Basketball season arrives this week in Provo, just in time to rescue downtrodden BYU fans that have endured a difficult campaign thus far.
The Cougars begin the season Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in the Marriott Center with their annual Cougar Tipoff, free to the public.
You have to go back a long way to find the kind of preseason national hype the Cougars and All-American guard Jimmer Fredette are receiving.
In fact, you might have to go all the way back to the days of Danny Ainge to find a Cougar with as much media attention as Jimmer is getting these days.
The Cougars start the 2010-11 season with some significant changes on the roster.
Departed seniors from last year include the school’s all-time career three-point shooter in Jonathan Tavernari and 6-11 starting center Chris Miles.
Also gone from last year’s record-setting 30-win team is shooting guard Tyler Haws, who is now serving a mission after a fantastic freshman season, and the speedy Micheal Lloyd Jr., who was kicked off the team this past spring.
Despite those considerable departures, BYU head coach Dave Rose looks like he will be able to continue his history of reloading into 2010-11.
As mentioned, the Cougars return national player-of-the-year candidate Jimmer Fredette.
The senior spent part of this past summer playing on the USA National Select team where he continued to make a name for himself with his solid play against the USA National Team comprised of NBA players that eventually won the FIBA world championship.
It was a day of rejoicing in Happy Valley this past spring when it was announced that Jimmer would remove his name from the NBA draft and return to BYU for his final season.
Fredette has been named to virtually everyone’s preseason All-American first team, include ESPN’s Dick Vitale. His play this season is expected to draw unprecedented media coverage as basketball talking heads around the country seem to not be able to get enough of Jimmer.
He will be joined this season by key 2009 returnees Jackson Emery (6'4", 190 lbs, Sr.), Brandon Davies (6'9", 235 lbs, So.), Noah Hartsock (6'8", 230 lbs, Jr.), Charles Abouo (6'5", 215 lbs, Jr.) and James Anderson (6'10", 240 lbs, Jr.).
The Cougars will also gain the services of the Collinsworth brothers this year.
Chris (6'9", 235 lbs, So.) is returning from a mission to Australia and has undergone a dramatic transformation in his body while away, while freshman Kyle (6'6", 210 lbs, Fr.) joins the program after being dubbed Utah’s Mr. Basketball and the Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior at Provo High School.
Other new additions include JC sharpshooter Stephen Rogers (6'8", 195 lbs, So.) from Mesa Community College and freshman Anson Winder (6'3", 195 lbs, Fr.) from Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas, who led his team to two consecutive Nevada state championships.
Brock Zylstra (6'6", 210 lbs, So.) and Logan Magnussen (6'6", 210 lbs, Sr.) also return, while Nick Martineau (6'0", 170 lbs, So.) rejoins the team after returning home from his mission to Chile.
BYU starts the season just outside of the ESPN/USA Today poll, checking in at No. 27. The preseason AP Poll is expected to be announced later today.
The Cougars have been picked to finish second in its final season in the Mountain West Conference by the media, behind favorite San Diego State.
In addition to facing MWC foes for the final time as conference opponents, BYU will play a non-conference schedule that includes UCLA, Arizona, Creighton, Hawaii, Utah State, Weber State and a home game against Fresno State and former BYU head coach Steve Cleveland.
On December 8th, the Cougars travel to Glens Falls, New York, the home town of Jimmer Fredette, to take on Vermont.
That game will be sandwiched by two games at Energy Solutions Arena, home of the NBA Utah Jazz. Hawaii visits ESA on December 4th, while Arizona will try to avenge last season’s 99-69 loss to BYU on December 11th.
BYU-Hawaii will venture into Provo for an interesting exhibition match of two Church-owned schools on November 5th.
The Cougars could also face Saint Mary’s in the Padre Island Classic in late November. The Gaels are a member of the West Coast Conference and will be a regular on the Cougars’ schedule when BYU joins the WCC next year.