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Mark Pope may or may not be through shifting his lineup, and women’s basketball coach Jeff Judkins has his team ranked No. 18 as both programs head into conference play this week.

The 11-3 men are fresh off a win over Liberty in Hawaii and will use a tuneup game Wednesday against Westminster to prepare for a road trip to Portland on Saturday. BYU’s 10-1 women host San Diego on Saturday after posting preseason wins over No. 17 Florida State and No. 22 West Virginia on the road.

What we know so far is Pope’s team is very talented and has a No. 30 NET ranking by the NCAA but is still reeling from losing big men Gavin Baxter and Richard Harward for the season.

Judkins has all the pieces, power post play, and talented backcourt and wing players, to make a WCC title run. Here is my column on BYU’s WCC challenge and Jeff Call’s look ahead with Pope on his game plan.

Cougar Insiders predictions

Question of the week: With new football recruit Aisea Moa going to Twitter announcing his NIL deal weeks before enrolling at BYU what does that, the Built Bar and other deals tell us about BYU’s seemingly advanced approach to the new NCAA regulations allowing players to make money off their name, image and likeness?

Jay Drew: Aisea Moa’s case is just another example of how far ahead of the curve BYU has been regarding the NCAA’s new legislation allowing student-athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness. From the time it was announced that NIL was a possibility, BYU has seemingly been at the forefront. Credit BYU school and athletic department management for getting a jump start on the opportunities that they have been giving to athletes in all sports.

Their groundbreaking deal with Built Bar, which takes care of walk-ons and covers the cost of tuition for a year, was just the first of many. BYU’s female athletes are also seeing increased opportunities, thanks to the efforts of a Provo-based company called SmartyStreets. When the deal was announced on Sept. 21, the company said it could surpass $2 million in benefits paid to the athletes.

Moa’s deal is another indication that BYU’s efforts will help in recruiting. I expect more to come.

Dick Harmon: I’ll put it this way: Once that door opened for NIL deals, BYU had not only rushed the gate but found itself sprinting down the store isles, wiping out goods on the shelves and rushing the cashier. The Built Bar deal blew away the college football world and made national headlines. It was so ingenious and creative that it seems some programs left behind started complaining to the NCAA and an inquiry followed. Nothing will come of that because it is not a pay-for-play situation prohibited by the NCAA.

In the area of NIL programs available for BYU athletes, they are on the red carpet, maybe not in terms of money amounts, but the number of athletes plugged in and ready to earn. Just ask Moa.

Cougar tales

The Cougars went 2-1 in the Diamond Classic in Honolulu over Christmas weekend with wins over Liberty and South Florida and a loss to Vanderbilt. In a nutshell, these were hard-fought and ugly wins. But as Pope will say, wins are hard to get and his 10th and 11th wins of the season were not easy to accomplish. Here’s a wrap on that tournament and coverage by Jeff Call:

  • BYU earns ugly win against USF in Diamond Classic (Jeff Call)
  • Turnovers doom Cougars against Vandy (Jeff Call)
  • In his first career start, Traore leads BYU past Liberty (Jeff Call)

From the Archives

Why James Empey was in a league of his own
Biggest BYU sports story of the year? That’s easy — but here are 9 more

From the Twitterverse

Ouch. BYU was the highest-ranked team in the tournament (@CougarStats)

BYU-Virginia game canceled (@CriddleBenjamin)

Cougar Women move up in AP (@DailyUnivSports)

Extra points

Canceling Virginia makes room for Big 12 future games (Deseret News)

5 New Year’s resolutions for BYU football (CougsDaily)

Zach Wilson has record-breaking run in NFL win (Deseret News)

Ranking biggest bowl games in Utah college sports (Deseret News)


Comments from Deseret News readers

Regardless of how our delusional little brothers on the hill spin things …

#1/#1 > #2/#4 > #4/#5 > #5/#5 > #7/#7 > #11/#11

#1 Holiday Bowl 1984 - BYU 13-0

#2 Sugar Bowl 2008 - Utah 13-0

#4 Fiesta Bowl 2004 - Utah 12-0

#5 Cotton Bowl 1996 - BYU 14-1

#7 Holiday Bowl 1983 - BYU 11-1

#11 Rose Bowl 2021 - Utah 10-3

Utah LOST to BYU in 2021, and unlike the Cougars, the Utes weren’t even undefeated against Pac-12 opponents.

— BlueCoug

If things continue as they have over the past five games (with the exception of the Weber State game), Coach Pope has to reconsider his rotation and get players off the bench and into the game who can shoot. Clanking 3pointers is a recipe for disaster. Opposing team’s clamp down on defense against Alex Barcello, and 3pounters from his teammates go “clank” putoff the rim. Pope has shooters on the bench. Can they play D? If they could they would be playing now. But you have to score more points than the other team. And the other team us forcing nonBarcellos to door open 3s. Clank. Clank. Pope’s staff loves analytics. Put a shooter, see if analytics justifies drop in defense with better 3pt production. Clank clank will translate into WCC losses on the road, a 3d or 4th place WCC finish, and one-and-done NCAA tourney appearance. Shooters. We need shooters. They are right there, on the bench. Put ‘em in, Coach.

— Cy1951

Up next

Dec. 29 | 7 p.m. | Men’s basketball | vs. Westminster | @Provo

Dec. 30 | 7 p.m. | Women’s basketball | vs. San Diego | @Provo

Jan. 1 | 2 p.m. | Women’s basketball | vs. Portland | @Provo

Jan. 1 | 8 p.m. | Men’s basketball | vs. Portland | @Portland