Reflecting on a 2013-14 campaign that saw BYU recover from an 8-7 start to earn a 10 seed in the NCAA tournament, Cougar head coach Dave Rose on Monday called it a "terrific" season.
In a one-on-one interview Rose annually holds with media members who cover his team, the coach told me that entering the season, "we were a little bit nervous about the roster, with only 10 scholarship guys eligible to play. As a staff, that was our biggest concern: could we make it through the season with a limited group of guys?
"For the most part, we stayed healthy, and they gave us all that they had. We ended up with a trip to the NCAA tournament, which is your first goal every year. We want to advance, and that didn't happen this year, and that's obviously disappointing, but we learned a lot about the future of our program during this season.
PROVO — What a difference a year makes — on the offensive side of the ball, at least.
That was among the main takeaways from Saturday's scrimmage at LaVell Edwards Stadium that signaled an unofficial end to spring practices with still a final week of work facing head coach Bronco Mendenhall and his team.
BYU ran 102 plays in just under 90 minutes on a pleasant, sunny morning that attracted 6,500 fans to the stadium. The offense accounted for just under 600 total yards on the day with 375 of them coming through the air. Junior-to-be Taysom Hill was credited with 19 completions in 27 attempts for 307 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Meeting the media for the first time since news of BYU running back Jamaal Williams' recent citation for underage drinking was made public, head coach Bronco Mendenhall on Tuesday said the issue "was addressed so long ago now between he and I that I really don't intend to address it again."
"He's in great standing with our program--was, and is now, and will be going forward," said Mendenhall.
Asked a follow-up question regarding Williams' status, Mendenhall said "there is no follow-up; I've already answered it."
BYU opens NCAA tournament play versus Oregon on Thursday at Milwaukee's Bradley Center as a West Region 10 seed that some national observers said doesn't even belong in the tourney's field of 68.
BYU head coach Dave Rose on Wednesday responded to those doubters, when asked what he might say to them.
"I'd just tell them that if you would spend five months with our team," said Rose, "you would have a whole different understanding, reasoning, interpretation or feeling about our team because these guys deserve to be here."
PROVO — The BYU Cougars began the third week of spring football with a practice inside the indoor practice facility on Monday. Head coach Bronco Mendehall was genuinely pleased with the progress and effort that he’s seeing from his players.
“We had a good practice today, guys worked really hard,” Mendenhall said. “They’re not getting tired of running into each other. … I’m encouraged by what I see.”
Echoing the sentiments of his head coach, running back Jamaal Williams likes what he sees from his teammates and is encouraged by the team’s mindset.
PROVO — BYU is making its 28th NCAA tournament appearance, and its 21st since seeding was expanded to the entire field in 1979. Of those 21 appearances, 16 have been as an at-large entrant. Until this season, BYU had never received an at-large bid with as many as 11 losses.
So how did 23-11 BYU not only earn a spot in the field, but grab a better-than-expected 10 seed? The answer was in large part earned during the dog days of November and December, when the Cougars were playing a non-conference schedule that would eventually rank among the top five in all of college basketball.
BYU faced eight non-conference opponents which qualified for the NCAA tournament, defeating four of them, with two of the victories coming away from home. If there was any message sent by the selection committee on Sunday, it's that schedule really matters.
PROVO — Last year, Selection Sunday for BYU meant waiting into the evening for an NIT assignment. After six straight years in the NCAA tournament, it was a bit of a shock to the system for the Cougars.
In 2014, BYU's post-WCC tournament wait was rewarded with a 10 seed and a trip to Milwaukee to face the Oregon Ducks in the NCAA tournament's West Region. Dave Rose has led his team back to the Big Dance, for a seventh time in his nine seasons as the Cougars' head coach.
"We're thrilled," said Rose on Sunday, only a couple of hours after the team gathered at his house to watch the annual selection show. "It's a good day."
PROVO — BYU announced Wednesday night that sophomore guard Kyle Collinsworth will have season-ending surgery next week to repair a torn ACL in his right knee.
Collinsworth suffered the injury in the second half of Tuesday night's loss to Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference Tournament Championship game.
Collinsworth injured the same knee back on February 15th in Moraga, Calif. against St. Mary's, but was able to return to the game.
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.