Utah men's basketball begins its inaugural season in the Pac-12 beginning November 14 against San Diego Christian College.
San Diego Christian College is a small Evangelical Christian school in El Cajon, Calif. The Hawks, as they are known, will face the Utes in Salt Lake City.
In looking at the Hawks' schedule, it looks brutal for the non-conference portion. They take on a host of Division I schools including UC Irvine, Utah, San Diego, Cal State Northridge and San Diego State.
Utah lost its exhibition game 61-60 to Adams State in its only exhibition game. The Utes are picked dead last in the Pac-12. So being picked 12 out of 12, there is no place to go but up.
On the Utes' schedule this year are Boise State, Montana State and Harvard at the Paradise Islands Tournament. Possibly, Florida State or Massachusetts await them should they get passed Harvard.
Fresno State is next up after the Paradise Island's Tournament, along with Cal State Fullerton. Then the in-state love-fest when Brigham Young comes to Salt Lake City. Next is Idaho State, Portland and finally in-state rival Weber State.
The non-conference schedule does not include bitter rival Utah State this year. The Utes then open Pac-12 play against Colorado in Boulder and play every team at least once. Teams the Utes play home and home in-conference play are Colorado, Stanford, California, Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon and Oregon State.
Utah plays USC, UCLA, Washington and Washington State once this year and once next year and then a new rotation will begin.
The Utes have a tough season ahead of them, but I am not expecting them to finish last in the Pac-12. There are too many variables at this point. So it will take a few games into the non-conference schedule to really gauge how good Utah will do.
The Utes face teams from the Big Sky, Mountain West, West Coast, Ivy League and WAC. Possibilities include the ACC and Atlantic 10 as well.
Utah first-year coach Larry Krystowiak will lead the team through the Pac-12 maiden voyage. It will be interesting to see how the team does with David Foster out for foot surgery and Chris Hines out for two-to-four weeks with a rib injury.
Well, let the games begin. Utah has nowhere to go but up and does bring a strong tradition of basketball history to the Pac-12.
Utah won the 1944 national championship and has been to the Final Four four times, including the 1998 loss to Kentucky. Utah has numerous appearances in the NCAA Tournament and has won the WAC and Mountain West regular season and tournaments as well.
So, though on the bottom, the Utes may be a dark horse. We will just have to wait until the season unfolds. Being the underdog can be a blessing in disguise if nobody sees you coming. That is what the Utes hope for this 2011-12 season.