Provo • Conference affiliation has changed for the BYU basketball team, and the Cougars are about to experience life without consensus national college basketball player of the year Jimmer Fredette.
But the goal remains the same, coach Dave Rose said, as BYU prepared to start official practices on Friday for the 2011-12 season.
"What are our expectations?" Rose said rhetorically. "We expect to win the league. That's why we practice, that's why we recruit, that's why we do what we do, is try and win league championships, and get our team in the NCAA Tournament, and advance as far as we can."
That league, of course, is the West Coast Conference, after BYU last September announced its football independence and placed most of its other sports, including basketball, in the WCC.
His own team's expectations notwithstanding, Rose said that Gonzaga still has to be considered the favorite to win the WCC when he was asked if the Cougars, coming off last year's Sweet 16 run in the NCAA Tournament, will take home the league title in their first year.
"I think that you would probably have to go with the team that has won it the last 12 years in a row, or something like that," he said. "We will just try to see if we can compete with those guys."
Fredette won't be the only star missing when the Cougars start practicing Friday in preparation for perhaps the toughest season opener in recent memory, Nov. 11 at Utah State. Defensive stopper Jackson Emery and valuable substitute Logan Magnusson also graduated.
"We have a lot of news guys, a lot of young players," said returning starter Charles Abouo. "They are definitely going to be looking at some of us who have been here for a little while for help and to help them along the way. That's something we are going to have to do."
Who is going to pick up the scoring slack for not just Fredette, but Emery as well, and take the big shots when the clock is winding down?
"That will be interesting to find out. Who is going to be our late-clock scorer, our late-game scorer? I think there are a lot of guys over there right now who think that they are the guy," Rose said. "I do believe that the experienced guys, the guys who have been in our program and know how we play, will be the guys who will probably get the first looks."
BYU basketball primer
Who's gone • Jimmer Fredette, Jackson Emery and Logan Magnusson graduated. Kyle Collinsworth left on an LDS Church mission to Russia.
Who's back • Brandon Davies, Charles Abouo, Noah Hartsock, Brock Zylstra, Stephen Rogers and Chris Collinsworth.
Who's new • Freshman Damarcus Harrison, UCLA transfer Matt Carlino, Utah transfer Josh Sharp and returned missionaries Nate Austin, Ian Harward and Michael Boswell.
The lowdown • The Cougars must replace not only the consensus national college basketball player of the year in Jimmer Fredette, but also one of the best defenders in school history, his backcourt mate, Jackson Emery. Their frontline is solid and experienced, especially with the return of center Brandon Davies from suspension, but the backcourt is young and inexperienced. Lack of a true point guard is a major concern, at least until Matt Carlino becomes eligible to play on Dec. 17. For openers
Exhibition Oct. 29 Midwestern St. 7 p.m.
Regular season Nov. 11 at Utah State 7 p.m.