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Mark Pope, Craig Smith among 12 coaches ‘on the rise’ in college basketball

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BYU’s Mark Pope, left, and Utah State’s Craig Smith, right, made Jon Rothstein’s list of men’s college basketball coaches who are on the rise.

Deseret News and Associated Press photos

Earlier this week, college basketball reporter Jon Rothstein highlighted 12 men’s basketball coaches who he says are “on the rise,” and two of them lead schools in the state of Utah, BYU’s Mark Pope and Utah State’s Craig Smith.

Of Pope, Rothstein wrote that “he’s a potential star,” noting the Cougars’ 24-8 record last season, and concluded, “As long as Pope is BYU’s head coach, the Cougars will be expected to be a perennial contender for the field of 68.”

Rothstein wrote that he’s surprised to call Logan, where Utah State is, a “basketball hotbed” notwithstanding the Aggies’ long run of success under Stew Morrill from 1998-2015, but “back-to-back Mountain West Conference Tournament titles have quickly changed Utah State’s national perception and that’s because of Smith,” Rothstein wrote, adding that the Aggies are 54-15 in two years under Smith and “have scored more points than any other two-year period in the history of Utah State’s program.”

The following are the other 10 coaches Rothstein recognized:

Richie Riley, South Alabama

David Cox, Rhode Island

Andy Toole, Robert Morris

Matt Figger, Austin Peay

James Jones, Yale

Bob Richey, Furman

Damon Stoudamire, Pacific

Brian Wardle, Bradley

Todd Golden, San Francisco

Jeremy Ballard, Florida International