RENO, Nevada — One of BYU coach Dave Rose’s main priorities during the offseason was to schedule games in November and December that could help his team earn an NCAA Tournament invitation in March.
No doubt, the Cougars tip off the 2017-18 season with one of those résumé-building contests as they visit No. 7 Nevada Tuesday (9 p.m., MST, CBS Sports Network) at Lawlor Events Center.
“This is a Quadrant 1 game on the road. Those are hard to find. It’s a great opportunity for us,” Rose said. “Obviously, the objective is to win the game. We’ll learn a lot about ourselves and where we are.”
The Cougars love the idea of facing a team like the Wolf Pack, which is ranked in the top 10 in the preseason polls and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament last year.
“You can’t ask for anything better. It’s an unbelievable opportunity,” said BYU forward Yoeli Childs. “You go out and do what we think we can do and we go out and get a win and it changes everything. Everybody looks at you differently and it gives your team a lot of confidence. So I think it’s exciting. We’re all really happy to have the opportunity.”
“I’m very excited. It’s what college basketball is all about — going to play in a fun environment, playing against a top-10 team,” said guard TJ Haws. “I would love to play that every single week. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be a big challenge for us, kind of a good measurement of where we’re at.”
There are high expectations for Nevada and coach Eric Musselman. The Wolf Pack return a bunch of talented players, including twins Cody and Caleb Martin, who averaged 14 and 18.9 points per game, respectively, last season and led Nevada to a 29-8 record. Both considered turning pro before deciding to return for another season in Reno.
Jordan Caroline, meanwhile, averaged 17.7 points and 8.6 rebounds a year ago. The Wolf Pack have also added high school All-American Jordan Brown.
“It’s a very athletic team, it’s a very big, long, quick team that has a lot of experience, a lot of returning guys,” Rose said of the Wolf Pack. “We’re going to really rely on our returning guys. But it will be really interesting to me to see the new guys and some of the guys that didn’t have big roles last year, how they perform in this type of environment.”
BYU hasn’t earned an NCAA Tournament bid since the 2014-15 season and the Cougars are aching to get back this year.
“That’s the ultimate goal. That’s the goal above anything else, making the NCAA Tournament. We talk about it every single day,” Childs said. “That’s our No. 1 goal and that’s what we need to do.
"This team is very capable of doing that. We have a lot of talent, we have a lot of depth and we have a lot of experience. That’s definitely where I see us going. The way we’re working will put us toward that goal.”13 comments on this story
“Our expectations are to win. We believe that we can win every game we play. It hasn’t happened yet,” Rose said. “I hope there’s a season that’s magical like that. I also believe we can win a conference championship, a conference tournament championship and get to the NCAA Tournament and advance.
"The problem is, the last couple of years, we’ve been an NIT team. It leaves our roster with just a couple of guys who have been to the NCAA Tournament. Luke (Worthington) has two and Dalton (Nixon) has one. The rest of the guys are anxious to put a season together to help us do that.”
• • •
Cougars on the air
at No. 7 Nevada (0-0)
Tuesday, 9 p.m. MST
Lawlor Events Center
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM