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BYU Basketball Just Completed ‘Little Slice’ Of Life In Big 12 Conference

Jan 18, 2022, 10:39 PM
BYU Basketball - Mark Pope...
PROVO, UT - JANUARY 8: Mark Pope head coach of the BYU Cougars cheers his team during the second half of their game against the St. Mary's Gaels January 8, 2022 at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball is in a unique spot right now. While they navigate a challenging West Coast Conference schedule, which might feature four NCAA Tournament teams this season, BYU also can’t help but get excited for their future in the Big 12 Conference.

There are still two years until BYU is grinding night-in and night-out in the toughest basketball conference in America, but they already got a rehearsal of the gauntlet that is the Big 12 Conference.

After going 2-1 in a three-game stretch that included Saint Mary’s, No. 1 Gonzaga, and San Francisco, BYU coach Mark Pope, who loves pouring over data, saw some parallels in the grind his 15-4 squad just completed to what they will face in the Big 12.

“It was hard. You play those three back-to-back-to-back and they’re really good teams,” said Pope on Tuesday. “We played No. 36, No. 1, and No. 35 (in the NET rankings). And if you look at the way they’re going to break up the Big 12, maybe with the North, which we would be in, No. 36, No. 1, No. 35 is probably as hard as we’ll have in the division right now based on the standings back-to-back-to-back. So it’s a little kind of slice of how it’s going to feel. It’s just going to be back-to-back-to-back for all 18 games [in the Big 12]. I think we feel some urgency to get better.”

Pope’s reference to the North Division in the Big 12 is about CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd reporting that BYU’s future home is planning on splitting into two seven-team divisions beginning in 2023-24.

BYU basketball in a Big 12 division with Kansas?

Dodd laid out potential divisions for the Big 12 that included BYU in the North Division with Cincinnati, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. Being in the same division with a blueblood such as Kansas could mean the Cougars are playing the Jayhawks twice a year.

Pope didn’t know for sure if his program was in the North Division or the Big 12 or not. But he couldn’t help but be intrigued by the prospects of that setup.

“I just heard there’s speculation out there, so I don’t know for sure. It’s fun to prognosticate and speculate. We use all of that stuff to recruit. We spent a lot of time doing that today,” said Pope.

According to Dodd, the divisions in the new Big 12 Conference could be completed in May. But, for Pope, he’s not worried about which division his team ultimately ends up with in the number one league.

“The most important thing is that we’re in a division,” Pope said. “I’m happy with that. Let’s go.”

Pope and his team return to action in their penultimate season in the West Coast Conference this Thursday when they host San Diego at the Marriott Center. The tip-off is at 7 p.m. on BYUtv and KSL NewsRadio.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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