FORT WORTH, Texas — TCU may have lost games nine in a row, but the Horned Frogs are still dangerous and BYU players and coaches know they can't afford to treat Jim Christian's team with anything but respect today.
TCU (10-17 overall, 1-11 MWC) will host the No. 7-ranked Cougars (24-2, 10-1) today at 2:30 p.m. at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum on the campus of Texas Christian University. The Cougars won the previous meeting this season in Provo, 83-67.
This time, the Frogs will play without Ronney Moss, their best player. He was suspended from the team indefinitely earlier in the Mountain West season. In the meantime, TCU is on track to lose its most conference games since earning just one victory in the Southwest Conference back in 1978-79.
Don't sell that to BYU coach Dave Rose.
"They always play us really well," said Rose. "They are very athletic. It is a different team than the first time we played them without Ronny Moss. I'd expect us to come out with a lot of energy having had the night off on Wednesday. We need to keep the pedal down and play hard."
Indeed, the Cougars are in a volatile stretch right now. They are within sniffing range of San Diego State for a conference championship. Latest mock NCAA Tournament projections have the Cougars and Aztecs as No. 2 seeds in postseason. Both are fighting to wrap up the No. 1 seed going into the MWC tournament in Las Vegas on March 9-12.
This afternoon's game is expected to sell out with a good chunk of the tickets bought up by BYU fans from around Texas.
"The crowd isn't my biggest concern right now," said Rose. "This is a very hungry team. If you watched the CSU game, they played as hard the last five minutes as they did the first five minutes. Their cuts were good. It's a team that is just waiting to break out as far as shooting the ball. Hopefully we can defend them, challenge their shots, get into their shots and get out in transition. I like where Jim has his team, they're really engaged and playing hard."
Rose has sent the message to his troops: Do not slip here.
Senior guard Jackson Emery, who earned MWC player of the week honors this week, said the loss of Moss hurts TCU but also brings them together.
"Sometimes that makes a team really dangerous," Emery said. "A visiting team here can kind of fall asleep and think they can win the game and the other team comes out with a lot of passion and pride. We're excited and we're going to give our best shot.
"We can't let a game slip, it puts us in too much jeopardy as far as our conference championship and what we want to achieve in postseason. You can't let a game slip because we have some tough teams coming up."
BYU's other senior guard, All-American Jimmer Fredette, agreed there is a lot at stake today for the Cougars.
"The biggest thing is to realize this one game can make their entire season," said Fredette. " You have to be ready for their best effort. We have to realize if we do lose, it hurts us with the conference, it hurts us with the NCAAs and everything. The game has to be more important to us than it is to them."
Cougars on the air
BYU (24-2, 10-1 MWC) at TCU (10-17, 1-11)
Today, 2:30 p.m.
TV: The mtn.
Radio: 102.7 FM, 1160 AM