BYU head coach Dave Rose on Friday said his team should feel more prepared to face WCC leader St. Mary's in Saturday's Marriott Center rematch, saying "I think we're a lot a better" than the Cougars were in their earlier meeting--a game the Gaels won 98-82 four weeks ago in Moraga.
"They really sped us up (in the first game)," said Rose before his team's practice Friday afternoon. "We got really impatient offensively, we had a lot of one-pass shots."
The BYU Basketball team makes a rare late January foray into non-conference play Wednesday in Blacksburg, Va.,visiting Virginia Tech and seeking to boost a postseason portfolio that took a hit with a home loss last week.
Although BYU has wins over league leaders Oregon (Pac-12; 15-5 overall), Nevada (WAC; 16-3 overall) and Weber State (Big Sky; 15-3 overall), the Cougars lack what most would call a nationally significant win. Starting with the game at Virginia Tech, and continuing with home games versus St. Mary's and Gonzaga, the Cougars are presented with three consecutive chances to record resume-building victories that will also put a little more air into BYU's postseason bubble.
Piggy-backing off of yesterday's "Cougar Tracks" and inspired by Dick Harmon's recent column in the Deseret News, I have a few more thoughts about the 2011-12 BYU Basketball team, compared to the 2010-11 squad that set the school record for most wins in its 32-5 "Sweet Sixteen" campaign.
Whereas last year's BYU team featured the nation's best player, this season's version may prove to be Dave Rose's most balanced collection of talent, and only injuries to Chris Collinsworth and Stephen Rogers have prevented the 2011-12 Cougars from maximizing their projected depth dividends.
The BYU Basketball team is 20 games into its 2011-12 campaign, and at 16-4 on the season, the Cougars are pacing for another 20-plus win season, which would set a new school record at seven consecutive seasons with 20 or more victories. Even without last season's national Player of the Year, BYU has essentially picked up where "Jimmermania" left off.
While lacking a nationally-recognized marquee win this season, BYU does have under-valued victories over league leaders Weber State and Nevada, while a win over Oregon may yet increase in value. By statistical measures, BYU is also among the country's best teams, and the Cougars' RPI, Sagarin and Pomeroy rankings remain in range of projected NCAA Tournament teams; indeed, most "bracketologists" of record have the Cougars in the field of 68.
On Thursday of a week that had the members of the coaching staff out recruiting and the players enjoying an earlier day off, BYU head coach Dave Rose previewed his team's Saturday showdown with Santa Clara, noting that "it seems like a long time since we played."
With seven days between games, Rose gave his players an off day Tuesday, while coaches scattered to get done some in-season recruiting. The team practiced Monday, Wednesday and again Thursday, prepping for a Broncos squad that according to Rose features a "special group of guards," led by the West Coast Conference's leading scorer in junior Kevin Foster, who already holds the school record for three-pointers made, with an even 300 (on 824 attempts; by comparison, Jimmer Fredette holds BYU's career marks with 296 3pfg on 752 3pfga).
BYU head football coach Bronco Mendenhall held an end-of-the-season meeting with members of the local media on Wednesday, and revealed that he turned down an opportunity to leave BYU for another head coaching job after the 2011 campaign.
It was earlier reported by Deseret News columnist Dick Harmon that Mendenhall pulled his name out of consideration for the opening at UCLA; I've since learned that Mendenhall met with representatives from the Pac-12 school before deciding to stay at BYU. "I'm not sure," Mendenhall said Wednesday, when asked if he thought BYU would be his last coaching job.
During a free-flowing, 45-minute question-and-answer session, Mendenhall also:
For the fifth time in the last six seasons, the BYU Football team has finished the season ranked in the Top 25, and also ended the year highly ranked in multiple statistical categories.
BYU ended the 2011 campaign ranked 25th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and 26th in the AP Poll, in balloting released Tuesday morning, with the BCS Championship game providing the season's official conclusion.
Eight weeks. Eight weeks from tonight, the West Coast Conference will stage its basketball tournament championship game in Las Vegas, and by the end of that night, the Cougars will either know if they're in, or how close they are to being in the NCAA Tournament.
The bracket tea is still steeping, so the leaves are not yet ready to read, but we are getting an idea of where BYU stands in the Selection Sunday mix, and current signs point to the Cougars as a strong at-large candidate--barring a tourney title on March 5th.
A welcome sight for BYU Basketball coaches, players and fans was forward Stephen Rogers on the practice floor Tuesday in Provo--two days ahead of the Cougars' next West Coast Conference game, a road test at Loyola Marymount on Thursday night.
Rogers underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus on December 15th, and was given a recovery window of two to four weeks. A little less than three weeks after the injury, Rogers is back on the floor and pacing to play on Thursday; officially, Rogers is a game-time decision. He did dress but sat out each of the last two games--at St. Mary's, and home to San Diego.
