PROVO — Even though BYU is ranked in the top three in the nation for the first time since 1988, it was business as usual at Monday's practice.
The Cougars climbed four spots to No. 3 in both the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN coaches polls after their impressive 80-67 victory at San Diego State last Saturday. BYU (27-2) hosts New Mexico Wednesday (8 p.m., The Mtn.).
"It's a great time to be ranked that high, with everything that's at stake," said coach Dave Rose. "But it doesn't change the challenge at hand, which is trying to win the next game. The next game will be a real challenge."
The Lobos are the only Mountain West Conference team to beat BYU this season. The Cougars are looking to defeat UNM, then take care of Wyoming on Saturday in the regular-season finale to claim an outright MWC championship.
In the polls, the Cougars are ranked behind No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Kansas, and one spot ahead of No. 4 Duke. San Diego State fell to No. 9. In the AP poll, the Cougars garnered five first-place votes. BYU received no first-place votes in the coaches poll.
"We realize we're ranked No. 3. It's a great accomplishment at this point in the season," said guard Jimmer Fredette. "We know we have a lot to accomplish still. We need to win the conference, then move forward to the conference tourney and the NCAAs. It's great to be in this position, it's where we want to be at. But you can't be satisfied. You've got to keep playing."
The BYU-SDSU game, which was broadcast on CBS, drew the highest overnight television rating (2.0) for any college basketball game last weekend. It was the third-highest rated game of the season.
The Cougars have their sights set on building on that monumental victory in San Diego.
"We're focused and ready to go," Fredette said. "We know that to make that win even more meaningful this one (against New Mexico) needs to be won. It's on our home floor. We'll have a great crowd in here. So we need to be ready to go. I'm looking forward to it. It'll be a big for us if we can get this win."
BYU, which is widely regarded as a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament — ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi projected the Cougars to be the No. 1 seed in the West Regional, playing in Denver against No. 16 seed Florida Atlantic — continue to receive plenty of national attention. For instance, Rose was a guest on Jim Rome's radio show Monday afternoon.
"People are really excited. We've had a lot of attention from the fans and media," said Charles Abouo, who scored 18 against the Aztecs. "But we're still the same guys, the same coaches, the same team. We don't see it any other way. We just want to go out there and compete and play basketball. When you get that much attention and things get crazy, you've just got to remember what got you there. That's going out, competing and winning games."
WALKING WOUNDED: Several players — Jackson Emery (foot), Noah Hartsock (ankle), Brandon Davies (quad muscle) and James Anderson (eye) missed Monday's practice due to injuries.
"Jackson's got a foot issue. It might have developed a little bit from the tape job that he had to prevent a different foot issue," Rose explained. "Noah's foot is really sore from playing the other day. James had his eye checked today. He's better. Brandon's got a quad that's caused him real problems."
Rose said he and the coaching staff are optimistic they'll all be ready to play against New Mexico.
"We had some guys really banged up from reoccurring injuries," Fredette said. "Most people will be out practicing (Tuesday) and we'll be prepared for Wednesday."
FREDETTE, PLAYER OF THE YEAR FINALIST: The U.S. Basketball Writers Association announced Monday that Fredette is one of 10 finalists for the 2011 Oscar Robertson Trophy, emblematic of the association's national player of the year.
Fredette is the only returning player of the year finalist from last season..
The other finalists are Jordan Hamilton (Texas), JaJuan Johnson (Purdue), Terrence Jones (Kentucky), Marcus Morris (Kansas), Kyle Singler (Duke), Nolan Smith (Duke), Jared Sullinger (Ohio State), Kemba Walker (Connecticut) and Derrick Williams (Arizona).
The presentation of this year's award will take place on April 1 at the USBWA's annual awards breakfast at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston in conjunction with the NCAA Final Four.
ANOTHER PLAYER OF THE WEEK HONOR: Fredette also earned the Mountain West Conference's player of the week award for the eighth time this season and for the 15th time in his career.
This week, Fredette shared the honors with UNLV's Tre'Von Willis. Fredette averaged 29.5 points, 5.5 assists, four assists and two steals in leading BYU to wins over Colorado State and San Diego State.
Willis averaged 20 points, 3.5 assists, three rebounds and two steals as the Runnin' Rebels beat New Mexico and Wyoming.
Cougars on the air
New Mexico (18-11, 6-8) at No. 3 BYU (27-2, 13-1)
Wednesday, 8 p.m.
TV: The Mtn.
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
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