BYU Will Look To ‘Do Some Damage’ In Maui Invitational Starting With UCLA
For BYU basketball, opportunities such as the prestigious Maui Invitational don’t come around every day.
Being in a mid-major conference such as the West Coast Conference makes securing an At-Large NCAA Tournament bid a difficult proposition. But the road to an at-large bid can be an easier one to tackle if you get signature wins. The Maui Invitational poses those opportunities for BYU.
“Let’s not forget why we’re here … we’re here to do some damage and it’s going to be really fun,” said head coach Mark Pope after practice in Lahaina, Hawaii.
BYU’s first opportunity for some damage is against a college basketball blueblood in the UCLA Bruins. The Bruins, now coached by Mick Cronin formerly of Cincinnati, is a program that carries a lot of brand recognition. But as a group hasn’t won much. The Bruins enter Monday night’s (9:30 pm MT on ESPN 2/KSL Newsradio) opening round nightcap with a 4-1 record after losing to Hofstra last week in Pauley Pavilion.
BYU is 3-2 after a heartbreaking overtime loss last Wednesday at Boise State. The Cougars enter the game as a favorite by oddsmakers and computer-based projections. Pope knows it will be a challenge.
“UCLA is pretty good. They’re long, they’re big, they’re athletic, and they have an unbelievable coach,” said Pope.
It’s been 32 years since BYU defeated UCLA. The Bruins have won the last three in the series, with the last matchup coming in December of 2010 during Jimmer Fredette’s incredible senior season.
If BYU finds a way to get a win over the Bruins, BYU will likely face the No. 4 Kansas Jayhawks. A loss would leave the Cougars playing Division II host Chaminade in the loser’s bracket, assuming the Jayhawks don’t get upset like Ralph Sampson and the Virginia Cavaliers back in 1982.
This year’s appearance in the Maui Invitational is the fourth all-time to college basketball’s most storied pre-season tournament. The last appearance was five years ago under Dave Rose. BYU’s first appearance was in 1992 and the Cougars advanced all the way to the Championship Game before losing to No. 1 Duke.
BYU will look to seniors Jake Toolson, TJ Haws, and Dalton Nixon to lead the way if the Cougars have any hopes of delivering on creating some damage on the islands.
Maui Invitational: BYU vs. UCLA
Tip-Off: 9:30 p.m. (MT)
Radio: KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM, 1160 AM
Streaming: KSL Newsradio App
Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.
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