PROVO — On Monday, the day before visiting arch-rival Utah, BYU jumped to No. 11 in the Associated Press poll and cracked the top 10 in the ESPN/coaches poll.
It marks the Cougars' highest ranking in the AP poll since climbing to No. 3 in 1988. BYU peaked at No. 10 last year in the coaches poll.
"There are certain benchmarks that are exciting to reach for a program," coach Dave Rose said of the top 10 ranking. "I think that's one. I do know what it does — it makes your opponent focus a little harder and hopefully it gives us a little confidence but it doesn't change anything as far as how you play and your preparation. I think the guys are excited."
"We're ranked in the top 10 and things are going well. The fans are really excited and we're glad about that. But we have a lot of things we still need to do to get better at. Hopefully we continue to move up," said senior guard Jimmer Fredette. "It's great to be top 10 in the country. But it puts an even bigger target on your back. People know you're in the top 10 ... We know that (opponents) are going to give their best effort every single night. We have to be prepared for that. But it's great to be noticed. Hopefully we'll continue to play well."
The Cougars know tonight's showdown against the Utes will be a tough challenge.
"It's going to be a great atmosphere, a great game. Both teams will get up for this game because of the rivalry and what's at stake," Fredette said. "It's one of the great rivalries in college sports today. We're really excited to play. We're playing up at their place. They gave (No. 6) San Diego State a great run for their money (at the Huntsman Center) and we know they're going to do the same for us. We've got to be ready to play."
Fredette said a win tonight would be big because it would give the Cougars a 3-0 start in Mountain West Conference play. But, he added, "If we lose this game, it could cancel out some of the (positive) things we've done before."
MORE HONORS FOR FREDETTE: Fredette was named ESPN's national player of the week after he scored 39 against UNLV and 22 against Air Force last week. ESPN's Andy Katz wrote that Fredette "should be considered second to (UConn's Kemba) Walker in the national player of the year chase."
ESPN's Dick Vitale named Fredette his national player of the week, calling him "The All-Solid Gold candidate."
Fredette also received the Mountain West Conference's co-player of the week honor, along with San Diego State's Malcolm Thomas. It's the fourth time Fredette has been the MWC player of the week this season.
COLLINSWORTH'S STATUS: Rose said after Monday's practice that 6-foot-9 forward Chris Collinsworth will likely undergo arthroscopic surgery on his sore knee "sometime this week."
Collinsworth hasn't played since injuring his knee against Fresno Pacific on Jan. 1.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Former BYU sports information director Dave Schulthess turns 87 today — on 1/11/11. Schulthess served as sports information director, promoting and publicizing BYU athletics, from 1951-1989. A portrait of Schulthess hangs in the press box at LaVell Edwards Stadium.