Congratulations to the BYU women's basketball team for cracking the national rankings for the first time in five years. The Cougars (18-3) are tied for No. 23 in the Associated Press Top 25, which was released Monday morning.
BYU's men's basketball team (17-5) is not ranked in either poll, and is no longer receiving votes in either after falling to Loyola Marymount last Thursday. The Cougars are no longer considered an NCAA Tournament team in Joe Lunard's Bracketology report, either.
The Cougars are among Lunardi's "First Four Out" in this week's projections.
It all makes Wednesday's nonconference game at Virginia Tech of the ACC even more important for the Cougars, but coach Dave Rose said in a teleconference this morning that every game carries equal importance.
On the importance of this game, being a nonconference game:
"I think every game we prepare for, we prepare with a high level of importance," he said. "As far as our urgency is concerned, games like this can really help your team in a lot of ways. But obviously the goal in preparation and the goal as we coach the game and play the game, is that these are competitive guys, and competitive guys like to win, and so we will put everything into it that we can."
Rose was also asked, indirectly, if he's concerned about his team worrying too much about being on the NCAA Tournament bubble, as it were.
On whether the guys will worry too much about being on the bubble:
"I have never put a lot of stock into what kids do with their spare time. I am really worried about how they come [to practice] and our preparation and how we try to impress the importance of our preparation and urgency," he said. "I think that is probably the most important thing with this team right now. I think that we need to realize the importance of each game. We need to realize the importance of each practice, and our ability to get better.
I think we have pretty level-headed and mature kids, but everybody gets caught up in what other people are saying about you, and so hopefully we will be able to focus in on the things that are important to help our team get better."
The Cougars have started the same five players -- Noah Hartsock, Charles Abouo, Brandon Davies, Brock Zylstra and Matt Carlino -- in their last 11 games, going 9-2 in that stretch. Against Pepperdine on Saturday, the Cougars fell behind 11-2 early and during the second half backup point guard Craig Cusick played more minutes that Carlino, who failed to score for the first time in his career.
I asked Rose if the starting five will change against Virginia Tech.
"We will see," he said. "That's what I like to do, I like to kind of get a group of guys and find consistency in them. If they can perform at the level in which we feel our team can be successful, then I think it is good for your team to know what your roles are. But it is not a given, and things can change at any time, so we will see."
On the injury front, Rose said that Stephen Rogers is getting close to returning to action after missing the LMU and Pepperdine games with swelling in his right knee.
"We will know more after practice today, but I hope so. He is feeling better," Rose said. "He has been on some anti-inflammatories. I think the swelling in the knee is gone for the most part, and that has eliminated a lot of the soreness and pain. And we will get him out today, hopefully, and do some things in practice and then see how he feels tomorrow.
But hopefully we can get him out there because we can really use another shooter, especially as we get into February."
As for Chris Collinsworth's progress, Rose said the sophomore's return is no imminent.
"Chris is improving. He is still a ways away, but he is improving. I think he has some added encouragement because of how his knee is responding to physical therapy the past two weeks. Hopefully he will continue to progress. As far as a timeline and when he will be back, I don't think anybody really knows that."
More from the coach in today's teleconference:
On how the BYU team wins differently this year:
"Our team's real experience and strength is inside, where we really relied last year on a couple of great guards in Jackson and Jimmer.
The consistency on our team has been from our frontline this year."
On what the LMU loss told him about his team:
"Loyola did a great job of making it difficult on our shooters. We kind of got into a little bit of a rhythm where teams had doubled our big guys, and our shooters kind of had a lot of space to get shots.
The game was a lot different. They did a good job of covering our post guys, but also were able to get out and kind of rush on the perimeter. We were a little bit impatient. I think maybe we can learn to be a little more patient, and try to get what we really want to get on that possession, instead of maybe just settle for a quick shot."
On what makes Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies so successful:
"They have expanded their games. They are pretty diverse players. I think you have to throw Charles Abouo in to that mix with our frontline guys. Charles is a guy who can post up, can shoot threes. He's got a nice little midrange game.
I think that Noah can post up and score. He can also stretch the defense by hitting perimeter shots.
Brandon is a low post guy, with his back to the basket, but he can also hit face-up shots from 10 to 12 feet. I think all three of them have pretty good diversity to their offensive game, and defensively they have been real solid for us."
On how good is this BYU team, and whether he is still trying to figure that out himself:
"What I really hope is I hope we are getting better. That's kind of been what we really like to concentrate on the last week of January, the first couple of weeks of February, is figuring out ways to get our team better. We have had a couple injuries that have kind of set us back. We added a player in Matt Carlino on Dec. 17, which is just over five weeks ago.
I think we are still trying to find ourselves, but I like the direction our team is going in. Hopefully we can get a little more consistency from some of the guys on the roster, down the bench a little bit."
On how much of a challenge it is to play a nonconference game across the country right now:
"Yeah, it is a challenge. Seth [Greenberg] and I have been trying to put a game together for years, and I have known him ever since he has been out here at Long Beach State years and years ago. This is kind of what he suggested. It wasn't ideal for us, but we didn't have our conference schedule at the time. But the conference told us they would kind of help us get through this, and so we will go down there on Wednesday, and then we are playing St. Mary's on Saturday and Gonzaga the next Thursday. So that's kind of how it came out in August for us."
On the importance of getting the game into BYU's liking as far as tempo is concerned:
"Yeah, Seth [Greenberg] style is really effective, and he has been really successful over the years. But he's going to make it really hard for us to run our offense. He will probably jam our outlet pass, just do things that will make it difficult for us to run up and down and get quick shots. He will control a lot of the tempo on offense with multiple passes before they actually shoot.
The players that they have our very athletic, they are very good offensive players. Sometimes I think they are underrated offensively; they don't attempt as many shots as other teams, and that's why they don't score as much. That's their style. That will be the real challenge for us, is to see if we can't impose our will upon how they play in their building."
On following Jimmer Fredette's career so far:
"We seem to text more than anything. He had the day off yesterday in Portland. I check his box scores. I watched him a couple times earlier. It is kind of hard when you are kind of preparing for your own games. I was really happy for him the other night because he was able to make some shots. He seemed to kind of struggle a little bit in that area.
I actually find it quite entertaining for me and for people who always comment to me about how he is doing, and how he is playing. And I think Cougar fans will probably follow Sacramento Kings as much as any team out there."
On the challenge of traveling to the East Coast for a game:
"I think the time changes, when you change time zones, it has an effect. It is something that the core group of this team has done, and been successful with. We played at Glens Falls, we played at Buffalo. We have been to the NCAA Tournament in Philadelphia. We have been across time zones quite a bit with this core group of guys.
I think that this time of year, is probably what is the most challenging for us. It is so hard for us to get really good quality games back here in Utah, and in Provo and Salt Lake, using EnergySolutions Arena. This was an opportunity that came up, and it wasn't the most ideal situation. But at the time when it came up, we figured we were jumping into a new league, and we didn't really have a feel for that situation and how that was going to play out. So we decided to do it. Now we look forward to the challenge, and hopefully our guys will respond. And we look forward to their return game next year as well. But that won't be during league. That will be in the preseason."
On whether there are friends in coaching he will or won't play:
"That's a good question, Jason [Franchuk]. I think that for the most part if they are willing to play, then I would like to play. Because I am looking for good games that our fans will enjoy. I think our fans will really enjoy an ACC game in Salt Lake next year."
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