PROVO — After losing sophomore forward Brandon Davies to a season-ending suspension, then losing at home by New Mexico last Wednesday, BYU fell from No. 3 to No. 8 in both the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN coaches polls Monday.
Meanwhile, bracketologists around the country, many of whom a week ago had pegged the Cougars as a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament, projected BYU anywhere from a No. 2 to a No. 4 seed.
As for coach Dave Rose, he was encouraged by the way his team bounced back with a 102-78 victory over Wyoming in the regular-season finale last Saturday. That win clinched the Cougars' fourth Mountain West Conference championship in five years.
"Our guys had to regroup and they knew there was a lot at stake in the game against Wyoming," Rose said. "I was really proud of them. We responded well. In the second half, we played terrific, maybe as well as we've played in the Marriott Center since early December."
"It was a special moment for myself, Jackson and Logan," he said. "It was our last game there and having us honored. I've never seen the Marriott Center like that outside before the game. We went in for shoot around early and there were already thousands of people lined up outside waiting for the game. The atmosphere was amazing. It ranks up right up there at the top of the list of games in there because of what it meant to us."
OPPONENT UNKNOWN: On Thursday (1 p.m., MT), BYU takes on the winner of Wednesday afternoon's play-in game between No. 9 seed TCU and No. 8 Wyoming.
"It's a little unsettling for some of the (players), not knowing which team they're playing," Rose said. "But we've been through this before as a No. 1 seed. Once that game on Wednesday is completed, then we can really dial in on our opponent. The next two or three days can just concentrate on ourselves and I think that's a good thing right now."
Rose said the team is scheduled to practice at Cox Arena, adjacent to the Thomas & Mack Center, Wednesday afternoon. Then the coaches and players will likely watch the first half of the TCU-Wyoming game live, then return to the hotel, Rose added.
Should the Cougars get past either the Horned Frogs or Cowboys, they'll face the winner of No. 4 Colorado State vs. No. 5 New Mexico.
BYU's only two losses in conference play this season came at the hands of the Lobos, including last Wednesday's 82-64 setback at home.
CHARLES IN CHARGE: Rose is pleased with the play of junior Charles Abouo, who scored a career-high 25 points against Wyoming. One week earlier, Abouo contributed 18 points against San Diego State.
"Charles right now is playing how we thought he could play this year," Rose said. "He's played that ways at times, then he's kind of struggled a little bit. Charles' issue is not anything except just confidence. He has all the physical tools. He works extremely hard. He's the first one in practice and the last one (out). Charles doesn't get tired. He could play all 40 minutes in a game. And the way he's played the last two Saturdays, is how we expect him to play and how we need him to play."
INJURY UPDATE: BYU has been dealing with various injuries in recent weeks, but Rose said his team is relatively healthy as it heads into the MWC Tournament. Noah Hartsock, who has been nursing a foot injury for a couple of weeks, participated in most of Monday's practice, Rose said.
Cougars on the air
Wyoming (10-20) or TCU (10-21) vs. No. 8 BYU (28-3)
Thursday, 1 p.m. MT
Thomas & Mack Center
Mountain West Conference Tournament quarterfinals
TV: The Mtn.
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
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