No. 18 BYU Not Overlooking Winless Texas Southern
PROVO, Utah – For the first time since Jimmer Fredette gave everyone a case of “Jimmermania,” BYU basketball is preparing for a November game as a Top 25 team.
After rolling through a previously ranked Oregon squad, BYU (4-0) climbed to No. 18 in the AP Top 25. A poll that Mark Pope’s program has been ranked in at season’s end the past two years, but they never came close to hitting in the early part of those seasons.
Two of the last four BYU basketball teams to be ranked in the AP Top 25 in November advanced to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. It sets the stage for BYU to be a national player throughout this season.
But first things first, taking care of business tonight against a Texas Southern squad that participated in last year’s NCAA Tournament. Of course, you’d probably have to squint hard to realize the Tigers were a Big Dance squad a year ago, considering they are off to an 0-5 start.
With rival Utah waiting in the wings on Saturday night, could nationally-ranked BYU maybe have a case of overlooking the Tigers? Mark Pope doesn’t see that happening.
“You know it’s so interesting; ranking teams on wins and losses right now is a little bit insane,” said Mark Pope when discussing Texas Southern. “This team is 0-5. They’ve led in every single game except the Oregon game. That includes leading in the second half at North Carolina State, most recently. They led at Air Force, led at Washington –almost had the win–, they led at Saint Mary’s and we just saw how good Saint Mary’s is. This Texas Southern team is really good.”
The Tigers are the fourth team BYU has faced out of their first five games to have participated in the preceding NCAA Tournament in 2020.
“Like Cleveland State, they are a championship team. They won their conference, won their conference tournament, and then won a game in the NCAA Tournament last year with essentially the whole crew back. They are a championship pedigree team. They are just in a position where they had to go on the road and play five ridiculously difficult games to start the season, and they’ve been in every single one. I don’t think my guys are looking past them because this Texas Southern team is really good and they are really dangerous. They’ve been on the cusp of a win five times in a row against high major teams. So this is going to be a big-time challenge for us.”
No. 18 BYU vs. Texas Southern
Tip: 7 p.m. (MT)
Location: Marriott Center; Provo
Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM – Pregame begins at 6 p.m.)
Series: BYU leads 3-0
Last meeting: 2020 – BYU 87, Texas Southern 71 in Provo
BYU Basketball gets after opponents on the defensive end
Through four games this season, BYU basketball has been a pleasant surprise on the defensive end. This year, everyone you talk to around the program has emphasized the importance of being a championship team on defense.
The most points allowed by BYU this season was 61 points to NAIA Central Methodist. Everyone else the Cougars have faced has been held to 60 points or lower.
According to Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted efficiency ratings, the Cougars are No. 32 nationally in defense. That’s good for third-best in the WCC behind Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s, who are having excellent weeks down in Las Vegas right now in MTE tournaments.
In an era where the three-point shot is a great equalizer, BYU has locked down opponents from beyond the arc. BYU is second nationally in Ken Pom’s metrics defending the three against DI competition. Division I teams are shooting 19% from three against BYU’s defense.
Cougar fans can give thanks for Alex Barcello
The WCC Player of the Week, Alex Barcello, has been one of the nation’s top guards through the season’s first two weeks. Barcello is off to an impressive start to his final year at BYU, especially on the offensive end.
Through four games, Barcello is second nationally in effective field goal percentage at 88.9%. He’s one of only three players in the country that has attempted at least 18 free throws and has yet to miss one. The super senior guard is also knocking down 61.5% of his three-point attempts this season.
What to know about Texas Southern
The Tigers won a play-in game in the NCAA Tournament last year against Mount St. Mary’s, 60-52, before seeing their season end in the round of 64 against No. 1-seed Michigan, 82-66.
Texas Southern has built an identity on traveling coast-to-coast during non-conference play, then loads up on wins and usually championships in SWAC play.
BYU head coach Mark Pope has been proud of how his team has rebounded through the first four games. However, TSU could test BYU’s recent success on the glass. This season, the Tigers bring a frontcourt that has helped them become the nation’s ninth-best offensive rebounding team.
Former Texas A&M transfer John Walker III is the leading scorer averaging 12.8 points per game. He’s paired up with 6-foot-9 sophomore Joirdon Karl Nicholas, averaging 11.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.
TSU gets all of their work done in the post and the mid-range. They average only four three-point attempts per game, which ranks 345th nationally out of 350 schools.
G – Alex Barcello, 6-2, 192, Sr.
G – Te’Jon Lucas, 6-1, 187, Sr.
F – Gideon George, 6-6, 210, Sr.
F – Caleb Lohner, 6-8, 235, Soph.
C – Gavin Baxter, 6-9, 228, Sr.
Texas Southern (0-5)
G – PJ Henry, 5-10, 175, Jr.
G – Jordan Gilliam, 6-6, 175, Sr.
F – Justin Hopkins, 6-5, 205, Sr.
F – John Walker III, 6-9, 200, Sr.
F – Joirdon Karl Nicholas, 6-9, 220, Sr.
BYU vs. Texas Southern Prediction
Texas Southern has a talented frontcourt that will provide a good test for Gavin Baxter and Caleb Lohner, who are both coming off their best offensive games this season in the win over Central Methodist. But ultimately, BYU’s offensive firepower will overwhelm the Tigers, who want to get in a defensive slugfest.
TSU hangs around for a half, but then BYU pulls away to a blowout win in the second half.
BYU 82, Texas Southern 65
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.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.
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