Utah releases cringe-worthy 2012-13 schedule built for early success

Utah released its 2012-13 non-league schedule on Wednesday, a Charmin-soft slate with all the name-brand appeal of a shopping trip at K-Mart.

There's NAIA foes Willamette and Evergreen State. There's Division I bottom feeders Sacramento State, Idaho State and Cal State Northridge. And besides the Utes' annual matchup with rival BYU, the toughest games on the schedule may be mediocre Boise State or rebuilding SMU.

Utah lost eight of its first nine non-league games last year during a disastrous 6-25 season, so it's somewhat understandable the Utes would schedule in search of wins rather than to prepare for an improved Pac-12. Nine home games against mostly weaker foes give Utah every chance to start at least 9-3 in a season in which second-year coach Larry Krystkowiak will face greater pressure to at least show some progress.

Nonetheless, Utah's strategy of piling up wins against college basketball's bottom tier is so transparent that it's difficult to envision the team generating much enthusiasm even if it manages to get off to a quick start.

Not only did Krystkowiak seek out opponents from weaker conferences, he clearly sought the worst teams he could find. Not a single Division I opponent on Utah's schedule besides BYU even came close to finishing .500 last season.

Oddly enough, Utah's scheduling strategy may put more pressure on the Utes than a more traditional slate would have in some ways. Utah fans are accustomed to seeing their team face perennially strong in-state rivals Utah State and Weber State each year in addition to a quality power-conference foe or two.

If Utah starts 10-2 or 11-1, its fans will probably tolerate the parade of unknown foes visiting the Huntsman Center next November and December. If Utah drops a handful of early games as it did last season, expect the complaints to pick up. 

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