For BYU's HC Dave Rose, it has been an interesting offseason.
Rose was diagnosed with pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor cancer this summer. The tumor was successfully removed, and Rose (so far) remains completely cancer free. It will be interesting to see how this affects his coaching (if at all) and how it affects the players.
BYU has won three consecutive Mountain West Conference championships (some of them shared), and they are the favorite to do so again. They received 23 of 24 first place votes in the preseason Mountain West Conference media poll.
They return four starters from last year's squad, which went 25-8, losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Texas A&M.
The one starter they did lose was Lee Cummard, who was their best all-around player from a year ago. His production may look hard to replace, but with how much experience they return, the production will be easily made up by a committee of their experienced players.
Jimmer Fredette, a junior, is the preseason pick for conference player of the year.
Here is my projected starting lineup for this coming season:
* G: Lamont Morgan Jr.: 5'10", 170, Sr.
* G: Jimmer Fredette: 6'2", 195, Jr.
* G: Jackson Emery: 6'3", 185, Jr.
* F: Jonathan Tavernari: 6'6", 215, Sr.
* C: Chris Miles: 6'11", 235, Sr.
It is a small but versatile lineup with loads of talent and experience.
Morgan was solid off the bench last year and is a solid ball-handler and defender.
Fredette and Tavernari are the unquestioned leaders of this bunch. Fredette will probably be the go-to guy in clutch situations, replacing Cummard's leadership in that area. Look for him to be among the conference leaders in points, assist, and steals.
Emery is an athletic energy guy who hustles as hard as anyone out on the court. He plays great defense and is solid and efficient on offense, with a solid outside shot.
Tavernari is small to play the four but is BYU's leading returning rebounder. Tavernari can be very streaky. He is a fiery competitor and a great outside shooter with an extremely quick release. He is capable of putting up points in bunches as fast as anyone in the country.
Miles is a solid presence inside. He is an anchor offensively and defensively, and if he can avoid foul trouble, he will put up some good numbers for the Cougars.
BYU's main challenger and competitor for the 2009 conference championship will be UNLV.
UNLV swept BYU last year and has a bunch of transfers, new exciting players, and solid returnees that could create a lot of problems for BYU. If UNLV can come together quickly from a chemistry standpoint, they have the talent to be one of the best teams in the country.
San Diego State, New Mexico, and (perhaps) Utah also have the talent to take the conference.
After looking at their schedule, I will predict a 28-4 regular season record, going 13-3 in conference. I think BYU will lose at Arizona, at UNLV, at San Diego State, and at New Mexico.
A 13-3 conference record should be good enough to claim the regular season conference title.
BYU has yet to win the post-season conference tournament. They have three finals appearances in the tournament, but have fell to UNLV all three times. The Mountain West tournament is not played at a neutral site, but on UNLV's home court. The conference does this for purely economic reasons.
Las Vegas is the conferences most attractive city and draws the biggest crowds. The only drawback is the competitive disadvantage against teams like BYU. Even with a 28-4 record, a conference tournament championship will be key to giving BYU the seed they need in the NCAA tournament. I think that BYU will lose to UNLV in the conference championship game, as they did in 2007 and 2008.
The main question for BYU fans is when will they win a game in the NCAA tournament. Is this finally the year they can win (at least) one game in the tournament?
BYU's last win in the NCAA tournament came in 1993. They have suffered some close and tragic losses in the seven NCAA tournament appearances since then.
I'm saying that this is finally the year that turns around. I think BYU will win (gasp!) a game in the NCAA tournament this year—because they have the talent to get a seed in the 5-6 range and will finally be able to reverse their luck in the NCAA tournament.
BYU's schedule for the 2009-2010 season:
|NOV 13||FRI||Bradley||PROVO, UT|
|NOV 17||TUE||Idaho State||PROVO, UT|
|NOV 20||FRI||Hawaii||Honolulu, HI|
|NOV 24||TUE||Southern||PROVO, UT|
|NOV 27||FRI||Weber State||PROVO, UT|
|DEC 2||WED||Utah State||Logan, UT|
|DEC 5||SAT||San Francisco|
Energy Solutions Arena
|Salt Lake City, UT|
|DEC 8||TUE||Arizona State||PROVO, UT|
|DEC 12||SAT||Fresno State|
|Los Angeles, CA|
|DEC 17||THU||Wagner||PROVO, UT|
|DEC 19||SAT||Eastern Washington||PROVO, UT|
|Las Vegas, NV|
|DEC 23||WED||Nebraska or Tulsa|
|Las Vegas, NV|
|DEC 28||MON||Arizona||Tucson, AZ|
|JAN 2||SAT||Eastern New Mexico||PROVO, UT|
|JAN 6||WED||UNLV||PROVO, UT|
|JAN 9||SAT||UTEP||El Paso, TX|
|JAN 13||WED||Air Force||USAFA, CO|
|JAN 16||SAT||Colorado State||PROVO, UT|
|JAN 20||WED||Wyoming||PROVO, UT|
|JAN 23||SAT||San Diego State||San Diego, CA|
|JAN 27||WED||New Mexico||Albuquerque, NM|
|JAN 30||SAT||Utah||PROVO, UT|
|FEB 2||TUE||TCU||PROVO, UT|
|FEB 6||SAT||UNLV||Las Vegas, NV|
|FEB 13||SAT||Air Force||PROVO, UT|
|FEB 17||WED||Colorado State||Fort Collins, CO|
|FEB 20||SAT||Wyoming||Laramie, WY|
|FEB 24||WED||San Diego State||PROVO, UT|
|FEB 27||SAT||New Mexico||PROVO, UT|
|MAR 3||WED||Utah||Salt Lake City, UT|
|MAR 6||SAT||TCU||Fort Worth, TX|