Provo • Perhaps the major concern faced by the BYU basketball team as it opens the 2012-13 season is whether the Cougars have enough depth inside, just in case projected starting forwards Brandon Davies and Nate Austin get in foul trouble or are injured.
The Cougars will be forced to deal with that concern early, because Tennessee State brings one of the better inside players in the country, 6-foot-9 NBA prospect Robert Covington, to BYU in Friday night’s season opener (7 p.m., BYUtv) at the Marriott Center.
Covington averaged nearly 18 points and eight rebounds a game last year for the Tigers, who return four starters from last year’s team that won 20 games. Former University of Utah guard Jordan Cyphers, a senior, averaged 8.0 points and made 44 3-pointers last year for the Tigers, a member of the Ohio Valley Conference.
“It is going to be a fun matchup,” said Davies, also a 6-9 pro prospect. “But it is going to come down to who has the better team.”
This is the first of four games in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic for BYU, which advances to the semifinals in Brooklyn, N.Y., next weekend regardless of how the team fares against TSU on Friday or Georgia State on Tuesday.
The Cougars, who went 26-9 last year and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for a sixth straight season, rolled in their exhibition games the past two weeks, but Rose said TSU presents a nice challenge because it is more experienced.
“It is a good squad,” he said. “I know our guys are really excited to prepare and get ready to go.”
Rose said his starting lineup will be a combination of his starting lineup in the 103-57 win over Southeastern Oklahoma State and the 90-61 win over Findlay.
Tennessee State at BYU
P At the Marriott Center (Provo)
Tipoff • Friday, 7 p.m.
TV • BYUtv
Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Records • BYU 0-0, TSU 0-0
Series history • First meeting
About the Tigers • They are led by 6-foot-9 senior Robert Covington, who is considered an NBA prospect after averaging 18 points and eight rebounds a game last year. ... Former Utah guard Jordan Cyphers is one of four returning starters. ... Former assistant coach Travis Williams makes his head coaching debut as the Tigers begin a six-game road trip.
About the Cougars • Seniors Brandon Davies and Brock Zylstra and sophomores Tyler Haws, Nate Austin and Matt Carlino are expected to get the starting nod, although coach Dave Rose has been noncommittal regarding starters this week. ... Davies averaged 19.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in their exhibition wins over Southeastern Oklahoma State and Findlay. ... Haws averaged 17.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in the same games.