Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
LAS VEGAS — Sporting a new-look lineup, No. 8 BYU is looking for a strong combined effort as it opens Mountain West Conference Tournament play today.
The top-seeded Cougars meet ninth-seeded TCU in the tournament quarterfinals this afternoon after the Horned Frogs knocked off Wyoming, 70-61, in Wednesday's play-in game.
Playing without suspended sophomore Brandon Davies, BYU has made adjustments to compensate. Noah Hartsock, Charles Abouo, Kyle Collinsworth and Logan Magnusson will be relied upon heavily to fill the void in a variety of ways.
"At times, you'll see us smaller. But we'll be quicker," said senior guard Jackson Emery. "We'll get up and down the floor. We've got to be ready to rebound, because that could be our Achilles heel."
The Frogs, who won just one regular-season conference game this season, know what it's like to lose a player for the season due to a suspension. Coach Jim Christian suspended the team's top player, Ronnie Moss, at the end of January.
"It's going to take time to adjust. We know firsthand," he said. "(BYU is) adjusting pretty quickly. For me to say we got them right where we want them, I don't know that I can actually say that."
Added Christian: "BYU is one of the best in the country. They were one of the best teams in the country with Davies. They're still one of the best teams in the country. It's amazing when you lose a guy how important he is to you. All good teams adjust. I'm sure they're getting a little bit more ready and adjusting a little bit more."
The Cougars scored 102 points in last Saturday's win over Wyoming. BYU plans to continue running and gunning.
"I think we're going to be a high-scoring team as always," said guard Jimmer Fredette. "We'll have to rebound and get out in transition. I'm sure we'll have a lot of games in the 80s and 90s. That's the style coach likes us to play and that we like to play. We have the personnel for it. I'm expecting us to defend well, get out in transition and hopefully score a lot of points."
Coach Dave Rose likes the way his team has practiced in recent days.
"Our guys have a real sense of competitiveness to them," he said. "We don't know how things are going to work, but we do know we need great play out of Jackson and Jimmer, our two leaders. We have players there who need to step up. If Jackson and Jimmer play well, I think we'll be fine."
Last season in the MWC Tournament quarterfinals, Fredette exploded for 45 points against TCU. Then again, Fredette always seems to shine at the Thomas & Mack Center. In January, he poured in 39 points in the Cougars' victory over UNLV.
"I've been playing pretty well here," Fredette said. "The rims are nice and it feels a little like a shooter's gym. I can shoot the ball well here. It's a good atmosphere, it's a fun gym to play in — a great crowd and great energy in the building. Those are the type of games we love to play in."
While the Cougars' look has changed in light of the Davies suspension, "our expectations really haven't changed," said swingman Charles Abouo. "We're changing some things to help us make a deep run in this tournament, and hopefully we'll win it and also make a big run in the NCAA Tournament."
BYU is seeking an MWC Tournament title in its final year in the league.
"That would be great," Fredette said. "That's one of the goals that I have, to come in here and win this tournament. It's our last time here in this conference and also for myself and the seniors. We're looking forward to hopefully winning this thing. If not, it's not the end of the world."
"It would be great to win this tournament, not only for the (NCAA) seeding, but we've never won this tournament here," Emery said. "This is a goal that we set, to win this tournament, back in September. We've worked extremely hard this year. We've had a lot of adversity the past week or so, but we're ready to go."
TCU enjoyed a balanced scoring attack against Wyoming with four players in double-figures. Greg Hill scored a game-high 18, Hank Thorns added 16 and J.R. Cadot recorded a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
The Cougars have won 16 consecutive games against TCU.
MWC men's tournament
Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas
TCU (11-21) vs. No. 8 BYU (28-3)
Today, 1 p.m.
TV: The mtn.
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
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