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:
BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe on Monday unveiled the 2014 BYU football schedule--a schedule that opens on a late-August Friday night at Connecticut.
The 12-game regular-season slate will see the Cougars play in all four continental time zones, with road games at UConn and Central Florida (Eastern), Middle Tennessee and Texas (Central), Boise State (Mountain) and California (Pacific).
Home games include the back end of home-and-home schedule arrangements with Virginia, Houston and Nevada, a visit from former MWC foe UNLV, and a meeting with FCS opponent Savannah State. Utah State will visit Provo for a Friday night contest preceding the LDS Church's General Conference weekend.
PROVO — BYU junior guard Matt Carlino was named the West Coast Conference Men's Basketball Player of the Week on Monday. This is Carlino's first player of the week award this year and BYU's fourth of the season.
Carlino helped the Cougars to a 2-0 record last week with home victories over Gonzaga and Portland. In those two games, he averaged 22.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.5 steals while hitting .552 from the field, .526 on 3-pointers and .750 from the free-throw line.
In Saturday's win over the Pilots, Carlino tied a career high with 30 points and set a new career high with eight threes.
PROVO — Coming off a confidence-boosting weekend win at Saint Mary's, the BYU basketball team returns to the Marriott Center to face a nationally ranked Gonzaga squad that owns a current five-game win streak against the Cougars.
Thursday night's game features the first- and second-place teams in the West Coast Conference. The Zags have clinched no worse than a tie for the regular-season championship. At 13-1 in league play, Gonzaga (No. 22 Coaches/No. 25 AP) has a 3 1/2-game lead on 10-5 BYU, which remains in mathematical contention for a conference title, but barely. The Cougars would need to win their three remaining regular season games, while Gonzaga would need to lose its final four games — all of which are on the road.
"I like the pressure better when you're trying to defend (a championship)," said BYU head coach Dave Rose after his team's Wednesday practice in Provo. "But chasing it is still a good pressure. Hopefully our guys are ready."
PROVO — With only five games remaining in the regular season, the BYU basketball team is positioned for a return to the NCAA Tournament after last year's absence snapped a six-year streak in the Big Dance.
A majority of the most-cited Selection Sunday prognosticators have the Cougars as one of the last teams in the field of 68, meaning BYU's margin for error is minimal as Dave Rose's team heads out on the road for games this week at Pacific and Saint Mary's.
"You can feel it from the guys," said Rose on Tuesday, referring to the building pressure at this time of the season. "They realize that they're in a position where the games are really important and mean a lot.
PROVO — BYU junior forward Nate Austin has become one of the Cougars' most consistent players this season. While only averaging 4.1 points per game, Austin's rebounding has provided a huge lift to his team, and it isn't going unnoticed.
"The thing about Nate is that he's kind of always been in a role spot," BYU head coach Dave Rose said. "He's taken that to where he's become a star in that role position because what he does is really good for this team. We've been able to really count on him."
Through 26 games, Austin leads BYU in rebounding at 8.4 boards per contest. In Saturday night's win over San Francisco, Austin grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds. In fact, he has more than 10 rebounds in seven games this year.
PROVO — A BYU basketball season that has included as many energy-sapping heartbreaks as challenging schedule quirks now heads down the homestretch, with the Cougars this week hitting the road for back-to-back games.
With BYU firmly on the NCAA tournament bubble, every contest has the feel of an elimination game, with the Cougars' at-large hopes on the line every time they take the floor. At 17-9 on the season and possessing an RPI in the mid-40s, BYU is on the good side of the bubble with many bracketologists (ESPN's Joe Lunardi among them), projected as one of the last at-large teams in the field of 68 — but there is little if any wiggle room for Dave Rose's team.
Games this week at Pacific (Thursday) and St. Mary's (Saturday) represent unique challenges for the Cougars. BYU has never played a game at the Alex G. Spanos Center in Stockton, Calif., and will be facing the Tigers for only the second time as a West Coast Conference foe. In their meeting late last month in Provo, Pacific shot the ball particularly well (53 percent FG, 41 percent 3PFG, 81 percent FT) and had the Cougars on their heels for stretches of an eventual 88-78 BYU victory.
PROVO — Two teams headed in opposite directions meet Thursday night in Provo, and the BYU Cougars seek to extend their winning streak to three games, while visiting Santa Clara tries to stop a six-game skid.
BYU, which has won all four games against Santa Clara since joining the West Coast Conference and has won the last nine meetings with the Broncos overall, has won the first two games of a current four-game homestand, improving coach Dave Rose's team to 7-4 in conference play and a tie for second place in the WCC. Kerry Keating's Santa Clara club has dropped into a tie for last place at 3-8 in league play.
Rose says he is very surprised that the Broncos are struggling the way they are presently, noting that "it was a team that went to Portland and beat Portland and won at St. Mary's, so obviously it's a team capable of going out on the road and putting a game together."
PROVO — The BYU Cougars entered the 2014 signing period with a plan to upgrade certain positions--wide receiver and outside linebacker, in particular. As signing day progressed, it became clear that the Cougars had addressed those needs.
When asked what he thinks he knows about this year's recruiting class, BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall said "(it) might be the strongest in terms of ability and impact."
With BYU all-time leading receiver Cody Hoffman graduating and moving on to the NFL, BYU coaches made the wideout spot a top priority on signing day.
PROVO — PROVO--- After a rough two-game losing streak on the road, the BYU men's basketball team have bounced back and are tied for the second-place spot in the West Coast Conference by defeating both Pacific and St. Mary's at the Marriott Center last week.
With these two, huge home victories, the Cougars look to keep their post-season hopes alive and continue their home-court dominance as they prepare to host the Broncos of Santa Clara on Thursday and the Dons of San Francisco on Saturday.
" Our guys really understood the importance of both of those games," head coach Dave Rose told Greg Wrubell Tuesday night at Malawi's Pizza in Provo. "Hopefully we can repeat that intensity of Wednesday practice and Thursday preparation…I think our guys are really ready this week."
PROVO — BYU junior guard Tyler Haws was very busy last week. Not only did he lead the Cougars to back-to-back home victories over Pacific and St. Mary's, he managed to average averaged 35.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals in the process.
What may be even more impressive is the fact that Haws shot 59.5 percent from the field, 66.7 percent from three and 91.3 percent from the free throw line. Those numbers were good enough to earn Haws his second West Coast Conference Player of the Week award of the season.
Despite being the focus of every opponent BYU plays, Haws seems to find a way to rise to the occasion. Through 24 games, Haws is averaging 24.6 points per game (third best in the nation), while shooting 47.8 percent from the field and 46.5 percent from three.
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