If nothing else, Utah Valley will be plastered on plenty of screens come opening weekend 2017.
The Wolverines announced Thursday that they’ll start the season with a brutal back-to-back. UVU opens Nov. 10 at Kentucky, before turning around to play at Duke the very next day.
Mark Pope relishes the opportunity.
"This is what college basketball is supposed to be," said Pope. "We couldn't be more excited to go out and play two of the best teams in the entire country in a 24-hour period. Our goal is to be the best team we can possibly be at the end of the season. We had great success with that last year and part of doing that is putting together the hardest non-conference schedule we can and we've accomplished that."
And why wouldn’t he? The Wolverines can grow against two of the most talented teams in the country, while getting the default one-night notoriety bump that comes with playing a blue-blood. And maybe, just maybe, they have the tools to hang around and really grab some eye balls.
UVU returns six players that averaged 17.9 or more minutes per game. This includes the WAC’s best rebounder (Isaac Neilson), an experienced point guard (Brandon Randolph) and a dangerous three-point shooter (Kenneth Ogbe). They also have legitimate size in the 6’11’’ Neilson and 7’0’’ Oklahoma transfer Akolda Manyang. And they’re a mid-major with plenty of high major flavor, fielding players that spent time at Xavier, Utah and Oklahoma, as well as BYU.
Maybe most importantly, the Wolverines finished 2016-17 with a flourish. They closed the season on a 6-2 run, with two of those wins coming in the CBI, and ended up 147th in KenPom with a top-75 defense.
So no, UVU is not a shock-the-world upset special on opening weekend. But the Wolverines do have the pieces to hang around longer than the blue-clad fan bases in Rupp or Cameron will expect.
(Though if a miracle does happen, don’t forget you heard it here first).
Here is what else we know about the Wolverines’ non-conference schedule, which will continue to be announced:
- Nov. 10 — at Kentucky
- Nov. 11 — at Duke
- Nov. 29 — BYU (first home game against Cougars in UVU history)
- Dec. 6 — Weber State
- Other home games without dates: UC Davis, UTSA, UC Riverside