We expect mistakes to be made by everybody. Hopefully less by our veterans. Playing together and playing with a lot of energy, I think, are of utmost importance. —Larry Krystkowiak
SALT LAKE CITY — Now it counts for the Runnin’ Utes. Nine days after a 95-45 exhibition win over Montana Tech, Utah opens the regular season Friday night in the Huntsman Center against Prairie View A&M. Tipoff is set for 8:10 p.m.
“It’s been a long camp for us. We’ve been beating each other up for a while now,” said junior guard Sedrick Barefield. “So I think we’re just ready to go out there and play against somebody else and just face some real tests, finally.”
Senior forward David Collette acknowledged the Utes are ready to get going.
“It was good to get that exhibition game in,” he said. “But it just kind of feels like we’ve been back to beating ourselves up again and we’re just ready to play another one — kind of got that feeling again, you want to get out on the court and play someone else.”
The Utes will certainly do that. They open the 2017-18 campaign with six games in 14 days.
“It’s on pretty quick,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “But I like where we are.”
Krystkowiak added that the Utes have become pretty good at defending their own tendencies. Curveballs start getting thrown Friday, he explained, and adjustments will have to be made.
As usual, Krystkowiak and his staff like to break games into four-minute segments.
There will also be challenges distributing the 200 minutes of overall playing time.
“We expect mistakes to be made by everybody. Hopefully less by our veterans,” Krystkowiak said. “Playing together and playing with a lot of energy, I think, are of utmost importance.
So, too, is creating a supportive atmosphere at home. Krystkowiak is bankrolling a couple of new programs for members of The MUSS.
“I think the student section is the key ingredient at college basketball games. It’s the heartbeat of an arena,” Krystkowiak said. “So I know when we get a nice presence of our students it’s a significant home-court advantage.”
This year, members of The MUSS had to register with an app on their cell phones. The first 300 students enrolled received a $25 gift card.
Attendees at games will log on with their phones through a system that will track attendance. Those making it to a least 10 games will be entered into a drawing for grand prizes. Additional entries are granted for each game attended after that, up to a maximum of six per student.
Krystkowiak will pay a year’s tuition for the top winner. The second-place prize is tuition for one semester and third is $500 cash.
In addition, Krystkowiak plans to bring a $100 bill to each home game and give the money to a student in the stands through a random draw.
“I’m all for it,” said Krystkowiak, who noted that it may cost him $12,000 or something for all the prizes. “I have no problem with doing that. It helps out with some tuition.”
Krystkowiak noted it could end up being a pretty good side job and paycheck for a student willing to invest a few hours for at least 10 games this season.
“We want to make sure we’re reaching out instead of just holding our hand out and saying ‘Hey, come to our games,’” Krystkowiak said. “Maybe there’s a little bit of incentive and it becomes a win-win for all of us.”
2017-18 Utah men’s basketball schedule
NOVEMBER: 10 — PRAIRIE VIEW A&M; 13 — MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE; 16 — MISSOURI; 20 — Mississippi (Las Vegas); 22 — Rice or UNLV (Las Vegas); 24 — EASTERN WASHINGTON.
DECEMBER: 2 — HAWAII; 5 — at Butler; 9 — Utah State (Beehive Classic); 16 — at BYU; 20 — NORTHWESTERN STATE; 29 — at Oregon; 31 — at Oregon State.
JANUARY: 4 — ARIZONA; 7 — ARIZONA STATE; 11 — at UCLA; 14 — at USC; 18 — WASHINGTON; 21 — WASHINGTON STATE; 25 — at Arizona State; 25 — at Arizona.
FEBRUARY: 2 — at Colorado; 8 — STANFORD; 10 — CALIFORNIA; 15 — at Washington; 17 — at Washington State; 22 — UCLA; 24 — USC.
MARCH: 3 — COLORADO; 7-10 — Pac-12 Tournament (Las Vegas).