Cougars embrace challenge
Palo Alto, Calif. • When it comes to making the NCAA Tournament after missing the Big Dance last year for the first time since 2006, the BYU men's basketball team is taking nothing for granted.
That's why coach Dave Rose and his staff tried to compile the most difficult nonconference schedule they could. Although predicted Big Sky Conference champion Weber State, which BYU handled 81-72 in Provo on Friday night, is no slouch, the gantlet began in earnest Monday night when BYU played at Stanford.
The nationally televised game (ESPN2) tipped off after 9 p.m. MST and had not concluded at press time.
"Maybe the strongest [nonconference schedule] in my nine years," Rose said
The Cardinal returned four starters off last year's team and are picked to finish sixth in the Pac-12 this season. Disappointingly, Stanford won't be making a return visit to BYU next year, because the game was arranged by ESPN as part of its Tip-Off Marathon that began Monday and will run through Tuesday.
Generally, BYU has had trouble getting schools from BCS conferences to play at the Marriott Center. For instance, the Cougars will play at the Pac-12's Oregon on Dec. 21, paying the Ducks back for a visit they made last year to Salt Lake City. Yes, Salt Lake City. The game was played at EnergySolutions Arena.
However, Iowa State is apparently not afraid to play BYU on its home floor. The Cyclones pounded BYU 83-62 last year in Ames, Iowa, and will return the game on Nov. 20 in Provo.
The Cougars like to play in at least one nonconference tournament a year, and this year they will travel to Kansas City to play in the College Basketball Experience Hall of Fame Classic. They open against the Big 12's Texas on Nov. 25 and will play either DePaul or Wichita State in the consolation/championship game.
Actually, that tournament begins later this week, as BYU plays host to Mount Saint Mary's on Friday and Colorado Mesa on Saturday at the Marriott Center. However, if the Cougars are upset this coming weekend, they will still travel to Kansas City for the Final Four. The same applies to Texas, DePaul and Wichita State. That's just how the tournament works.
BYU's toughest remaining nonconference games
Nov. 20 • Iowa State
Nov. 25 • vs. Texas at CBE Hall of Fame Classic, Kansas City
Nov. 26 • vs. DePaul or Wichita State at CBE, Kansas City
Nov. 30 • vs. Utah State at EnergySolutions Arena
Dec. 7 • vs. UMass at Springfield, Mass.
Dec. 14 • at Utah
Dec. 21 • at Oregon