For BYU Football, the move to the Big 12 means moving out of independence. But what does this mean for men’s basketball?

The Cougars have emerged as the top contenders in the West Coast Conference, but will have a tougher league competition in the Big 12.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young University basketball coach Mark Pope, left, poses for a photo alongside BYU football coach Kalani Sitake as they attend the announcement of BYU’s acceptance to the Big 12 conference at a press conference in Provo on Friday, September 10, 2021.

BYU men’s basketball coach Mark Pope has a vision in mind.

Major conference games at historic Allen Fieldhouse in Kansas.

Fans rush to the grounds of the Marriott Center after a victory over a leading opponent.

The Cougars are gearing up for Gonzaga and the West Coast Conference right now. But soon enough, BYU will find itself in what could be the best basketball conference in the country right now.

“It’s not getting any better,” BYU coach Mark Pope said after the Cougars announced their move to the Big 12 last week. “This is where you want to be and it’s great, super humiliating. It will be an incredible challenge, but we are incredibly excited about it. “

On September 10, BYU was officially invited to the Big 12 conference. Instead of bringing in Provo Gonzaga, the best, the Cougars will host annual games with several national champions. Of the current members, Kansas has won three national titles, while Oklahoma State has two championships and Baylor is the reigning national champion.

Since joining the West Coast Conference in 2011, BYU has become the second-best team in the league, second behind powerful Gonzaga. Saint Mary’s has proven to be another top contender in the league, having made four of his 10 NCAA tournament appearances since BYU joined the WCC (2012, 2013, 2017, 2019).

During this period, the Gaels have also played four times in the NIT (2014, 2015, 2016, 2018).

Now the Cougars will enter a conference that regularly sends multiple teams to the NCAA tournament.

Last season, seven Big 12 teams were ranked in the Top 25 for most of the season and made it to March Madness: Baylor, Kansas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and West Virginia.

Baylor ended up beating Gonzaga 86-70 to win the national title, giving the Bulldogs their only loss of the season.

BYU has some familiarity with some of the current Big 12 teams. The Cougars have faced the Jayhawks a few times since 1959, most recently against Kansas 71-56 at the Maui Invitational in 2019.

Although Texas is set to leave the Big 12 by 2025, the Cougars last faced the Longhorns in 2013, which ended up being a narrow 86-82 victory.

Throughout its time at the WCC, BYU played the most at Baylor. The Cougars and Bears played a three-game series during the years 2011-2013. BYU has lost all three of those games.

Other than that, BYU will essentially join the Big 12 with a clean record against its new conference opponents.

Before the Cougars can join the Big 12, however, they will need to play two more seasons in the WCC. And Pope believes the league’s current play will help BYU prepare for the leap to a Power Five conference.

“The league we’re playing in right now is really good,” Pope said. “We’re going to be in this league for the next two years, and that’s really good. Currently, the Big 12 has four Top 40 ranked preseason teams, the Pac-12 has four Preseason Top 40 ranked teams, and the WCC has four Top 40 ranked teams. pre-season. It’s a big league so we’re excited about the work we have on our part right now, but this decision is historic for our program.

Because football is independent, the entire program is made up of the teams they choose to play. Basketball doesn’t have a lot of flexibility. Usually, a good part of the non-conference program is taken up by tournaments. Add a few contests in the state, like in the case of BYU, and there’s not much else to schedule. Still, the Cougars have tried to create the most competitive non-conference schedule possible.

BYU currently plays 16 WCC games. The Big 12 are currently playing closer to 20 games.

The number of conference games on the schedule may change once BYU joins the Big 12, with Houston, Cincinnati and UCF, and / or when Texas and Oklahoma make their debut.

“There will be fewer free games for us,” Pope said.

Ultimately, however, it’s a good problem to have.

Just by being in the Big 12, the Cougars will be able to attract bigger and better talent to fill their non-conference schedule. Instead of keeping track of teams and having to predict which matches might be Quadrant 1 or Quadrant 2 matches, just being in a Power Five conference will increase the chances of getting matches that will boost the game. BYU NCAA CV.

After completing the last two Top 25-ranked seasons and making a comeback to the NCAA tournament, the Cougars will look to keep the momentum going as they prepare to advance to the Big 12.

“You just think of the parade of teams going through this Marriott Center,” Pope said. “It’s one of the epic arenas in the country and we’ve seen it in its prime, obviously, against the country’s No.1 team in recent years in Gonzaga. But now it’s just going to be a game after game deal and I’m so happy for the Cougar Nation and BYU fans walking into this Marriott Center because it will be really special.

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