BYU coach Dave Rose is among the best coaches in the West, and is a strong candidate for greatest BYU head coach of all time. His winning percentage of .774 is leaps and bounds better than any of his predecessors. His 185 wins in seven seasons as a head coach is fourth-best all-time in the NCAA. Since he took the helm, he has guided BYU to six consecutive 25-win seasons and six consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament, both BYU records.
His teams have routinely dominated every college program in the state of Utah save one. Since he began coaching, Rose's Cougars have won 11 of 14 games against the Utes, most recently a 61-58 nailbiter in Provo that saw a double-digit Utah lead evaporate down the stretch.
Against Weber State, Rose is undefeated posting a cool 8-0 record. Most of the victories have come by double digits, whether the game was played in Provo or the Ogden. The closest Weber has ever come to edging out BYU was a 73-69 overtime win in the Purple Palace.
However, against Utah State, Rose is only .500. He has won three gams and lost three games against coach Stew Morrill's Aggies.
BYU and its sports fans generally don't consider Utah State to be a rival, particularly in football. Other than the 2010 walloping USU gave BYU in Logan, the Aggies have only defeated the Cougars on the gridiron only one other time in the last 20 years.
Basketball, however is a different story. This in-state matchup has been the definition of rivalry during the last 15 years, especially during Rose's tenure.
Morrill is among the most respected coaches in college basketball in his own right. His winning percentage as a Division 1 coach is .744, and he has won more games for the Aggies than any other coach in school history. Coming into the 2012-13 season, Morrill and the Aggies have won 21 or more games in every season and have appeared in a postseason tournament for 13 straight years.
Over the last 14 basketball meetings between the Cougars and the Aggies, BYU and USU both have seven wins. Seven of the meetings have occured in Logan, six in Provo and one at Energy Solutions Arena. Both teams have lost one home game during this stretch (USU in 1999, BYU in 2004) but won all other home games, and BYU came away with the win in Salt Lake City in 2008.
The average margin of victory for BYU against the Aggies since 1999 has been 6.7 points. Conversely, when the Aggies have won, their average margin of victory has been 10.4 points per game. The average spread over the course of the series since '99 is 8.4 points per game.
Sounds a little different than the USU-BYU football series, right?
This series has also given Beehive State sports fans some of its most memorable moments during what was arguably the golden age of both programs.
When these two in-state basketball juggernauts collide tonight in Provo, it won't be simply a matchup of two teams that have been recently down on their luck, but a meeting of the two premier programs in the state of Utah since the year 2000.
Morrill's first few years at the helm of the Aggie program were difficult for Spectrum regulars, particularly against BYU. The Cougars rolled off three straight victories against the Aggies, two of which came by two points.
In 2000, ironically it was a Wesley—Mekeli Wesley, the elder brother of Tai Wesley— who helped the Cougars rally to win a nailbiter in Provo. When Terrell Lyday sprained an ankle in the first half, both he and Trent Whiting stepped up scoring 22 points each.
Interestingly enough, it was the first time Whiting and Wesley had played together in more than a year.
"It's a little surprising that a guy could come in without playing and play like that," USU coach Stew Morrill said of Whiting. "If he keeps playing like that, he'll be all-league."
Up next: The Aggies roll of four in a row.
Steve Cleveland's final year at the helm for the Cougars, 2004-05, was as trouble-filled as any BYU hoops fans have seen. The Cougars posted a 9-21 record that season, losing to the Aggies twice in the only home-and-away series between the schools during the last 15 seasons.
The second loss to the Aggies of 2004 was particularly bitter for Cougar fans. Not only was the Cougar loss the most disparate of the last 14 games, but it was the first time that Utah State had managed a win in Provo since 1985.
"It's good to get this one off our backs," said Utah State forward Nate Harris said of the game. "We knew we could win here — it was a matter of coming in here and executing and getting the job done."
Those two losses, combined with the other 19 BYU suffered in the 2004-05 season, prompted the promotion of a little-known former Dixie State head coach to the head job in Provo, and BYU hoops would never be the same.
From 2003 to 2005, three of the four games in the series were in Logan, and the Aggies rolled off four straight wins.
Up next: The Aggies and the Cougars take a break, then reunite in Salt Lake City
Dave Rose didn't make a lot of fans for himself in Cache Valley when talks to schedule a game between BYU and USU for the 2007-08 season fell apart.
