Last weekend in Provo, campus was filled with fireworks and parties as BYU reveled in officially joining the Big 12 Conference.

“A lot of our guys, me included, are feeling the pressure that we’ve got to set the expectation and set the bar here and just go attack this thing with all we’ve got.” — BYU basketball player Spencer Johnson

The Big 12 is widely regarded as the toughest basketball league in the country.

How did point guard Dallin Hall celebrate this monumental moment in BYU sports history? 

“I spent some time with my family, actually. Pretty low key,” he said. “But I think we’ve been celebrating this offseason by putting in work every day.”

The Cougars, who posted a 19-15 record in their final season in the West Coast Conference, know they’re entering a buzzsaw this year. 

“Everyone says it’s the toughest basketball league in America. You’ve got Kansas, West Virginia, Iowa State, Houston, Texas,” said guard Spencer Johnson. “It’s going to be a bloodbath every night. We’re super excited.

“Our coaches have been pushing us hard and getting us ready to go through what’s expected to be a physical and grueling conference play. They’ve been super detailed in our work and encouraging us. I’m super excited. I can’t wait.”

The historic component of this season is not lost on Johnson. 

“It’s such an incredible opportunity. Not only is BYU in the Big 12, but we’re now the first team that BYU’s going to have in the Big 12,” he said. “A lot of our guys, me included, are feeling the pressure that we’ve got to set the expectation and set the bar here and just go attack this thing with all we’ve got. It’s super exciting and super motivating. Just looking forward to playing against the best teams and a lot of the best players in the country.”

Indeed, the Big 12 boasts some of the best coaches, players and traditions in the country. 

Hall said he’s looking forward to this massive challenge. 

“I love it. It’s been my dream to play against the best since I was a little kid. On the Big 12 stage, you get that every night in conference play. It’s going to be another learning year, for sure,” he said. “But I’m excited to compete and to win. That’s our goal going in — it’s not to just be in the Big 12. It’s to win in the Big 12.

“To have that opportunity to play against some of the best players and some of the best athletes in the country every night is a privilege. It’s one that I’m excited for and not going to take for granted. I don’t think anyone on our team is, either. We’re working our tails off so that we’re ready for the challenge. It’s like climbing Mount Everest. We’re gearing up for it.”

It’s official: BYU is in the Big 12. But now what?

To this point of the offseason, the Cougars haven’t spent much time watching film of Big 12 opponents, their styles, tendencies and commonalities. 

“Mostly, it’s been focused on us and how we can get better as players individually and as a team,” said Johnson. “I’m sure as the summer progresses, we’ll move more into style of play of other teams and things like that.”

Johnson added that this BYU basketball team is like a pioneer, blazing trails in the Big 12. 

“This Big 12 is a beast of a league and you’re going to have some dudes in there that are consistent first-round picks every year. We’ve just got to go in there and compete and give it everything you have,” he said. “It’s our first year in the Big 12, so the expectation is that this team is going to try to set the bar as high as we can for all these future BYU teams coming in here. Definitely a big responsibility.”

Pepperdine guard Houston Mallette talks to BYU guard Spencer Johnson after Mallette was issued a flagrant foul against Johnson during game at the Marriott Center in Provo on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News