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BYU’s basketball schedule not finalized yet but Cougars set to face several big-name programs

BYU’s non-conference slate is expected to include Oregon, Arizona State, San Diego State, Utah, Utah State.

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Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley talks to the team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Washington on Thursday, March 5, 2020, in Tempe, Ariz. BYU is scheduled to play Arizona State in the Jerry Colangelo Classic at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix on Dec. 19.

Darryl Webb, AP

PROVO — While the BYU basketball program hasn’t announced its entire schedule for the 2020-21 season, it appears that the Cougars, like last year, will play another formidable non-conference slate. 

BYU reportedly will face Oregon, which finished No. 13 in the final rankings last season and is projected to be a preseason Top 25 team, on Nov. 17 in Portland in the Phil Knight Invitational as part of a double-header. The other game reportedly will feature Gonzaga and USC. 

The following week, the Cougars are scheduled to play in the Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas Nov. 19-20. BYU will play George Mason in a four-team event that also includes Tulsa and Boston College. Each team will play two games. 

On Dec. 1, BYU visits San Diego State, which ended last season ranked No. 6 in the country. 

Later, the Cougars travel to the defending Mountain West Conference Tournament champion Utah State Dec. 5, followed by a home game against arch-rival Utah Dec. 12. 

One week later, BYU will meet Arizona State in a neutral-site contest in Phoenix as part of the Jerry Colangelo Classic at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Sun Devils posted a 20-11 record last season.

The Jerry Colangelo Classic is a quadruple-header that also features Gonzaga against Tech Tech; Grand Canyon against San Francisco; and Northern Arizona against San Diego. 

“In terms of when the schedule will be completed, we want to make sure that we get it right first. If that happens to be sooner, then great. If that happens to be a little later, that’s great, too.” — BYU assistant coach Nick Robinson

“This is going to be a great event for college basketball fans. We’re really excited about the opportunity to play at a great venue against a great program in Arizona State,” BYU coach Mark Pope said last month. “But we’re even more excited to play in an area that is a hotbed of BYU fans. We have great fans all over the country and we can’t wait to play in front of Cougar fans in Arizona.”

Said ASU coach Bobby Hurley: “We always want to schedule great neutral site games in NBA arenas against great competition and that is what this game allows. Playing in downtown Phoenix, where ASU has made such a great impact, is a natural for us.”

There will be other non-conference games against Utah Valley University, Weber State and Boise State. The contests against UVU and BSU will be played in Provo. 

The college basketball season is set to tip off Nov. 10 and the West Coast Conference schedule is slated to begin Dec. 31. As previously reported, BYU will play Santa Clara and Loyola Marymount only once this season as part of the 16-game WCC schedule. 

Meanwhile, Pope said in the spring that he and his staff are trying to set up games with Quad 1 and Quad 2 opponents at the Marriott Center, which isn’t a simple task. 

“We’re working really hard at that. I want that for our fans so badly. We’re throwing out everything. We’ve tried going two-for-ones. There are a bunch of neutral games that are set up by promoters,” Pope said. “We’re trying to get a back-end deal where they come back and play us later. It’s really complicated. Thinking of the blue bloods, we actually thought we had one on the schedule a few weeks ago but it just disintegrated. It’s hard. That’s no excuse. We have to get it done. It’s our job to get it done. If I can’t get it done, I’m failing at my job. We’ve got to find more creative ways to do it. We’re taking suggestions right now. I do think that this fan base deserves it; college basketball deserves it.” 

Pope added that ESPN analyst Sean Farnham, who helped call BYU’s upset of No. 2 Gonzaga last March at the Marriott Center, told him after the game, “I’ve never been in an environment like this in my whole career doing games.”

For Pope, bringing high-profile teams to Provo is a priority. 

“I’ve got to find a way to get this schedule right or they should send me packing,” he said.

So when will the BYU basketball schedule be finalized and released?

“In terms of when the schedule will be completed, we want to make sure that we get it right first. If that happens to be sooner, then great. If that happens to be a little later, that’s great, too,” assistant coach Nick Robinson told the Deseret News in April. “Ultimately, we want to get a schedule that’s going to prepare us for our conference schedule in one of the best leagues in the country in the WCC, and also that will prepare us and put us in a good situation to have a great resume for the NCAA Tournament.”