The Cougars had finally broken a four-game skid against the Aggies with a win in Provo, but three of the previous five games had taken place in Logan. Rather than play in Logan for the fourth time in six games, it was mutually agreed upon that the USU-BYU game wouldn't happen that year.
When BYU and USU finally did make a return to the hardwood the following season, it was in EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City. Jimmer Fredette was a sophomore, as was Tai Wesley. Neither team had lost, and the stakes had rarely been higher.
With just a couple of minutes remaining in the game, BYU led by four and Lee Cummard picked up his fifth foul. Nevertheless, BYU held on with crucial buckets by Fredette and a late-game steal by Jonathan Tavernari.
"It was a great atmosphere. Our players enjoy playing in that atmosphere," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "For a game in the first of December, it felt much more like a late-January, early-February game."
Up next: The Cougars return to the Spectrum after a four-year leave.
Following BYU's win in Salt Lake City, the Cougars took the bus ride to Logan for the first time in four seasons, and the atmosphere didn't disappoint. Aggie fans lined up across campus in an attempt to get access to the game, and they were not disappointed.
"The crowd is crazy," Morrill said. "It is as good as it gets in college basketball. We love this kind of atmosphere."
Jimmer Fredette hadn't yet become a national sensation, but the skilled junior, who would later miss roughly half the season with symptoms of mononucleosis, struggled. Senior Jonathan Tavernari was all-but-absent offensively from this game. The two combined to go 6-for-26 from the floor.
On the other side of the ball, Jared Quayle had a minor offensive explosion in the second half, scoring 22 points to lead all scorers on the night.
"My defense usually gets me going," Quayle said. "We got some key stops and I felt like that got our offense going. When I went coast to coast (after a rebound for a layup), that was a good feeling. I felt like I had a lot more energy."
Up next: The Tai Wesley flagrant foul, Jimmer redeems himself
Jimmermania was in its infancy when BYU and USU hit the hardwood in 2010. USU was also a team on its way to a 30-win season, conference championship and NCAA berth.
No surprise that this matchup went down to the wire and was decided by a few missed free throws and a flagrant foul.
Surrounded by defenders, Tai Wesley muscled the ball down from the defensive glass and fended off the Cougars with his very large elbows. The referree did not appreciate his enthusiasm and pinned him with a flagrant foul, his fifth of the game.
"I was trying to protect the ball," Wesley said. "It's instinct. They were kind of swiping at it ... and when you get caught in the heat of battle you turn to your instincts."
The Aggies had all the momentum at that point, but when Wesley and his team-leading 19 points went out of the game, the wind came out of USU's sails.
Up next: Brandon Davies gets abused in the Spectrum
Utah State had just graduated its most successful senior class in school history, and BYU had just graduated its all-time leading scorer. There was no letdown for the first game of 2011 for both schools, however.
This game came down to stellar guard play, namely that of Brockeith Pane. Despite playing in foul trouble, Pane had 17 points in the second half and engineered a 17-2 run that put the game out of reach.
"It was Spectrum magic, baby," Brady Jardine said about the run. "We always get better in the second half. We always seem to find that extra boost. I'm not sure if it's the fans or digging down deep, but we had a stretch in that second half where we played good defense and hit our open shots."
Regrettably, this game is more often remembered for the harsh treatment the Aggie faithful delivered to Brandon Davies. This game was Davies' first on the hardwood since he withdrew from school after committing BYU honor code violations the previous season, and the USU student section didn't allow him to forget that. Fan behavior prompted USU President Stan Albrecht to deliver an official apology to BYU.
Up next: A near-death experience postpones the series
The 2012-13 edition of this series was scheduled for Dec. 5, 2012. On Dec. 4, USU starting forward Danny Berger suddenly collapsed in practice and went into cardiac arrest. In a magnanimous gesture, BYU head coach Dave Rose agreed to postpone the game to a later date.
"When Stew and I first spoke," Rose said, "it was pretty much agreed upon that we would play the game. We put that second. What we put first was to see how the situation with Danny was going to turn out. I think all along, we both felt we had to play the game."
Berger's life was saved largely due to the actions of USU trainer Mike Williams who administered CPR and used an emergency defibriliator without delay.
The game was later rescheduled for Feb. 19, 2013 and will tip off at 7 p.m.