COUGAR TRACKS

BYU Basketball Believes They Will ‘Make Some Noise’ In Big 12

Nov 1, 2023, 11:46 AM | Updated: 11:46 am

PROVO, UtahΒ – BYU basketball has low expectations coming into its first season in the Big 12 Conference. That’s to be expected after a 19-win campaign in the WCC.

Now, fifth-year head coach Mark Pope sets his sights on the toughest conference in America.

The intensity of Gonzaga or Saint Mary’s games in the WCC, which came four times a year, will occur in all 18 league games in the Big 12. Every team in the Big 12 Conference is a preseason Top-75 team in the KenPom metrics.

Pomeroy is bullish on the prospects of BYU entering the season. He was high on them last year before they sputtered to a lackluster campaign that was sacrificed to build continuity entering the Big 12.

Low expectations for BYU basketball in year one of the Big 12

The coaches in the Big 12 don’t see that continuity from BYU making a dent in the league, as they tabbed Mark Pope’s Cougars to finish 13th out of 14 teams.

Bringing back a large portion of the roster was critical to Pope. Last season, he made it clear before the season tipped off that BYU was taking a “long game” approach to building up the program again entering the Big 12.

Pope has acknowledged that this league will be similar to climbing Mt. Everest. Other coaches around the Big 12 have said you’re one rolled ankle away from being at the bottom of the league. But Pope is ready to tackle the challenge.

“I have no doubt this is where we belong,” Pope said to KSL Sports. “We’re saying that with all humility, understanding how difficult this is. But this is where we belong. It’s been a long road to get here. We know that we’re going to take some shots along the way. There’ll be some times when we’re feeling a little bludgeoned. But this is where we’re meant to be at this point in time and in basketball world history.”

“Total chaos” offseason

The always-animated Pope described BYU’s offseason as “total chaos.” But he added that he “liked the whole thing.”

He enters year one in the Big 12 with one scholarship available remaining. They had dynamic Samford guard Ques Glover, who was expected to contribute to BYU’s backcourt significantly. However, due to issues over NIL, Glover moved on from BYU and ended up at Big 12 opponent Kansas State.

BYU added Charlotte transfer Aly Khalifa. The 6-foot-11 big man from Egypt suffered a knee injury that prevented him from playing during BYU’s foreign tour to Croatia and Italy. Still, since training camp, he’s been able to knock down the three and is a willing and capable passer who can force defenders to guard him.

Familiar faces return for BYU basketball

To pair up with Khalifa, BYU brings back 6-foot-6 rebounding machine Fousseyni Traore. The former Wasatch Academy product has become a fan favorite during his first two years in Provo. For the first time since he arrived on campus, Traore is healthy. Last year, Traore navigated a hamstring injury that limited him all season. Pair the nagging injuries with playing out of position at the five instead of the four; it was a transition year for Traore.

This year has the makings to be an improved year for Traore as he comes in healthy and appears to have improved his shooting touch away from the basket.

UC Irvine transfer Dawson Baker has the potential, when healthy, to be one of the top players in the program. The Latter-day Saint prospect was recruited lightly by BYU out of high school, sending him to play for the Anteaters in the Big West Conference.

Baker, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound guard, was a Second Team All-Big West performer last year at UC Irvine. He has a smooth stroke with a willingness to get after it on the defensive end.

BYU is going to be led by Dallin Hall. The former State Champion from Fremont High School enters his second season in the program. But it’s his first year with a full offseason under his belt. Last year, Hall was working his way back from serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Last year, Hall averaged 7.3 points and 3.2 assists last season. An area of focus has been to improve his three-point shooting, which was 36.7% a season ago.

BYU has an improved roster this year. But the unknowns of how it will shake out in the loaded Big 12 remain a mystery. Pope is confident that they will make a splash in the league at some point.

“We’re going to make some noise in this conference,” said Pope. “And we’re going to really grow into it.”

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

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BYU Basketball Believes They Will ‘Make Some Noise’ In Big 12