BYU coach Mark Pope: ‘We’re not a great team right now’

The Cougars finished 1-2 at a tournament in the Bahamas over Thanksgiving.

(Tim Aylen | Bahamas Visual Services via AP) Butler's Manny Bates, left, passes the ball as BYU's Richie Saunders reaches for it during an NCAA college basketball game in the Battle 4 Atlantis at Paradise Island, Bahamas, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022.

BYU men’s basketball coach Mark Pope reflected on the last three games. The poor second half performance against USC, losing a winnable game to Butler, the 23-point comeback to beat Dayton.

Pope summed up those three games in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament in the Bahamas like the coach of a team with a losing record, not the 4-3 BYU currently is.

“If we’re going to be nationally relevant, we have a long way to go,” Pope said after Friday’s win. “We’re not a great team right now.”

The Cougars went 1-2 in three games at the tournament. Only Baylor was in the top 10 of the KenPom rankings, one of the main metrics used to determine a team’s NCAA Tournament chances. BYU is No. 67, while USC (65) and Dayton (56) aren’t much higher.

But while Pope seemed disappointed in BYU’s performance in the tournament, he also put forth that his team showed welcome signs of improvement.

For instance, Pope said the Cougars lacked competitive spirit in their loss to USC, but corrected that immensely just a day later against Butler. In the win over Dayton, they trailed 32-9 and then later by 16 at halftime only to make big shots down the stretch of that game and prevail 79-75 in overtime.

“These guys can get better,” Pope said. “They’re hungry to get better. Our expectation together as a team is that we are going to get better and get better and get better. ... We all believe that we have the chance to become a really, really good team. We just have a lot of work to do.”

BYU greatly improved in taking the care of the ball over the course of the tournament. After committing 17 turnovers in the first game, it committed just 13 and 11 in the next two, respectively. And in two of the games (USC and Dayton), the Cougars combined to make 25 3-pointers.