Provo • By the time No. 15 BYU plays its first game in the West Coast Conference Tournament, nine days will have gone by since the regular season finale. With that much time between live action, the momentum the Cougars have built can get lost and other distractions can start to creep in.
However, nobody’s complaining about it, because the Cougars earned the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament and therefore also earned a triple-bye into the semifinals.
“It's great that we put ourselves in this position, but we're all so competitive, like, we want to go play,” senior Yoeli Childs said. “We're trying to compete and go after it in practice, and we're excited for that opportunity, but we're definitely going to be fired up when it's time to go play.”
BYU has found itself in a similar scheduling situation before, though.
There was also a small portion of the schedule, just as conference play was set to start, when the Cougars were playing only one game a week. So, coach Mark Pope is confident that his veteran team will be able to return to action without missing a beat.
“The guys played some of their best basketball then, which gives us some confidence,” Pope said. “… That's why you embrace all the different situations.”
BYU vs. TBD
At Orleans Arena, Las Vegas
When • Monday, 9:30 p.m. MST
TV • ESPN
Even if the break in action does result in a bit of rust on the court, the time off should be good for a team that has dealt with a severe case of the injury bug this season.
As for players who could use a little R&R, Connor Harding and Kolby Lee have been playing through their own knee issues since January. Jake Toolson suffered a gnarly ankle sprain during the Saint Mary’s game on Feb. 1, checked back into the game minutes later and has continued to play through it.
Childs keeps his right index finger bandaged up, still recovering from his open dislocation.
Then there's also Dalton Nixon, who suffered a severe ankle sprain (inside and out) a couple of weeks ago.
While Pope said Nixon's recovery is going well, he doesn't expect the senior to play on Monday.
“For one, it's good because we're a little banged up [and it] gives some guys some time to get healthy and really get after our bodies and our conditioning,” Toolson said about the break. “On the other hand, just making sure we're getting enough reps, making sure that we're ready to go on Monday. The team we play will have already played a game.”
The extra time is also allowing the Cougars to prepare for any of the four teams they could face in the semis.
Pope feels confident in thinking his Cougars will have to play against third-seeded Saint Mary's, but if it comes down to Pepperdine or Santa Clara, there should still be plenty of familiarity with those teams seeing as they are two of the last three teams BYU faced in the regular season.
“So, we’ve kind of approached this week trying to knock out the things that those teams have in common … because we won’t have any live preparation after we find out who we play,” Pope said. “It’s league — everybody knows everybody. So there’s not going to be any huge surprises. We’re taking all those guys into account as we prepare.”