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BYU hoops has to make it through the WCC to get to the Big 12

The WCC handed BYU a real hurdle to start the season, and the Cougars responded

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BYU guard Hunter Erickson controls the ball while pressured by Gonzaga’s Anton Watson, Jan. 13, 2022, in Spokane, Wash.

BYU guard Hunter Erickson controls the ball while pressured by Gonzaga’s Anton Watson Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, in Spokane, Wash. The Cougars fell to the Zags but are off to a solid 3-1 start in WCC play.

Young Kwak, Associated Press

This article was first published in the Cougar Insiders newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Tuesday night.

Nobody in the West Coast Conference started the season playing Saint Mary’s, then Gonzaga and San Francisco with a plane ride in between. Is there a message there for the Big 12-bound Cougars?

The Cougars went 2-1 in this stretch after pulling out a gutsy comeback win over the Dons in San Francisco and now Mark Pope’s team is getting some love in the national rankings again. Here is Jeff Call’s report on what counts after the win at San Francisco.

Meanwhile, Jeff Judkins and BYU’s women’s basketball team are killing it in the WCC continuing a trend of dominating female athletics at BYU. Here is Jay Drew’s breakdown of why this domination is happening. 

Cougar Insider’s predictions

Here’s the question of the week: The WCC had BYU use the early part of the conference season to play the top three teams, the only team to do so. With a loss to No. 1 Gonzaga and wins over Saint Mary’s and San Francisco, the Cougars went 2-1, 3-1 overall. Does this tell us anything about the rest of the WCC season for the Cougars?

Jay Drew: I would like to say that going 3-1 to start the WCC season, including a home win over Saint Mary’s and a tough road win at San Francisco, bodes well for the Cougars. However, it is tough to ignore how thoroughly Mark Pope’s team was trounced by Gonzaga and how leaky the Cougars’ defense was that night.

The win over San Francisco, one of the most underrated teams in the country this season, was impressive. No doubt about that. However, the win over SMC was uneven and presents some cause for concern regarding BYU’s offense. Take away Alex Barcello, as the Gaels did for much of the game, and the Cougars seem to struggle.

BYU will need a reliable second scorer to step up if it hopes to beat San Francisco at home or give Saint Mary’s a game in Moraga. Gonzaga, meanwhile, looks unbeatable. Some things never change in the WCC.

Dick Harmon: Everybody is getting mowed down by No. 1-ranked Gonzaga so getting thrashed by the Zags on their home court, with players pulling up off the break and hitting 3s, is something every team in the league is going to experience because Mark Few’s team is that good. On the other hand, BYU’s personality seems to be a gut-it-out-with-grit-team in other games.

If I were Mark Pope, I’d be concerned in that game as San Francisco guards went after Alex Barcello, as most teams do and he couldn’t get to the free-throw line for two-thirds of the game. The only thing keeping SF in the game was made free throws. Barcello is getting pressured and hacked in every game and he refuses to complain or let it affect his offense or defense. But in the course of a WCC season, that’s going to wear on the BYU star.

The Cougars really need Caleb Lohner, Treven Knell, Te’Jon Lucas, Seneca Knight and Gideon George to step up if they want to earn the No. 2 seed in the league tournament in Las Vegas in March. Barcello needs more help.

Cougar tales

Thanks to tremendous success by its women’s programs, BYU is ranked as the No. 1 athletic department in the country according to the Director’s Cup, a system of ranking collegiate programs according to wins, rankings, and conference championships. Here is a breakdown of that ranking by Brandon Judd.

From the archives

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Extra points


Comments from Deseret News readers

They have 11 games left, 10 of those are winnable. Then, they have the WCC Tournament. If they can get to 25 wins and finish second in the WCC, maybe even third, they will go to the Big Dance. That would be an impressive accomplishment considering the injuries and loss of their big men this year.


I just saw where the new Big 12 has 4 teams in the top 10 and 6 teams in the AP top 25. Wow! that is going to be fun. A lot more losses during the season but every game is going to be a challenge.

— Regan_84

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Jan. 20 | TBA | Track and field | Air Force Invitational | @Colorado Springs

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Jan. 22 | 1 p.m. | Women’s basketball | vs. San Diego | @San Diego