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BYU Won’t ‘Reinvent Wheel’ Entering NCAA Stage With Surging Duquesne

Mar 20, 2024, 8:55 PM | Updated: 9:11 pm

OMAHA, Neb. – BYU basketball has been chasing the NCAA Tournament for the past three years.

Now, their chase is to win games in the Big Dance.

BYU has been in the Top 25 throughout this season except for a handful of weeks. They’ve been among the nation’s best.

BYU basketball “feels good” entering NCAA matchup with Duquesne

Heading into Thursday’s game against Duquesne, don’t expect BYU to do something drastic to catch the defensive-minded Dukes off guard.

“We feel good. We haven’t changed a lot. We really don’t believe in reinventing the wheel rolling into the tournament because this is what we’ve been preparing for all season long,” said Pope.

During Wednesday’s open practice session at the CHI Health Center, Pope’s team was in good spirits as they went through the light-hearted practice.

“I think our guys are loose. I think they’re full of energy,” said Pope. “Certainly, they’re going to feel all of the juice that comes with playing in this tournament, but I think they’re pretty prepared to deal with those emotions.

 

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BYU hasn’t won a game in the Round of 64 in the NCAA Tournament since 2011. The last NCAA win was in 2012, but that was in the First Four in a historic comeback against Iona.

Big 12 prepared BYU for this moment

BYU’s struggles in March Madness are well documented. But none of that matters for a BYU squad that navigated the gauntlet of a Big 12 Conference schedule.

“As a competitor, it’s what you dream about is the opportunity to play against great, great teams every single night,” Pope said. “Listen, there’s a lot of great teams around the country in all different conferences at all different levels. It just so happens the Big 12 has a bunch of them stuffed together in the same collection where you see them every single night.”

Duquesne won’t be mistaken for a Big 12 team anytime soon. Although, BYU guard Dallin Hall said he sees qualities in the Dukes that remind him of TCU and Texas Tech.

What BYU should know about the Duquesne Dukes

The Dukes are a pesky underdog from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, playing in their first NCAA Tournament since 1977.

It’s the first time Duquesne has played in an NCAA tournament with seeding involved (since 1979).

“We really just game plan to do what we have to do to try and stop them and get our things done,” said Duquesne guard Dae Dae Grant.

Duquesne is a Top-30 team in adjusted defensive efficiency this season, holding its opponents to 66 points per game.

“Shoot, we’re an up-tempo team. We like to defend and be physical as well as try and execute on offense,” said Grant. “We have guards that can go as well as guys who can score in the low end and in the post as well. I mean, you could look for all-around aspect. We have guys who can shoot, guard, defend. It will be a fun game, man.”

Fast Start

One of the critical areas for BYU is getting off to a fast start. They were brilliant in the Big 12 Tournament opener against UCF.

No surprise, they rolled to a double-digit victory over the Knights.

The following day, they were sluggish from the gates against Texas Tech and the Red Raiders rolled to a comfortable win.

“I think it’s key,” Dallin Hall said about getting off to a strong start. We saw the difference it made against UCF and Texas Tech. As Jax said earlier, we want to make sure that we dictate what we do and not the other team, and we play our game.”

Three-point shooting

Three-point shooting is, of course, tied to BYU’s identity. The Cougars have shot a higher percentage of three-pointers than twos this season.

That was part of Mark Pope’s vision for the team as they entered the Big 12.

BYU has an 18-3 record in 21 games this season when it has made ten or more three-pointers.

If they shoot a high clip from beyond the arc, BYU is a team that could make a deep run in the dance.

“I think we’re just so eager to race out and jump into the fray of this tournament and see what we can do,” said Pope. I feel like our guys are in a good spot.”

(6) BYU vs. (11) Duquesne

2024 NCAA Tournament – First Round

Location: Omaha, Nebraska

Arena: CHI Health Center

Tip-Off: 10:40 a.m. (MT)/11:40 a.m. (CT)

TV: truTV

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM in Utah)

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and hosts the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X: @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU Won’t ‘Reinvent Wheel’ Entering NCAA Stage With Surging Duquesne