PROVO — Last March, the NCAA Tournament selection committee sent a strong message: Teams from mid-major conferences must upgrade their non-conference schedules to earn consideration for an at-large bid.
BYU coach Dave Rose and his staff responded by setting up a tough non-conference slate for this upcoming season.
The Cougars tip off their campaign Nov. 6 at Nevada, which advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. The Wolf Pack won 29 games a year ago and have been projected as a preseason top-10 team.
BYU will open the season on the road for the first time since 2011-12.
The Cougars will also face two other NCAA Tournament teams — Houston (at home Nov. 24) and at San Diego State (Dec. 22).
Other highlights of the non-conference schedule include games against archrival Utah at Vivint Arena on Dec. 8, and at Mississippi State on Dec. 29. The Utes played in the National Invitation Tournament finals last season, while the Bulldogs fell in the NIT semifinals.
BYU will also take on former Mountain West Conference rival UNLV (Dec. 15) at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
BYU announced last week that guard Nick Emery will return next season after he withdrew from school amid an NCAA investigation looking into allegations of receiving improper benefits. Emery will sit out the first nine games, the NCAA ruled last week. He will become eligible for the home game against Utah State on Dec. 5.
Fellow West Coast Conference member Saint Mary’s won 28 games in the regular season last season but was snubbed by the NCAA selection committee due to playing a weak non-conference schedule.
“We’re all a little surprised,” Rose said last March. “Saint Mary’s, being in the top 25 for the majority of the second half of the season, you feel like that’s a pretty safe place to be. But obviously what qualifies to be in the top 25 is not what qualifies you for the tournament.
"We’ve all learned a pretty good lesson there as far as it’s about who you beat and not how many teams you beat. It’s a pretty strong message that’s been sent to everybody who tries to get invited to that tournament.”31 comments on this story
BYU’s other non-conference home games are against Utah Valley (Nov. 9), Northwestern State (Nov. 13), Oral Roberts (Nov. 15), Alabama A&M (Nov. 17), Rice (Nov. 21) and Portland State (Dec. 12).
The Cougars non-conference schedule also features road games at Missouri Valley Conference power Illinois State (Nov. 28) and Weber State (Dec. 1).
The annual Cougar Tipoff will be played Oct. 19 and will be followed by exhibitions on Oct. 24 and Nov. 1.
Game times, television plans and the 2018-19 West Coast Conference schedule will be announced at a later date.