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Analysis: BYU Basketball Reveals Team Identity During Road Sweep

Coach Pope in the huddle at the Marriott Center (Courtesy of BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah – The first year of BYU basketball under Mark Pope was a thing of beauty on the offensive end. Led by TJ Haws, Jake Toolson, and Yoeli Childs, Mark Pope’s first year with the Cougars produced an offensive juggernaut.

BYU was the nation’s best three-point shooting team and they rolled to a final Top 25 ranking and an impressive 24-8 record.

This year, it’s a far different look, but the results could potentially be better.

A road sweep at Saint Mary’s and San Francisco highlighted the identity of this year’s BYU basketball team. It’s toughness.

Toughness is now the identity for BYU basketball in 2021

Wins in Moraga and San Francisco were not achieved with last year’s offensive juggernaut. At times this past weekend, Cougar Nation everywhere was probably thinking this year’s team couldn’t hit a basket against the Gaels or Dons. But when the final horn sounded in both games this weekend, BYU came away victorious by a sizable margin in each game.

“This has been a toughness weekend,” said BYU coach Mark Pope. “I’m telling you if we can put more weekends like this together where these guys are just this tough and their resolve is this sure, and they’re able to manage frustration in such a focused way; it bodes well for the possibilities with this team.”

You look back historically and BYU has a rich history of teams that advanced to the postseason that could knock down the three consistently. There aren’t many BYU squads that could get gritty and find a way to pull off big road wins when their shot goes sideways.

This team can do that.

BYU now favored in every game except a home tilt with Gonzaga

Heading into Saturday’s game against USF, BYU found themselves in Joe Lunardi’s projected field of 68. With a win over the Dons now in the rearview mirror, Ken Pomeroy has BYU as a favorite in every game the Cougars play until they have a rematch against Gonzaga to close out the regular season.

Finding that identity of toughness and grit will serve Pope’s team well because they have room to grow as a team. Purdue transfer Matt Haarms had one of his best performances as a BYU Cougar against USF. Richard Harward has shown why Mark Pope was telling everyone in the preseason that BYU fans would love “this Richard Harward.”

Caleb Lohner is beginning to find his shot and guard Alex Barcello is becoming the captain of this team that makes his teammates better around him.

It’s not the style and looks that many expected this team to look like when it was constructed in the spring. But it’s become a tough, physical group that will not go down without a fight, regardless of the circumstances.

“If we can always rely on this toughness, man, we can get something done,” Pope said. “I could not be more proud to be associated with this basketball team right now with what these guys did this weekend.”

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com 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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