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Ute women looking at tough schedule

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The University of Utah women's basketball team will hit the ground running in 2008-09 as the first six games of the year have it locking horns with teams that made it to the postseason last year.

"This schedule will allow us to build a strong preseason RPI," said head coach Elaine Elliott. "It will continue our tradition of competitive scheduling, and it will help strengthen our national reputation."

Utah isn't a stranger to playing a tough schedule. Last year, it had the best RPI in the Mountain West Conference, finishing No. 33 in the NCAA ranking.

Seven of the 13 non-conference teams that Utah plays in 2008-09 made it to the postseason last year. Highlighting the home portion of the schedule are Jackson State and Louisville.

On Nov. 17, Utah hosts Jackson State, an 18-game winner, conference champion and NCAA Tournament participant. Louisville comes to town on Nov. 25. While the Cardinals finished fifth in the Big East, they won 26 games and made their first appearance in the NCAA Sweet 16.

Other home dates feature Santa Clara, which finished second in the West Coast Conference, on Dec. 13, and Southeastern Conference rival Mississippi State on Dec. 20.

The Utes' first four road dates are all against teams that played in the postseason last year. First up is WNIT participant South Dakota State on Nov. 20. Then the Utes play in a tournament in Milwaukee from Nov. 28-30 against Marquette, Gonzaga, both WNIT participants, and Virginia, an NCAA Tournament team.

An in-state road game has the Utes playing Big Sky rival Weber State on Dec. 19. Road dates at Pac-10 foe Oregon (Dec. 28) and Big West power UC Santa Barbara (Dec. 30) round out December. The non-conference schedule concludes with a home game against Norfolk State on Jan. 2.

Utah will host Westminster College on Nov. 4 and Southern Oregon on Nov. 8.

The non-conference schedule will be solidified when the entire schedule, including Mountain West Conference games, is released in early August.