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Jay Drew
Jay covers BYU athletics for The Salt Lake Tribune. You can follow him on Twitter @drewjay.

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With a midweek bye, BYU basketball focuses on improvement, building confidence

Kinda strange not having a BYU basketball game this week until Saturday. But after the Cougars play host to Pepperdine this weekend (4 p.m., BYUtv), they will return to the regular Thursday-Saturday rotation for the remaining two weeks of the regular season.

Then it is on to the WCC tournament at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. BYU fans accustomed to the MWC tournament format are in for a surprise, though. If they finish in the top two, the Cougars won't begin play in the tournament until the semifinals on Saturday, March 3.

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If they finish in the top four, they won't begin play until the quarterfinals on Friday, March 2.

Coach Dave Rose said after the Portland game on Saturday that the Cougars would focus on their own improvement the first few practices this week, then turn their attention to Pepperdine on Thursday.

"Well, I think there is a lot of things we can get better on," Rose said. "I think that individual confidence is huge, as far as repetition shooting the ball. Repetition as far as our defensive rules are concerned [is a priority]. We need our team to develop a little bit more depth.

Stephen [Rogers] is going to be out another two or three weeks. They kinda shut him down the other day.

So it is not a situation where we can sit around and wait for him. We got to develop others that we can depend on for the next two or three weeks."

For the second time this season, BYU's Brandon Davies is the WCC Player of the Week. Davies averaged 16.5 points, nine rebounds and 4.5 steals per game last week in wins over Gonzaga and Portland.

Only two players have repeated as the WCC player of the week this year -- Davies and Gonzaga's Kevin Pangos.

However, the heavy favorite to win WCC Player of the Year honors is Matthew Dellavedova of St. Mary's, and deservedly so.

More NCAA Tournament bracket projections are out this week, and most have the Cougars back in the Big Dance.

Andy Glockner of sportsillustrated.com has the Cougars as an 11 seed, playing No. 6 Vanderbilt in Albuquerque.

In his Bubble Watch feature, Glockner says this about BYU:

"After whiffing twice against Saint Mary's, the Cougars handled Gonzaga at home for a very important win. While at San Francisco isn't a walkover, only the Gonzaga return trip looks fraught with danger in the remaining league slate. If they can somehow get the sweep, they also could lock up the double-bye."

ESPN's Eammon Brennan also moved BYU (20-6) off the bubble and into the show.

"Last week, the Watch said the Cougars hadn't beaten anyone. That is no longer true. Thursday's home win over Gonzaga was this season's biggest victory, finally giving Dave Rose's team a top 50 win on which it can at least partially hang its hat. Still, with merely decent computer numbers, BYU can't afford to slip up in its final five WCC games. Another win over Gonzaga -- on the road this time -- would be a hard-won and crucial résumé boost," Brennan notes.

And Jerry Palm, contributor to CBSsports.com, also puts BYU in the tournament this week. Palm has the Cougars as a No. 12 seed, playing another No. 12, Seton Hall, in a first-round game in Dayton.



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