BYU (3-0) vs. Saint Louis (2-1)
Monday, 7:30 p.m. MST, MGM Grand
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
LAS VEGAS — BYU has a lot of experience playing in tournaments here, though it hasn’t actually won one since 2001, when it claimed the Mountain West Conference tournament championship.
This week, the Cougars will try to win the MGM Grand Main Event tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, beginning with a matchup Monday (7:30 p.m. MST) against Saint Louis in the so-called heavyweight bracket.
The game will be live-streamed on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfYgbNOa0ac).
Joining BYU and the Billikens in the heavyweight bracket are Alabama and Valparaiso, which will tip off in the second game of the night.
The winners of Monday’s semifinals games will meet in the championship game Wednesday night (10 p.m. MST). The consolation game will also be played Wednesday (7:30 p.m. MST).
“We look forward to getting to Vegas and playing these next two games,” coach Dave Rose said after the Cougars’ 81-65 win over Coastal Carolina Saturday night at the Marriott Center. “I kind of like the way this team is developing. But we’re going to get a whole different set of opponents down in Vegas as far as resistance is concerned. We’ll see how we do.”
The Billikens (2-1) are led by guard Davell Roby (16.3 points per game) and forward Reggie Agbeko (16 ppg). Agbeko also averages a team-high 10.3 rebounds per game.
Saint Louis, which belongs to the Atlantic 10 Conference, lost to Ball State, then defeated Southern Utah and Eastern Illinois.
“I’m really looking forward to this game on Monday,” Rose said. “Saint Louis is big and strong. (First-year coach) Travis Ford is a guy who runs a lot of stuff, and we’ll see a lot of things that we’ll have to prepare for defensively."
BYU (3-0) got off to a strong start to the season last week, highlighted by a season-opening victory over Princeton, 82-73, last Monday.
Sophomore forward Eric Mika is averaging a double-double, 21 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, and he’s also averaging 2.7 blocks per game.
Overall, Rose is pleased with the way his team is playing so far.
“It’s a bunch of guys who are starting to figure out each other and what we’re capable of doing with each other,” he said.
One of the challenges facing BYU Monday is the fact that the Cougars don’t practice on Sundays as per school policy.
"It’s a quick turnaround for us without a practice day in between. We’ll see how this team responds," Rose said. "It’s becoming something that we actually look for early in the year because it’s part of our conference tournament now. In the most important time of the year, you win a Saturday game and then you (play) Monday. It’s something we look for and get our guys used to it. We are doing it back-to-back, I think, for the first time ever because we played Monday last week and we’re playing Monday this week.”
The winner of the MGM Grand Main Event receives one of the most unusual trophies in college basketball — a championship belt patterned after those given after a boxing match.
The MGM Grand Main Event in Las Vegas isn’t the only neutral-site games for BYU. The Cougars take on USC in the Hoophall Classic at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Dec. 3. On Dec. 17, BYU faces Illinois in the State Farm Chicago Legends game at the United Center.