BYU’s Mark Pope Shares Thoughts On Big 12/Gonzaga Talks

Nov 10, 2022, 2:22 PM | Updated: 2:29 pm
Gonzaga Big 12, BYU, Mark Pope...
BYU basketball coach Mark Pope (left) discussed the reports of Gonzaga talking with the Big 12 Conference. (Nate Edwards/BYU Photo)
(Nate Edwards/BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah – When BYU basketball joins the Big 12 Conference in 2023, could a fellow WCC program join them? The reports of Gonzaga and the Big 12 engaging in “exploratory” talks are interesting.

Big 12 basketball is already home to the last two National Champions. Adding Gonzaga could strengthen the league even more.

Gonzaga to the Big 12?

BYU basketball coach Mark Pope has witnessed the talent of Gonzaga up close since he took over in Provo in 2019. When KSL Sports asked about his thoughts on the Gonzaga/Big 12 talks, the always entertaining Pope smiled and then said, “Add the Zags and add the Celtics. I mean, why not? Like, how can we make this league any better? Like it’s ridiculous.”

If Gonzaga were added to the Big 12, it would give the conference the top four teams in last year’s Ken Pomeroy ratings, with Kansas, Baylor, Gonzaga, and 2023 addition Houston. It’s a loaded league that Pope has previously said is “terrifying,” but he wants the conference to be as strong as possible.

“Why not make it the best league…?”

“Listen, this is what we signed up for,” Pope said. “So why not make it the best league in the world by 100 times if it’s only 50 times better than every other league? I’m all for it. Like, if it works for the Zags and it works for the Big 12, why would we not want it? It’s just awesome. Coach Few is so incredible. Then we’d have the team that’s been ranked No. 1 in the country for the last three years and the last two national champions, right? Why not just put it all in there together? I think it’s pretty exciting.”

Other coaches, such as Hall of Famer Bob Huggins at West Virginia, are skeptical about the Zags in the Big 12. “I would think it would be a tremendous awakening for Gonzaga to get in this league and play who we play day after day,” said Huggins to reporters last week.

West Virginia finished last in the Big 12 last season and was rated as the 66th-best team in the KenPom metrics.

BYU’s future in the Big 12

BYU has to get through its final season as a member of the West Coast Conference before officially joining the Big 12 on July 1, 2023. When BYU enters next year, the Big 12 will be a 14-team league that includes Texas and Oklahoma before they leave for the SEC in 2025.

BYU and Gonzaga have expressed a desire to play one another in the future if they are in separate conferences.

The Zags have reportedly also had conversations with the Pac-12 and the Big East Conference.

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.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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