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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Non-conference schedule released for men’s basketball

By James Boehly

With the non-conference schedule finalized, Runnin’ Ute fans have every reason to be jubilant.

For the upcoming season, the Utes will face a number of tough opponents and a schedule that includes some of the top programs in the nation.

“Our fans and our players deserve a schedule that reflects where we are headed with this program,” head coach Jim Boylen said. “We are bringing some strong teams into the Huntsman Center this year, and we are prepared to prove we belong in their company.”

Of the teams the U play this season, none will be more challenging than Oklahoma. Blake Griffin is one of the premier players in all of college basketball and will be a difficult challenge for the Utes. Behind Griffin, the Sooners are expected to start the season ranked in the Top 25.

Although the Utes will play Oklahoma on the road, fans will still have some great home games from which to choose. LSU is one of the best teams from the Southeastern Conference and will be the toughest opponent for the Utes at the Huntsman Center.

Another tough opponent will be the Gonzaga Bulldogs, who have reached the NCAA Men’s Tournament for the past nine years and will be looking to make it 10 in 2009.

Rounding out the elite out-of-state visitors to the Huntsman Center will be Oregon and California from the Pac-10, which is considered one of the best conferences in college basketball.

With so many top programs facing the Utes, this is primed to be one of the best schedules the Utes have had in recent memory.

Southwest Baptist will be the regular season opener against Boylen’s bunch and will be a great challenge for the Utes to start with. Southwest Baptist won 22 games last year and made it to the second round of the Division II Basketball Tournament.

Not all of Utah’s non-conference opponents include foreign faces. Local rival Utah State will also be a tough challenge for the Utes as they head to Logan to face the Aggies. Last year, Utah State won its first 17 games en route to a 24-11 overall record, but were smacked around by the Utes in a 72-48 loss.

With so much talent to face in just his second year of coaching, Boylen said playing top programs is the only way to gain respect.

“I firmly believe that to be an elite program, which is our goal, you need to schedule at the highest level possible,” Boylen said. “Playing teams you know you can beat does not make you better. We want to test ourselves against quality teams, so that we are confident and prepared to succeed in postseason play.”

Boylen also hopes that the non-conference schedule will also help prepare the fan base for what is to come.

“We’re hopeful that a schedule like this will entice our fans to not only buy season tickets, but to come to the games and create the kind of home court atmosphere that is so important for a successful season,” athletic director Chris Hill said.

Tickets have gone on sale for all non-conference games. The entire Utah schedule will be released in early August.

[email protected]

Lennie Mahler

Utah head coach Jim Boylen is looking to test his team by scheduling quality opponents during Utah’s non-conference schedule.

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