Jim Boylen said two of the main things he heard from fans when he got the Utah basketball coaching job were to bring defense back to the program and to play a better home schedule.

Last year Boylen brought the defense back with a new mentality that was much improved over the previous two years.

This year he's upgrading the schedule in a big way, as evidenced by the nonconference schedule released Wednesday.

The Utes may be playing their most competitive nonconference home schedule in history with a lineup that includes the likes of Gonzaga, LSU, Oregon and California.

"I'm excited about the schedule," Boylen said. "We're trying to build the program back to where it should be. I feel like a competitive schedule will make us tougher and more battle-tested for conference play. I also know our fans want to see a better schedule. Our fans and players deserve a schedule that reflects where we are headed with this program."

The Utes play Oregon (Dec. 3) and Cal (Dec. 10) on back-to-back weeks and face Gonzaga again on New Year's Eve with a game against LSU the following week.

Utah athletic director Chris Hill said he got a lot of feedback about the Utes' non-conference schedule in recent years and wanted to upgrade it.

"Coach Boylen and his staff have addressed their concerns with this year's schedule, which is one of the best I've seen in my long association with the Utah basketball program," Hill said in a prepared statement. "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."

Other games on the schedule include Southwest Baptist on Nov. 15, Wisconsin-Green Bay on Nov. 18 and Weber State on Dec. 20. Boylen pointed out that even the home opener against Southwest Baptist will be a challenge against a Division II team that won 22 games last year and has four Division I transfers on its roster.

The Utes also have a tough schedule away from home, with games at Oklahoma Dec. 13, Missouri State Nov. 28, Utah State Dec. 22, UC-Irvine Dec. 27, Idaho State Dec. 6 and three games in the Glen Wilkes Classic in Daytona Beach, Fla., Nov. 21-23.

Boylen said he's been told the Utes will face Mississippi likely on the final day of that tournament and will play two other games against Marshall, Morgan State or IUPUI.

Boylen said he plans to keep good teams coming to the Huntsman Center with Oklahoma scheduled for next year and Michigan the year after.


Utah basketball non-conference schedule

Nov. 15 . . . . . Southwest Baptist . . . . . Salt Lake City . . . . . TBA

Nov. 18-23 . . . . . Glen Wilkes Classic . . . . . . . . . .

Nov. 18 . . . . . Wisconsin-Green Bay . . . . . Salt Lake City . . . . . 7 p.m. MT

Nov. 21 . . . . . TBD . . . . . Daytona Beach, Fla. . . . . . TBA

Nov. 22 . . . . . TBD . . . . . Daytona Beach, Fla. . . . . . TBA

Nov. 23 . . . . . TBD . . . . . Daytona Beach, Fla. . . . . . TBA

Nov. 28 . . . . . at Missouri State . . . . . Springfield, Mo. . . . . . 6 p.m. MT

Dec. 3 . . . . . Oregon . . . . . Salt Lake City . . . . . TBA

Dec. 6 . . . . . at Idaho State . . . . . Pocatello, Idaho . . . . . 7:05 p.m. MT

Dec. 10 . . . . . California . . . . . Salt Lake City . . . . . TBA

Dec. 13 . . . . . at Oklahoma . . . . . Norman, Okla. . . . . . TBA

Dec. 20 . . . . . Weber State . . . . . Salt Lake City . . . . . TBA

Dec. 22 . . . . . at Utah State . . . . . Logan, Utah . . . . . 7 p.m. MT

Dec. 27 . . . . . at UC-Irvine . . . . . Irvine, Calif. . . . . . 8 p.m. PT

Dec. 31 . . . . . Gonzaga . . . . . Salt Lake City . . . . . TBA

Jan. 6 . . . . . LSU . . . . . Salt Lake City . . . . . TBA


E-mail: sor@desnews.com