I think I can say this without exaggerating. It’s the best set of opponents coming in here since the years that I’ve been in the Pac-12 back-to-back. —Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak
SALT LAKE CITY — As if things weren’t challenging enough for the Utah Utes. Besides facing two of the nation’s top teams in No. 14 Arizona and No. 4 Arizona State in the Huntsman Center this week, they’re preparing for two different styles of play.
“I think I can say this without exaggerating. It’s the best set of opponents coming in here since the years that I’ve been in the Pac-12 — back-to-back,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “A lot of times you’ve got one of the two opponents (that) is a really good team and maybe the other one is somewhere else.”
Compounding the situation is each plays a different brand of basketball.
Arizona has a post presence along with a lot of talented players on the perimeter. Arizona State, Krystkowiak noted, looks miserable to guard with a lot of firepower and quickness.
Krystkowiak acknowledged the Utes will really have their hands full against the Wildcats (11-3) on Thursday and the Sun Devils (12-1) on Sunday. As such, he said it’s not time to pay themselves on the back following last weekend’s road sweep of Oregon and Oregon State.
“We’ve really got to be dialed in this week for our home openers,” Krystkowiak said at his weekly press conference on Tuesday.
Arizona handed Arizona State its first loss of the season Saturday, prevailing in Tucson by a score of 84-78.
“That was a heck of a game,” said Krystkowiak, who watched about half of it live on TV before the Utes departed Corvallis. “ . . . It was a classic college ball game. No doubt about it.”
MARATHON MEN: Krystkowiak has asked the Utes to look at each of their 18 games in Pac-12 play as about 1.5 miles in a marathon.
“We’re not interested in winning the opening sprint and being one of those guys that poops out at the end,” he said. “It’s a grind.”
BEYOND THE ARC: Senior guard Justin Bibbins, who hit nine 3-pointers over last weekend’s wins at Oregon and Oregon State, is confident he and his teammates can continue to have success from behind the line. Utah made 21 of 50 shots from 3-point range.
“Coach always talks about, you know, we’ve got to get in a groove,” Bibbins said. We knew from the start that we were a good shooting team and we had a lot of shooters. But it’s finally starting on the translate on the court and people are starting to notice it.:
ROCK STAR: Just before Christmas, Krystkowiak, wife Jan, and their sons went to Los Angeles and watched former Ute Kyle Kuzma lead the Lakers in a game against Portland.
“The kid’s like a little rock star in L.A., running the city. So it’s pretty neat,” Krystkowiak said. “But he earned it.”
Krystkowiak recalls going to his office really early at times and hearing a ball bounce. He would peak into the gym and there was Kuzma.
WHITTINGHAM’S WAY: When asked about the status of Donnie Tillman (sprained left foot) and Chris Seeley (gallbladder), Krystkowiak asked reporters what football coach Kyle Whittingham has to say about injuries.
No update followed.
“Am I a little softer than Whit? Krystkowiak said. “You guys throw that line out there a lot.”
Krystkowiak then gave a shout out to the Utes for winning their bowl game over West Virginia.
“Congrats. Enjoy the sun Whit, if you’re out there somewhere,” said Krystkowiak, who joked that this is usually the time of year when Whittingham texts him about wanting to golf. He returns the request when the football coach is busy in September.
No. 14 Arizona (11-3, 1-0) at Utah (10-3, 2-0)
Thursday, 7 p.m.
Radio: ESPN 700AM