What’s in a ranking?
For some, it’s way to separate the haves and have-nots, the shining stars from the flickering lights.
For others, it’s just a number, not unlike how vivacious middle-aged people think of their age.
The BYU basketball team proved both of ideas right in Tuesday’s blowout 81-49 win over the No. 12 Oregon Ducks at the Moda Center in Portland, Ore.
Cougars coach Mark Pope said he didn’t conceptualize the big win over Oregon as a singular feat, but rather the culmination of what two-a-day practices and fine-tuning the team’s internal culture can do throughout an initial three-game stretch against formidable opponents.
“I think we’ve taken a big step toward being believers,” Pope said. “We actually believe that when we come on the floor thinking about sacrificing for our team, and making our teammate better, and having our teammate’s back, it actually pays off.”
The Cougars (3-0) came into the matchup unranked by the Associated Press despite having already beaten Cleveland State and San Diego State, two teams that appeared in the NCAA Tournament last year. Only one of Oregon’s opponents had gone to the Big Dance (Texas Southern).
Beating the Ducks like they did, the Cougars might be looking at an imminent ranking in the Top 25.
BYU senior guard Alex Barcello led the team with 25 points on a scorching hot 9-of-11 shooting night, including 4-of-6 from the 3-point line.
The Cougars dismantled the Ducks with elite defense and efficient shooting. BYU held Oregon just 32% from the field, while it shot 60% and dominated in bench points and points in the paint.
But more than that, they gave a complete performance. Four players had double figures in points. They doubled Oregon in assists, 14-7. There was true selflessness on the Moda Center court.
“It’s been fun to watch our team as these three games have gone on,” Barcello said. “Everybody’s pushing aside their own agenda, which is really special. I think that’s why we won by so much tonight.”
Although Barcello shone on offense, he gave credit to those on the floor that put him in position to be as effective as he was.
“I think it starts off with my teammates,” Barcello said. “We have a lot of guys that can create. It helps us space the floor really well. We have a lot of guys that have a high IQ on this team where they can penetrate and make passes out to me on the perimeter. ... It’s so fun playing with them. I’ve loved every second of it.”
BYU entered the game with a 1-20 record in the last 21 non-conference games against ranked teams.
The magnitude of the game wasn’t lost on Barcello due to Oregon’s ranking and talent, but for the Cougars it’s just the beginning of what they hope is a long, successful season.
“It’s a really big win for us and we’re proud of ourselves and we’re happy about it, it was a great scout,” Barcello said. “And [we’re] moving on the next game.”