With storm clouds swirling around Provo, excitement couldn’t have been any higher as week two of BYU spring practices started Monday.
The excitement wasn’t for the change in weather but for a change in tempo in practice, as both sides of the ball looked more comfortable on the field, especially the defense.
"The offense had a really good day on Friday,” head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “And like what happens most of the time in spring, the defense thought about that over the weekend and it was payback day for them today.”
With BYU's West Coast Conference tournament run opening on Saturday against either Portland or Loyola Marymount, many bracketologists believe BYU is a win or likely two away from cementing an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. At least publicly, BYU head coach Dave Rose isn't buying it.
"I think we probably have to win the (WCC) tournament to get in," said Rose before his team's Thursday practice at the Marriott Center. "That's what our mindset is, so let's take this first game--that's the most important thing; control what you can control. The sure bet is that if we win (the tournament), then we're in a nice spot."
BYU heads to Las Vegas as the two seed in the ten-team tournament; the Cougars will face the winner of Thursday night's Portland-LMU first-round game in Saturday's quarterfinals. The semifinal round is set for Monday night, while the championship game will be played next Tuesday.
On a chilly Wednesday afternoon in Provo, tempers were heated as day two of BYU spring practices turned testy at times.
A handful of scuffles enlivened the closing segments of practice, with head coach Bronco Mendenhall noting that "it could be a world record (for earliest practice scuffles), but that's a good sign."
"I like it (when) neither side will back down. That's our approach in terms of when an opponent comes in, so might as well start now. I like it a lot.
PROVO — After defeating the Toreros of San Diego, 78-70, in a nail-biter Saturday, the BYU men’s basketball team secured the No. 2 seed heading into this weekend's the West Coast Conference tournament — the highest seed the Cougars have had since joining the conference three years ago.
The Cougars have been playing some of their best basketball of the season when it counts the most. Coming into the home stretch of the regular season, the Cougars have won eight out of their last nine games and look to ride that momentum into Las Vegas this weekend.
“You get to this time of year and you really want to have some excitement around your team,” BYU head coach Dave Rose told Greg Wrubell Tuesday night in the final Coach’s Show of the season at Malawi’s Pizza in Provo. "I think that is where we are, and hopefully we can have a couple good practices this week and get to Vegas and play our best to start this thing, and hopefully get a big win.”
Saying it was "great to be back on the football field again," BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall guided his 2014 team through its first spring practice on a pleasant Monday afternoon in Provo.
"I thought our team worked hard today," said Mendenhall after practice. "Certainly (we're) starting from a lot different place than a year ago offensively, in terms of how much they know about the new system."
After breaking in offensive coordinator Robert Anae's up-tempo attack last season, the Cougars are more confident about hitting the ground running--and throwing--when the season kicks off Aug. 29 at Connecticut.
PROVO — The West Coast Conference announced its all-league honorees on Monday, with BYU's Tyler Haws capturing Player of the Year honors, while teammate Kyle Collinsworth joined Haws on the all-conference team, and rookie center Eric Mika earned a spot on the all-freshman squad. BYU guard Matt Carlino was named as an honorable mention selection.
Today's honors make it 17 consecutive seasons in which BYU has had at least one player named to an all-conference team (1st, 2nd or 3rd team All-WAC/MWC or All-WCC).
"Tyler is very deserving of this honor," said head coach Dave Rose of Haws' recognition. "He's had huge offensive games, he's had an increased role defensively and he does so much to help us win games. To be the guy that everyone tries to stop every night and to be as consistent as he's been certainly deserves this type of recognition."
PROVO — The West Coast Conference will soon announce its annual all-league honors, and as is now customary, I have compiled my picks for postseason awards — even though I don't have a vote that counts. In the WCC, the only votes are cast by coaches, and none of the coaches may vote for members of their own team.
As opposed to a First/Second/Third Team format, the WCC implements one 10-player all-conference squad, and as you will see below, limiting the list to 10 top players was tough in a season that featured so many standout performances. The league is as deep as it has ever been, and the collection of talent is testament to the WCC's elevated national profile.
The WCC also names a Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Coach of the Year.
PROVO — The BYU Cougars wrap up the regular season on Saturday afternoon as they travel to San Diego to face the USD Toreros. After Thursday night’s practice at the Marriott Center, BYU head coach Dave Rose talked about matching up against the Toreros.
“I think it’s been an interesting series between the two of us, Rose said. “Our games at the Jenny Craig (Pavilion) have been really competitive and really close, and the games in the conference tournament have been close. The challenge is obviously that this is a really good defensive team, a great 3-point shooting team by percentage; they’ve got two of the best 3-point shooters on their team … hopefully we’ll be ready for it.”
The Cougars enter Saturday’s game with a 20-10 record overall, 12-5 in the WCC. A win over the Toreros would secure no worse than second place in the WCC and the second seed in the West Coast Conference Tournament next week in Las Vegas.
PROVO — Considered by many to be on the proverbial bubble of the NCAA tournament, the BYU Cougars came up with a huge win over likely conference champion Gonzaga on Thursday.
Strategy for Saturday night’s game against Portland started before the opening tip. In an effort to keep freshman center Eric Mika out of early foul trouble, coach Dave Rose chose to start fellow freshman Luke Worthington in his place. Rose also started junior guard Anson Winder in place of slumping Skyler Halford. Both moves paid off in a big way. Mika was effective all night and Winder scored 19 points on 7-8 shooting, giving BYU its 20th win of the season. The win also marked the ninth straight year Rose has won at least 20 games.
“The win against Gonzaga was really big for a lot of reasons,” Rose said at his weekly coach’s show at Malawi’s Pizza in Provo. “To get a big win over the first-place team and have our guys get that confidence going into the conference tournament was important. Now we’ve beaten every team in our league this year.”
BYU Director of Athletics Tom Holmoe on Tuesday conducted what is becoming a semi-annual sit-down with local reporters in Provo, touching on issues ranging from the football team's new-look offense, to conference realignment, to a notable alteration in the school's media-relations policy relative to Honor Code violations.
"Cougar Cuts" (left) contains selected audio excerpts of Holmoe's 45-minute question-and-answer session; what follows are his verbatim remarks on--
BYU Football's new offense under coordinator Robert Anae:
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