Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
STANFORD, Calif. — A lot was made this year about the BYU football team having perhaps its toughest schedule in history. However, the basketball schedule may also be the toughest ever, at least the non-conference portion.
After opening up with Big Sky favorite Weber State on Friday, the Cougars are out on the road to face the first of three Pac-12 opponents when they take on Stanford Monday at 9 p.m. MST at Maples Pavilion in a game that is part of ESPN’s Tipoff Marathon. Both teams come into the game with 1-0 records.
Before the season, coach Dave Rose called his schedule the toughest in his eight years as head coach, and going back through the Cougars’ results over the past several decades, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more challenging non-conference slate.
While most major schools enjoy a double-digit number of home non-conference games (Utah has 11 this year), the Cougars have just six. They also have six road games as well as a neutral site game against Utah State in the EnergySolutions Arena.
The Cougars want to increase their chances of making the NCAA Tournament with a better schedule as well as preparing for the West Coast Conference season, which begins in late December.
"This is a terrific non-conference schedule that will really help our team for league play," Rose said before the season. "We will face many tests and teams from coast to coast."
In Stanford, the Cougars will face a team that isn’t the national power it has sometimes been in the past, but an experienced, solid squad picked to finish sixth in the Pac-12 this year. The Cardinal opened the season Friday with a 72-68 victory over Bucknell at home.
Stanford returns its top four scorers from a year ago in senior forward Dwight Powell, junior guard Chasson Randle, senior forward Josh Huestis and senior guard Aaron Bright, who averaged 14.9, 13.6, 10.5 and 9.3 points per game, respectively, in 2012-13.
Anthony Brown, a 6-foot-6 junior who missed most of last season with a hip injury, is in the starting lineup and scored 14 points in the opening win Friday night.
Stefan Nostic, a 6-foot-11 center who started six games a year ago, is the starter in the middle for the Cardinal. Bright, who started most games last year, came off the bench in the first game.
For BYU, Tyler Haws picked up right where he left off last year, scoring 28 points against the Wildcats and pulling down a career-high 13 rebounds. He’s joined in the starting lineup by fellow returning guard Matt Carlino, who scored 22 in the opener, Kyle Collinsworth, who is back from an LDS mission and had a double-double in his season debut, and inside players, 6-foot-11 junior Nate Austin and 6-foot-10 freshman Eric Mika.
Next month, the Cougars will take on Pac-12 opponents Utah and Oregon on consecutive Saturdays, Dec. 14 and 21.
COUGAR NOTES: BYU leads the series history with Stanford 4-2, although the Cardinal won the last meeting 62-53 at the Maui Invitational in 2004. Mika became the first freshman to start a season opener since 1998 when Mark Bigelow got the start against Wofford. Collinsworth, who started 27 games as a freshman in 2010-11, had 11 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in the opener. After Monday’s game, BYU plays two games in the Basketball Experience Hall of Fame Classic at home against Mount St. Mary’s and Colorado Mesa Friday and Saturday, while Stanford plays Northwestern at home Thursday night.
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