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Here’s a look at Utah basketball’s first season in the Big 12

SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah is preparing for a new frontier when it joins the Big 12 for the 2024-2025 academic year.

The Utes got a taste of that new reality Thursday when the conference released its 2024-2025 planning matrix.

As the league expands to 16 teams, including Utah, Arizona, Arizona State and Colorado, the conference slate also expands to 20 games in men’s basketball (and 18 in women’s basketball). Each team plays against five teams, home and away, five home alone and another five road alone.

Here’s what stood out about the Utes’ 2024-2025 conference lineup.

Utah men’s basketball

  • Home and away: Baylor, BYU, Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, West Virginia
  • Home alone: Arizona State, Colorado, Kansas, Kansas State, Texas Tech
  • Away alone: Arizona, UCF, Houston, Iowa State, TCU

What strikes

The biggest news was already out: the rivalry between the Runnin’ Utes and BYU, which has continued almost uninterrupted for the past decade when the two shared no conference affiliations, will return to a single-season home-and-away series. But unlike the Cougars, who also get home-and-away series with regional foes Arizona and Arizona State, the Utes’ compendium is much more of a mixed bag.

Head coach Craig Smith’s squad will travel to the Eastern time zone twice as part of the five-team lineup with Cincinnati and West Virginia, the former club of new assistant coach Josh Eilert. They will also travel and host Oklahoma State and Baylor – call that the “Caleb Lohner return game.”

Former Pac-12 foes Arizona State and Colorado are only on the home schedule, while a one-way trip to the desert is the only matchup featuring Tommy Lloyd and Arizona. Utah will also host Kansas, Kansas State and Texas Tech – all expected to be in the top half of the Big 12.

Houston and Iowa State are probably the most difficult road trips, although there is little that is easy about traveling more than 2,000 miles to UCF.

Welcome to the toughest college basketball conference in the country, Utah.

Utah Utes head coach Lynne Roberts talks to her team from the bench during the first half of an NCAA women's basketball game at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019.
Utah Utes head coach Lynne Roberts talks to her team from the bench during the first half of an NCAA women’s basketball game at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. ( Photo: Colter Peterson, Deseret News)

Utah women’s basketball

  • Home and away: Arizona, Arizona State, BYU
  • Home alone: UCF, Colorado, Houston, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State
  • Away alone: Baylor, Cincinnati, Iowa State, TCU, Texas Tech, West Virginia

What strikes

Unlike the men’s team, Utah women’s basketball is much more compact regionally across its 18-game conference schedule, with home-and-away games featuring Arizona, Arizona State and BYU.

Head coach Lynne Roberts’ team, featuring Gianna Kneepkens, Kennady McQueen and Jenna Johnson, will also host Rocky Mountain rival Colorado, UCF, Houston, Oklahoma State and the Kansas schools.

Road trips to Baylor, Iowa State and TCU – along with the cross-country flight to West Virginia – won’t be easy. But a team that returns four starters for the first time in program history from a group that has won at least one game in the NCAA Tournament for three consecutive seasons should be among the top contenders in their new league.