BYU men’s basketball coach Mark Pope touts this season’s nonconference schedule as toughest of his tenure

The Cougars have 10 projected Quad 1 games and five in-state matches on deck before starting WCC play.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Mark Pope takes questions from the media after being announced as BYU's new head basketball coach during a press event at the BYU broadcasting building on Wed. April 10, 2019.

A bit later than usual, but the field is finally set.

BYU men’s basketball released its nonconference schedule on Tuesday and will officially start practice on Sept. 28. With approximately 10 projected Quad 1 teams awaiting the Cougars in November and December, BYU will need to jump right into preparations.

“I’m super excited about the release of the schedule today,” BYU coach Mark Pope said. “It’s really daunting. The beginning and the middle are super difficult, but it’s what we like to do — we like to put ourselves in a good position. I like where we are with our projected Quad 1 and Quad 2 [games]. It will be the most challenging schedule we’ve had here in our three years, so it should be a platform for us to go see what we’re made of and try and keep getting better every day.”

Add in the fact that BYU has finished the last two seasons as a Top 25 team and finally found itself back in the NCAA Tournament — a move that was set to happen a year earlier, but the pandemic forced the 2020 tourney to be canceled — and the Cougars have lofty expectations moving forward.

Then there’s the upcoming move to the Big 12.

To stay relevant, and continue to improve, BYU wanted to built the best possible nonconference schedule. That’s where Nick Robinson comes in.

The assistant coach, who joined Pope’s staff in 2019, leads the charge in setting up the Cougars’ schedule. He looks into not only preparing BYU for its West Coast Conference schedule, but to help the team build “a nice NCAA resume.”

When trying to piece together the schedule, the staff takes multiple sites’ intel into consideration (and a lot off of KenPom), as well as previous history, to best decipher who would make a quality opponent.

“There’s a number of teams out there that fit that profile, us included, of being right there on the cusp of Top 25 when it comes to the final polls,” Robinson said. “NCAA experienced teams, as well as high quality from an efficiency standpoint. So, we’re trying to get those teams here to the Marriott Center, or on single neutral-site games, pretty consistently in our scheduling process.”

Another target BYU hit hard in this year’s schedule is in-state games. The Cougars are set to play four in-state Division I teams and one in-state Division II game.

BYU is hosting Utah State and Westminster, and will play at Utah, Utah State and Weber State this fall. The ability to schedule this many in-state games will likely diminish once the Cougars make their way into the Big 12, but Pope sees value in playing them — as many while they can.

“In-state games are hard, but they’re great — in-state games are really special,” Pope said. “They’re good for our guys because they’re so tough, they’re so competitive. That any of those five games and it’s just going to be a fight to the bitter end. It just is. That’s what’s special about in-state games.”

Seneca Knight, who’s currently still working on getting his waiver approved after transferring in from LSU/San Jose State, is excited to get started at BYU. The junior guard said some of the games that pop out most to him are San Diego State, Oregon and Utah, but he is looking forward to every game.

Knight has an appointment on Wednesday to go over his waiver. Should he be cleared to play immediately, he’ll be joining returners Alex Barcello, Caleb Lohner, Gideon George, Gavin Baxter and more.

BYU also brought in Milwaukee transfer Te’Jon Lucas, and has two 2021 signees coming in and four 2019 signees returning from church missions (two of which are walk-ons).

“Really, every single game on the list I’m looking forward to play,” Knight said. “I’ve never played for BYU before, and I’m just excited to go to war with the guys on the team [and] coaches, and being able to rep the BYU jersey.”

BYU Men’s Basketball Schedule

Colorado Christian, Nov. 4, 7 p.m.

Cleveland State, Nov. 9, 7 p.m.

San Diego State, Nov. 12, 7 p.m.

Oregon at Phil Knight Invitational, Nov. 16, TBA

Central Methodist, Nov. 20, 7 p.m.

Texas Southern, Nov. 24, 7 p.m.

at Utah, Nov. 27, TBA

at Utah Valley, Dec. 1, TBA

at Missouri State, Dec. 4, TBA

Utah State, Dec. 8, 7 p.m.

Creighton at Sanford Pentagon, Dec. 11, TBA

at Weber State, Dec. 18, TBA

South Florida at Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Classic, Dec. 21, TBA

Vanderbilt or Hawaii at Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Classic, Dec. 23, TBA

TBA at Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Classic, Dec. 25, TBA

Westminster, Dec. 29, 7 p.m.

Conference Schedule

at Portland, Jan. 1, TBA

Pacific, Jan. 6, TBA

St. Mary’s, Jan. 8, TBA

at Gonzaga, Jan. 13, TBA

at San Francisco, Jan. 15, TBA

San Diego, Jan. 20, TBA

Portland, Jan. 22, TBA

at Santa Clara, Jan. 27, TBA

at Pacific, Jan. 29, TBA

San Francisco, Feb. 3, TBA

Gonzaga, Feb. 5, TBA

at Loyola Marymount, Feb. 10, TBA

at Pepperdine, Feb. 12, TBA

at Saint Mary’s, Feb. 19, TBA

Loyola Marymount, Feb. 24, TBA

Pepperdine, Feb. 26, TBA


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