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For the final time, BYU’s men and women will play in the West Coast Conference basketball tournament in the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. Both men and women play Friday as No. 5 seeds and will play one more game than if they had earned a No. 3 seed or higher. The men play Friday at 7 p.m. MST against the winner of Portland/San Diego. The women play Friday at 1 p.m. MST against the winner of Pepperdine/Santa Clara.

Cougar Insiders predictions

Question of the week: With spring football right around the corner, who is sitting out (injuries), who or what in the program would you buy stock in right now and why?

Jay Drew: We know that linebackers Max Tooley and Ben Bywater will miss spring camp, after the Deseret News reported last week that the two returning starters have had surgery and are still in the recovery process. Will there be more? Probably. 

We might not know until spring camp opens next Monday in Provo. Whatever the case, I would still buy stock in those two, because they will be the heart of the defense this fall. I’m sure defensive coordinator Jay Hill will see to that.

I would also buy stock in a couple of receivers — Keanu Hill and Chase Roberts. I see both of them having breakout seasons with transfer QB Kedon Slovis getting them the ball. Need a stock you can get for cheap and expect big results? I am going with backup RB Hinckley Ropati. UNLV transfer Aidan Robbins will enter as RB1, but don’t forget about one of the stars of BYU’s big win over Boise State last fall. Ropati will be used in offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick’s offense. Take that to the bank.

Dick Harmon: I’ll bank on two coaches making a difference in spring. Offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick has been consistent in his work with Zach Wilson and Jaren Hall and I’d buy stock in the idea he does the same with Kedon Slovis, a veteran P5 player. I think he will fashion the returning bulk of skill players, including Isaac Rex, Keanu Hill and returning linemen into a productive unit this spring sans Aidan Robbins (injury) and Kody Epps (injury). The results will be a solid unit that can be tweaked in the fall. This will be key for playing Big 12 ball. BYU must be able to score to keep up in that league.

The other personality I’d buy stock in is new defensive coordinator Jay Hill. He has a challenge. I don’t know how much he can polish up a new defense in spring, but he’s excellent at judging talent and plugging in the right bodies. I suspect his emphasis on fundamentals, effort and consistency will show up immediately. He is a reputed teacher and leader and with several spots still open from some portal transfer talent, his recruiting acumen has opportunities to add roster depth. I’d be stunned if he doesn’t at least produce 40% more sacks and turnovers with his defense this year. It starts in spring where he’ll establish a baseline.

Cougar tales

• The No. 8 men’s volleyball team picked up a pair of victories over Concordia University Irvine last weekend to improve to 10-4 on the year. 

• The softball team tripped up Long Beach State, 6-5, at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic at the Big League Dreams Complex on Saturday.

• Several track and field athletes turned in stellar performances in the final indoor meet of the regular season.

• The baseball team fell at Louisiana, 11-10, Saturday afternoon. It was the last contest in a four-game series.

• The women’s basketball team lost to No. 18 Gonzaga, 58-51, at the Marriott Center on Saturday afternoon on Senior Day. Forward Lauren Gustin broke the school’s single-season rebound mark.

• In gymnastics, BYU defeated Utah State, 196.450-195.425.

From the archives

Related
Why this former BYU coach is dumbfounded by Cougars’ lack of success in league tourney
Why impact of seniors Rudi Williams, Gideon George transcends what they did on the court

From the Twitterverse

Extra points

What’s next for QB? Position analysis (KSLsports)

Players under the microscope in spring (247sports.com)

Hall set for NFL combine (Deseret News)

What LB coach thinks of UNLV transfer RB (Deseret News)

Fanalyst

Comments from Deseret News readers:

There are the typical Pope haters. And yes, the outcome of the program in terms of wins and losses as well as talent/depth this year and last justifies the criticism.

I still say that Pope gets the maximum out of the players he does have; and his staff does game plan well with in-game adjustments based on the following outcomes:

7-point loss to 19 San Diego State.

6-point loss to USC.

3-point win to 21 Creighton.

11-point win to Utah.

1-point loss to 8 Gonzaga – Home.

1-point loss to 22 Saint Mary’s – Home.

7-point loss to 16 Gonzaga.

6-point loss to 17 Saint Mary’s.

There are a lot of programs with similar talent/depth that have and would have fared far worse or not been nearly as competitive.

Are there coaches that are great tacticians and motivators; yet, can’t recruit? Yes. And in big-time D-I basketball, you have to be effective in all facets.

Do I think there are valid concerns and criticism of Pope in terms of recruiting? Absolutely. Especially with rebuilding just as the Y enters the Big 12.

There is a part of me that thinks there is a potential Pope is let go this year precisely due to ineffective recruiting and low retention of portal transfers and recruits.

My question for the Pope haters and legitimate critics: Who would you suggest replace Pope given the unique aspect of coaching at the Y? Who would be that Big 12 caliber coach to rebuild in the best basketball conference that could recruit to the Y?

— Jayson Meline

Longtime BYU fan here. It has been very painful to watch BYU get handled by much weaker teams in basically high school gyms since joining the WCC. It has been equally painful watching Pope drive away several talented players who ended up at UVU only to have them kick our butts with those players. I’m very excited about watching BYU play in the Big 12 but dread the expected results.

— Office Linebacker

Up next

March 1 | 11 a.m. | Gymnastics | vs. Alaska | @Provo

March 2-4 | Baseball | vs. Omaha | @Provo

March 3 | 1 p.m. | Women’s basketball | vs. winner Pepperdine or Santa Clara | @Las Vegas

March 3 | 7 p.m. | Men’s basketball | vs. winner Portland or San Diego | @Las Vegas

March 6-7 | Men’s golf | Lamkin Invitational | @San Diego, California

March 6-7 | Women’s golf | Julie Inkster Meadow Club Invitational | @Fairfax, California

BYU coach Mark Pope yells out instructions as BYU and Saint Mary’s play at the Marriott Center in Provo, Jan. 28, 2023.
BYU coach Mark Pope yells instructions as BYU plays Saint Mary’s Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023. The Cougars open up WCC tournament play Friday in Las Vegas. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News