Relaxed and easygoing on Wednesday, Rose's outward appearance belied the inner turmoil that the 12-year head coach is facing this week as the Cougars (13-6, 4-2 WCC) attempt to bounce back from last Saturday's inexplicable road loss at San Diego. BYU takes on lowly Pepperdine (5-13, 1-5 WCC) Thursday night at the Marriott Center in what should be an easy win (BYU is an 18-point favorite), but with this inconsistent, inexperienced team nobody associated with the Cougars is taking anything for granted.
Remember Utah Valley, anyone?
The Waves always seem to play BYU well, and are 4-3 against the Cougars in Malibu, 2-7 against BYU in Provo. Pepperdine beat BYU three straight times between 2015 and 2016, including a 67-61 win at the Marriott Center on Jan. 8, 2015.
"This is a big challenge," Rose said. "This is a good team that is coming in here that has had some real difficulty throughout the year with injuries and a lot of other things. They will be ready for us, I do know that. We have played Pepp a lot and they will be ready for us."
The Waves have three outstanding seniors — Lamond Murray Jr., Chris Reyes and Jeremy Major — who are carrying the load because a half-dozen or so guys are injured or unable to play. Nolan Taylor and Elijah Lee round out the starting five.
Reyes is a graduate transfer from the University of Utah, while Murray Jr. is the leading scorer in WCC conference play, second-leading scorer (behind Eric Mika) in all games with a 20.1 average.
"Those three seniors are carrying them, and they are really good players. And then the challenge is to make sure they all don't have a big night the same night. You know, Lamond Murray is as good a scorer as we have played, or will play, and in the last four or five games he has become the real focal point of their offense as far as shots taken, shots made, getting to the free throw line. Post ups. Out of bounds unders. They run a lot of stuff for him. That will be a real big key. But Chris Reyes has had a great year for them offensively and defensively, and not only down around the post, which we have all seen as a former player from Utah. But he has expanded his game shooting from the perimeter and scoring well from 15, 18 feet," Rose said.
"Then Jeremy Major, I think we are all familiar with him. He's a streaky guy who can really get hot in a game and he has hit five or six threes several times in his career. And then he is really hard to stay in front of. He is one of those guys who is really quick and good with the ball.
Those three guys are good. And then defensively they're always an aggressive, solid team. It is important for us to attack those guys and see if we can get them into foul trouble, maybe get into their bench somewhat."
Meanwhile, the Cougars are facing the same questions that seem to pop up every year. Why can't they play as well on the road as they play at home? Why do they always seem to lose a couple of games every year to lower-level WCC teams with horrible RPIs and/or KenPom ratings?
"I think the very most important thing is we stay together as a group, and when we have challenges we stress the same thing after big wins, that there is a reason why things happen the way they happen," Rose said. "The next day we can't just take a big win and then everybody go out on their own and try to change things and make things go their way, and the same thing with a loss. You get beat, and you come back, and you still gotta be a group and stay focused and stay together and get on to the next challenge.
"I think the most important thing is part of this group is to believe in our system and believe in each other," Rose continued. "We have really competitive guys who want to take over on their own, but we need to stay together and stay within the group, and then try and encourage each other, because you can get down on yourself pretty quick. Confidence is such a big part of success.
So I really believe that is a big part of my job is to help them stay really confident.
And then there are some strategic things that we have worked on, and hopefully we will be able to see some results of that tomorrow."