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What WCC Coaches, Players Think Of BYU Basketball Leaving For Big 12

Oct 6, 2022, 4:11 PM
BYU Basketball, Gonzaga, Mark Few...
Gonzaga head coach Mark Few was complimentary towards BYU basketball making a move to the Big 12 Conference. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS – The 2022-23 season will be the last year with BYU basketball in the West Coast Conference.

It will bring to a close a unique tenure of BYU hoops. When BYU arrived in the conference in 2011, they were fresh off a Sweet 16 run with Jimmer Fredette. Many BYU fans felt the Cougs were ready to contend for the WCC mountaintop with Gonzaga.

That hasn’t happened.

If BYU doesn’t knock off the juggernaut Zags this year, which seems unlikely, it will be BYU’s first conference where they don’t win a title.

Considering Gonzaga is a national title contender and BYU is trying to find its identity with a new and young roster after an underwhelming NIT finish a season ago, BYU’s existence in the WCC likely concludes without titles.

So did they make an impact on the WCC?

BYU gave the WCC more “street cred”

Asking coaches and players around the West Coast Conference, the answer to that question is simple. Yes, BYU made a significant impact on the WCC.

“They provided a lot and they gave us another program that has a lot of street cred in college basketball,” said Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett at WCC Media Day. “People have known that program for decades –back when (Danny) Ainge played– and they’ve always been good. They’ve always drawn well.

“They gave us a program that gives us national recognition. I mean, shoot, that’s a religion. BYU, like, the whole school, the whole religion follows that school. So everybody knows them, and they’re good. And it’s a great atmosphere to play at.”

Gonzaga’s Mark Few is happy for BYU

Gonzaga coach Mark Few, who has become an institution in Spokane and turned the Zags into a blueblood, had nothing but high praise for BYU basketball.

“I’m happy for them,” said Few about BYU’s move to the Big 12 Conference. “They found a great landing spot and that’s a great step for them for, you know, all of their programs. But it’s been great. Their effect on the league has been huge and I thought it was one of the greatest things we’ve done as a league adding them. In the 30-plus years, I’ve been in [the WCC].

“They’ve been a great partner, they’re a national program, and they act like a national program. Their game day is as good as anybody’s and we’ve been everyone. But to experience it, it’s as big time as anybodys. It’s been a healthy rivalry with some phenomenal games and different characters involved over the years and highly competitive.”

WCC players on BYU basketball leaving for the Big 12

Even players within the West Coast Conference can’t help but tip their cap to what BYU provided to the WCC as they prepare for the Big 12 Conference.

“Like Coach [Few] said, happy for them, the next step in their chapter. I just appreciate the rivalry that I came into,” said Gonzaga guard Julian Strawther. “Obviously, I wasn’t there from the beginning. But I’ve seen it develop. Playing in the Marriott Center for the first time last year was truly amazing. It’s definitely one of the better atmospheres in college basketball, and I mean that when I say it.”

“They did what they felt was best for their program,” said San Francisco guard Khalil Shabazz to KSL Sports. “It will lose a contender in our conference, but you know, that just makes the ability for somebody else to step up another program, another team, or whatever. They did what they needed to do.”

“Easy not to like”

Despite the lack of championships, BYU’s presence around the WCC will be missed.

“I’ve got to be honest; I wish they weren’t leaving,” said Bennett. “Just because of the rivalry they provide and the excitement in our league they provide. They’re easy not to like, so that makes it fun.”

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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