Ranking BYU’s ‘Terrifying’ Non-Conference Games From Easiest To Hardest

Nov 13, 2020, 9:55 AM
BYU Basketball - Alex Barcello...
Brigham Young Cougars guard Alex Barcello (4) passes to a teammate after being blocked on his shot by University of Nevada Las Vegas Rebels guard Amauri Hardy (3) during the second half of a basketball game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. (Colter Peterson, Deseret News)
(Colter Peterson, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball head coach Mark Pope sought the toughest schedule he could get this year. A year with a pandemic and where scheduling was “wilder than a goat rodeo” (thanks, Jon Rothstein. It spreads), Mark Pope delivered a tough non-conference schedule.

Some of the games against Power 6 squads are gone in Oregon and Arizona State, but matchups against San Diego State and Boise State could turn out to be quality Quad 1 matchups that could boost a BYU team seeking a return to the Big Dance.

Pope brought the energy on Thursday as he revealed his nonconference schedule with assistant coach Nick Robinson to reports via Zoom. It was capped off by an emphatic, “Let’s go” by Robinson.

It’s fitting because it’s time to go soon as tip-off is less than two weeks away when the Cougars open up against Westminster in Provo on November 25th.

“This really is a terrifying schedule. If you think about it, we start the season with three games in four days; then we go away from home, three games in five days with traveling across the country,” Pope said. “Then Boise State, who might be the best team we play, I’m going to be surprised if they’re not a top 25 team by the end of the season. They’re so freakin’ loaded with talent. Then Utah, which is also a monster of a game.

“Then we take a ‘break’ by going to San Diego State for the sixth game in a row. That’s the type of schedule that gets you fired. So pray for me. Pray for us. We’re so excited. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

BYU Basketball: Ranking the 2020-21 Nonconference games from easiest to hardest

#11 Westminster

Date: November 25th, 2020

Division II

2019-20 record: 16-12

The Griffins lost their top scorer from a season ago in Brandon Warr. Warr is now on BYU’s roster as a graduate transfer and is expected to redshirt this season.

#10 New Orleans

Date: November 26th, 2020

Conference: Southland

2019-20 record: 9-21

This is only the second time in program history that BYU has faced off against the Privateers. The first meeting took place in the first round of the 1987 NCAA Tournament. A game that Privateers won in Birmingham, 83-79.

#9 Texas Southern

Date: December 21st, 2020

Conference: SWAC

2019-20 record: 16-16

Up until last year, the Tigers had gone to the postseason five consecutive years. BYU is 2-0 all-time against Texas Southern, with the most recent meeting three years ago.

#8 Utah Valley

Date: November 28th, 2020

Conference: WAC

2019-20 record: 11-19

Mark Madsen will look to improve on the 11 wins from last season in year two leading the Wolverines. He will have to do it with zero starters returning from last year’s team. Guard Brandon Averette is now a key piece to BYU’s roster. Georgia Tech grad transfer Evan Cole should provide an upgrade in the frontcourt.

#7 Weber State

Date: December 23rd, 2020 (at Vivint Smarthome Arena)

Conference: Big Sky

2019-20 record: 12-20

Weber’s uncharacteristic losing season led to seven players transferring out of Randy Rahe’s program this past off-season. The last time Weber State had a losing season was in 2014-15; they won the Big Sky the following year. Rahe is looking for a quick turnaround this year with transfers in the mix and true freshman Dillon Jones, who should see playing time right away this season.

#6 UConn -or- Vanderbilt

Date: December 3rd, 2020 (Legends Classic)

Conference: Big East/SEC

2019-20 record: UConn – 19-12; Vanderbilt – 11-21

How BYU fares against USC will determine who they face in the bubble at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. UConn is expected to be the tougher opponent between the two. Seeing UConn back in the Big East feels right. The Cougars haven’t faced UConn since a first-round meeting in the 2003 NCAA Tournament. James Bouknight might be one of the most explosive guards in college basketball this season. The Huskies have NCAA Tournament potential.

The first year of the Jerry Stackhouse era in Nashville didn’t go so well as the Commodores finished 11-21. You have to go all the way back to 1957 to find the last time BYU and Vandy squared off in hoops.

#5 Utah

Date: December 12th, 2020

Conference: Pac-12

2019-20 record: 16-15

With Timmy Allen and Rylan Jones back, the Utes should have a chance to move up the Pac-12 hierarchy this season. Alfonso Plummer is a sharpshooter who came on late in the season. The Mark Pope/Larry Krystkowiak era of BYU/Utah produced a classic game last year with emotions running high. This one in Provo should be a dandy.

#4 USC

Date: December 1st, 2020 (Legends Classic)

Conference: Pac-12

2019-20 record: 22-9

USC has a superstar true freshman in 6-foot-11 center Evan Mobley. His presence, paired with UVU transfer Isaiah White, makes USC a likely at-large team this season in the NCAA Tournament.

#3 at Utah State

Date: December 5th, 2020

Conference: Mountain West

2019-20 record: 26-8

Craig Smith has got the magic of the Spectrum rocking once again. The Aggies are the two-time defending Mountain West Conference Champions. Sam Merrill departs, but center Neemias Queta is back, and he’s one of the top big men out west. Then the Aggies add Virginia transfer, Marco Anthony on the guard line.

Utah State has lost eight straight in the series against BYU. The Aggies are going to want this one badly.

#2 Boise State

Date: December 9th, 2020

Conference: Mountain West

2019-20 record: 20-12

The Broncos took down BYU last year, and they’ll be even better this season when they stroll into Provo. Derrick Alston, who dropped 26 points against BYU last year, is back, and he’s a preseason MWC Player of the Year candidate. Portland transfer Marcus Shaver is expected to make an immediate contribution, and Arizona transfer Devonaire Doutrive is a former Top-100 recruit who could see a lot of time.

#1 San Diego State

Date: December 18th, 2020

Conference: Mountain West

2019-20 record: 30-2

The Aztecs were one of the top teams in the country last year, losing only two games. SDSU’s dynamic backcourt of Malachi Flynn and KJ Feagin is gone, but Cal State Northridge grad transfer Terrell Gomez will try to fill those big shoes left on Montezuma Mesa’s backcourt. Jordan Schakel, who hit many key three’s down the stretch against BYU, is back along with Matt Mitchell, a preseason All-Mountain West Conference player. BYU and SDSU is a great basketball rivalry that should be an annual matchup.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m., KSL Newsradio). Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper and the KSL Sports app.

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