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Utah-Arizona is Utes’ lone game this week as COVID-19 continues to alter schedule

Utes need to make up two games vs. Arizona State, including now-postponed Super Bowl Sunday matchup

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes forward Timmy Allen (1) makes his was down the court as the Utes host the Stanford Cardinals on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021 at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City.

Larry Krystkowiak knew what he was getting into with this COVID-impacted basketball season.

The University of Utah head coach knew there would be games postponed, scheduling would be altered, and everyone would just have to deal with it if they wanted to have a season. The Utes, who are home Thursday evening to the University of Arizona (5 p.m., Fox Sports 1) have yet to flinch.

“I don’t think anything is easy, I just think it’s important to try and make the most of anything we’re doing,” Krystkowiak said. “If we’re practicing, if we’re playing games, and just know that there’s a heck a lot of unknown and uncertainties.”

Unknowns and uncertainties have certainly crept up in recent days for Krystkowiak and his team.

When everybody woke up on Friday morning, Utah was scheduled to play four games in nine days, beginning Saturday at Colorado, a game the Utes won, 77-74. Late Friday morning, Utah’s game at Arizona State Tuesday evening was postponed. That postponement meant the Utes would not have to fly commercially from Denver to Phoenix, play in Tempe at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, fly home commercially, then prepare for Arizona on a short turnaround for a Thursday afternoon tilt.

With one game vs. Arizona State already postponed, another game against the Sun Devils on Super Bowl Sunday was postponed on Tuesday evening with Bobby Hurley’s team now dealing with is being termed as “COVID-19 developments.”

UTAH VS. ARIZONA

At the Huntsman Center

When • Thursday, 5 p.m.

TV • FS1

As it currently stands, instead of four games in nine days, Utah will have played two games in five days, then have a full week off before facing Cal in Berkeley on Feb. 11.

“With the schedule getting changed again, there’s more time to prepare,” junior forward Riley Battin said. “We’ll have had half a week of practice leading up to this game tomorrow, so you can kind of look more in depth on teams, figure out a better plan to attack them.”

It is dangerous to assume Utah will have no more scheduling hiccups, but assuming that is the case, the Utes only have the two Arizona State games to make up. There is an 11-day gap between Utah’s last scheduled game, Feb. 27 vs. USC, and the start of the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas on March 10, so there is a window to get something done. For what it’s worth, Krystkowiak would be open to playing those two games in one location, instead of one in Salt Lake City and one in Tempe.

Krystkowiak on Wednesday referenced the fact that his team plays Thursday, then not again until next Thursday. To that end, the possibility exists that Utah has a game moved into that week-long space. It is not imminent that space will be filled at all, let alone filled with one of the games vs. Arizona State, which has a league-high six postponements to deal with.

Utah’s final five scheduled games will be played across 10 days, so moving one of those games up to next week would alleviate scheduling and preparation headaches.

“Part of the puzzle is the 11 other teams in our league are being disrupted, too, so whatever makes sense for the league to get games in,” Krystkowiak said. “Obviously, the later we get towards March with these cancelations, there’s a sense of urgency to get these games in, or perhaps change the plan as to what we’re going to do and are we going to be OK if we don’t get all 20 games in. I think we’re getting to the point where we may have to make some of those decisions.”

REMAINING UTAH BASKETBALL SCHEDULE

Thursday vs. Arizona

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

***Both games vs. Arizona State need to re-scheduled

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