at Arizona State will be played Tuesday, while that postponed Jan. 6 contest vs. Oregon State will now be played Feb. 22.
UTAH AT COLORADO
When • Saturday, 12:30 p.m. MST
TV • Pac-12 Networks
That Tuesday game in Tempe was again postponed on Friday morning to a to-be-determined date, which will ease the Utes’ scheduling burden at least a little. Utah was in a position where it was going to play the Sun Devils on Tuesday at 2 p.m., fly home, and have to prepare to play Arizona on Thursday at 5 p.m. The Utes will now have five days off and the Wildcats four days off ahead of the Thursday matchup at the Huntsman Center.
A Feb. 22 game vs. the Beavers means the Utes will have five games in 10 days and four games in eight days towards the end of the regular season.
REMAINING UTAH BASKETBALL SCHEDULE
Jan. 30, at Colorado
Feb. 4, vs. Arizona
Feb. 7, vs. Arizona State
Feb. 11, at Cal
Feb. 13, at Stanford
Feb. 18, at Oregon State
Feb. 20, at Oregon
Feb. 22, vs. Oregon State
Feb. 25, vs. UCLA
Feb. 27, vs. USC
March 10-13, Pac-12 Tournament, T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
“Hopefully, we don’t have anything that’s going to stop this pace, but it’s unusual, there’s no question,” Krystkowiak said Monday evening on his weekly ESPN700 radio show. “I’ve had discussions with [Utah athletic director] Mark Harlan and the league office. I don’t know if it’s always fair, but I don’t know if fair is an appropriate word to be using right now.”
Under normal conditions, league schedules are created months in advance and are generally done so equitably in terms of road trips and days off. Obviously, these are not normal conditions.
During the month of February, Utah will play at least nine games over 25 days. The Utes played nine February games last season, but before that, they had not played more than eight as a member of the Pac-12 dating back to 2011-12. In the decade prior to Utah’s arrival at the Power Five level, most Februarys in the Mountain West contained seven, or even six February games as the regular season started to wind down.
Within that nine-in-25 stretch, the Utes are currently scheduled to play two games in three days five times, one stretch of three games in five days, plus the aforementioned four games in eight days and five games in 10 days to close the regular season.
The Pac-12 regular season officially ends on March 6, but that date only has two games remaining, USC-UCLA, which is slated for a CBS broadcast, and Oregon-Oregon State. Everyone else’s regular season is currently set to conclude on Feb. 27 as the league is looking to line up the time between then and March 6 for any potential make-up games. That open window is the most-logical placement for Utah’s trip to Arizona State, which needs to reschedule three other games.
“You go on this rollercoaster where that’s an intense number of games,” Krystkowiak said. “There’s some stretches where we’re playing four games in eight days and five games in 10 days, and we will have done that, assuming there’s no changes, three times this year.
“Then, when you talk about a period of no games over 11 days, that’s odd and hard to adjust to, but we’ll see what happens.”
Family and friends allowed
The Utah athletic department announced Thursday that a limited number of family guests will now be allowed to attend sporting events at the Huntsman Center and various outdoor venues.
Consistent with regular NCAA policy, student-athletes in basketball, volleyball, gymnastics and outdoor sports will receive up to four guest passes, as will student-athletes from visiting teams.
Pac-12 policies allow student-athlete family guests, subject to local approval, but the conference policy prohibiting public spectator attendance has been extended until further notice.