Takeaways From BYU’s First Big 12 Basketball Pairings

Jul 20, 2023, 3:50 PM | Updated: 4:01 pm

BYU Basketball Big 12, Mark Pope...

BYU basketball coach Mark Pope leads the Cougars into the Big 12 Conference. (Ben B. Braun/Deseret News)

(Ben B. Braun/Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball in the Big 12 took another step toward tip-off with the opponent pairings being revealed.

Fifth-year head coach Mark Pope has often referred to the 18-game Big 12 schedule that awaits as “terrifying.” When you see the opponents that BYU will face on the league schedule, it’s hard to argue against his commentary.

The dates of when BYU will host or travel to these games are still to be determined. But with the opponents now revealed, there are a lot of thoughts that instantly popped up.

Here are some of those instant takeaways.

Six NCAA Tournament teams roll into Provo

BYU coach Mark Pope has dreamed of giving Cougar fans high-level opponents at the Marriott Center. That’s no longer a struggle as they are built-in with the Big 12 schedule.

Six teams from last year’s NCAA Tournament will visit the Marriott Center. Those six are Texas, Baylor, Kansas State, TCU, Houston, and Iowa State. Last year, the lowest seed among those six teams in the Big Dance was a 6-seed for Iowa State and TCU.

Houston was a 1-seed in last year’s field of 68.

There has been a high demand for BYU basketball season tickets. The entire lower bowl is sold out. Having these opponents on the schedule will probably inspire people to donate more to guarantee their tickets.

BYU visits Allen Fieldhouse for the first time since 1971

BYU didn’t draw a home game against Kansas in year one. Instead, they will visit Allen Fieldhouse for the first time in 52 years. The last time BYU played in Lawrence, Kresimir Cosic was on BYU’s roster.

It’s been a long time.

BYU, under Mark Pope, got a taste of Kansas basketball during Pope’s first season at the Maui Invitational. The Jayhawks won that game to advance to the Maui title. Had COVID-19 not taken away the NCAA Tournament, that Kansas team was expected to be the favorite to win it all.

Four years later, not much has changed for Kansas. They landed the nation’s number one transfer portal prospect Hunter Dickinson from Michigan, and look poised for a title once again.

Caleb Lohner returns

BYU gets Baylor on a home-and-away setup. That means BYU will host former Cougar Caleb Lohner one last time. Lohner transferred to Baylor from BYU last offseason. He came off the bench as a role player during his first year with the Bears. He averaged 3.2 points and 3.5 rebounds in 12 minutes of action per game.

Lohner had his ups and downs at BYU, but I expect fans to welcome him back to Provo warmly.

Tough road environments

The road-only games are some of the most challenging road venues the Big 12 offers. As mentioned earlier, BYU goes to Kansas and the Jayhawks need no explanation. Their venue speaks for itself.

Like the BYU football team, BYU hoops will make the long trip to Morgantown to take on the Mountaineers. Last year, Ken Pomeroy’s ratings had West Virginia as the nation’s No. 1 home-court advantage. The Mountaineers are a more challenging team to take down on their home floor than away. The same can be said for Texas Tech.

BYU will visit Lubbock with no return trip from the Red Raiders. Texas Tech was No. 2 on Pomeroy’s home-court advantage metrics last season.

Both the Red Raiders and Mountaineers have new head coaches this season.

Hosting Texas in at least one Big 12 sport

The BYU men’s basketball team is the only team (so far) that will welcome Texas to Provo during the Longhorns final year in the Big 12 Conference. BYU football, women’s volleyball, women’s basketball, and soccer all have trips to Austin this season.

Texas was the Big 12 Tournament champion last season. They reached the Elite Eight before falling to Miami in the regional finals.

The last BYU hosted Texas in Provo in basketball was in 1974.

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 Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on Twitter and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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Takeaways From BYU’s First Big 12 Basketball Pairings