Noting that Rogers practice "a little bit" on Monday and "quite a bit more today," Rose said the junior forward "felt good coming into practice today, which was the best sign, because the soreness is what you worry about."
As the Cougar hoopsters prepare to embark on their second West Coast Conference road trip (to Loyola Marymount on Thursday night), Dave Rose's team remains statistically sound and on pace for another for another 25-win season.
BYU's 12-4 slate is currently without any marquee wins, but that is one of the few voids for a squad ranking among the country's most potent and productive. Rose's teams historically stand as one of the top offensive units in college basketball, and this season is no different.
As the calendar turns, it's time to reflect on what we have seen in 2011 and expect to see in 2012, from BYU Football and Basketball--and what we have seen, and should keep seeing, is a whole lot of winning.
The football team just concluded its fifth double-digit win season in the last six years; the only other times BYU had five or more 10+ win seasons in a six-season stretch: 1979 through 1984 and 1980 through 1985.
On the day before the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, head coaches for the BYU and Tulsa football teams held a Thursday morning press conference in Fort Worth--the last day of activities in that city before the scene shifts to Dallas for Friday's game.
You can hear the entire press conference and individual interviews with Tulsa players GJ Kinne and Curnelius Arnick, and BYU's Jameson Frazier, in "Cougar Cuts," to the left.
The BYU and Tulsa football teams touch down in Texas today, four days ahead of their Dallas meeting in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. Past performances and present productivity point to high-scoring affair at SMU's Gerald J. Ford Stadium on Friday.
The two programs first met in 1971, but the 25-7 scoreline in BYU's favor was little indication of the kinds of games that would follow in later years. Between 1984 and 2007, BYU and TU played six more times, with the winner scoring at least 38 points on all six occasions, and the loser scoring 30 or more four times.
The BYU Football team on Friday held its fifth and final Provo practice in preparation for the Dec. 30 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, with QB Riley Nelson pronouncing his teammates "zoned in" a week ahead of the game against Tulsa's Golden Hurricane.
The practice week having concluded, BYU players and coaches were released for the Christmas break, with the team scheduled to re-convene on Monday in Fort Worth, Texas. The team will practice Monday through Wednesday at a high school in Burleson (south of Fort Worth), with a game venue walk-though set for Thursday at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas.
One play. That's all it takes for a backup quarterback to be thrust into the spotlight. With Jake Heaps' departure from the BYU Football program, the Cougars' new #2 is junior James Lark.
"He's one play away from being our starting quarterback," Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall said after Wednesday's practice at the team's indoor practice facility.
"I was in the same situation last year when (starter) Riley (Nelson) was hurt for the whole season," said Lark Wednesday. "I'm ready. I feel like I've been here forever, but I've been here a long time. It's nothing new, I'm ready to go."
The upcoming Armed Forces Bowl in Dallas means a return home for three of BYU's front-line Texans. But unlike LB Brandon Ogletree and WR Ross Apo, wideout McKay Jacobson enters the game knowing it will be the final contest of his Cougar career.
Of the impending end of his collegiate playing days, Jacobson said it hasn't sunk in yet. "I haven't thought too much about it. I'm just focused on this next game."
Coming off a weekend home loss to #6/#7 Baylor, BYU head coach Dave Rose applauded his squad's effort in the Saturday setback, and said with the same level of effort moving forward, "I think that this team could be really good."
Rose addressed the media after a Monday afternoon practice that saw another key player limp off the court with an injury. Freshman wing Damarcus Harrison sprained his ankle late in practice, and Rose called his participation in Tuesday night's home game versus Buffalo "a possibility...depending on how it swells tonight."
Saturday's massive Marriott Center meeting between BYU and the 6th/7th-ranked Baylor Bears has been made more difficult for the Cougars with the news that forward Stephen Rogers is out two to four weeks after Thursday night surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.
BYU head coach Dave Rose said Rogers had been dealing with a knee problem for the last couple of weeks. The junior from Mesa, Ariz. was forced to leave Thursday's practice early with knee pain; he headed to the hospital for an MRI and was undergoing surgery soon thereafter.
Two days before welcoming #6/#7 Baylor into the Marriott Center, BYU Basketball head coach Dave Rose ran his team through a Thursday afternoon practice session at the Marriott Center--a practice that forward Stephen Rogers left early with a knee injury Rose said "seemed pretty serious."
Rose said Rogers "has had a problem with (the knee) for about two weeks; he had to come out of the Utah game because he bumped knees, but today it seemed pretty serious, he was in a lot of pain.
It's a relatively quiet week on the BYU Football and Basketball front, with players from both team teams taking final exams to conclude the Fall semester. The Armed Forces Bowl-bound Cougars are lifting and conditioning but not practicing, while for their coaches it's a week of recruiting. The BYU hoopsters were back at practice today after days off on Monday and Tuesday; their week-long game break ends Saturday at home to #6/#7 Baylor.
The down time lets us take a breather and recap some of the accomplishments of both teams, and let's start with the 9-3 football squad:
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