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Utah basketball: Utes excited for Pac-12 play to begin

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 2 2015 3:37 a.m. MDT

Oregon's Joseph Young, center, leads the Ducks in a cheer after defeating BYU in overtime 100-96 in an NCAA college basketball game in Eugene on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch) (Chris Pietsch, AP) Oregon's Joseph Young, center, leads the Ducks in a cheer after defeating BYU in overtime 100-96 in an NCAA college basketball game in Eugene on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. (AP Photo/Chris Pietsch) (Chris Pietsch, AP)

SALT LAKE CITY — As Utah embarks on its third Pac-12 season, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak admits there’s a little bit of uneasiness. It comes, he explained, in being involved with the conference.

“There’s some really good teams,” Krystkowiak said as the Utes prepare to tip things off against 10th-ranked Oregon Thursday night in the Huntsman Center. “ ... So I don’t know about the nature of where my mind is. I’m a little bit nervous and, you know, still feel like we’ve got a long way to go.”

Krystkowiak, however, noted that the Utes (11-1) had a terrific practice Monday.

“I really like our guys. They’re diving into it and the issue for me is preparation and the guys are prepared. We’re getting prepared so you feel a little bit relaxed about that concept,” Krystkowiak said. “But it’s really the thought of the unknown with all these teams and the athletes we’re about to face and the pace of games and stuff. That’s kind of the million-dollar question, you know, and it’s going to be exciting to kind of see where we are.”

It was the topic of discussion in a recent team meeting. Krystkowiak acknowledged that the Utes didn't face a whole lot of adversity in nonconference games this season. Once Pac-12 play begins, though, he said there is going to be a lot of moments of truth and uneasy situations.

“The things that we can control I feel really good about — just the focus and intensity that our guys keep coming to practice with,” Krystkowiak said. “If you came in and watched practice you wouldn’t know if we were 1-11 or 11-1, and I think that’s a credit to the kids for just continuing to push on.”

Utah faces a big opening test in Oregon. The Ducks are off to a 12-0 start.

“Oregon’s been really impressive to have lost a couple of key players (from last season) and replace them with a couple of guys that are really good,” said Krystkowiak, who noted that keys to success include the pick-and-roll, one-on-one, transition and rebounding.

Oregon is one of three Pac-12 teams that open conference play ranked in the AP Top 25. Arizona is No. 1 and Colorado is 20th. UCLA is among other teams receiving votes.

A quick look at how teams in the league (in projected order of finish from Pac-12 media day in October) have fared, thus far:

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