BYU is the top seed in their final Mountain West Conference tournament, but with Brandon Davies on the bench in street clothes, it could easily be argued it won’t be the favorites.
Still trying to determine their identity without their suspended forward, Jimmer Fredette and the eighth-ranked Cougars open the tournament against TCU on Thursday.
It was the second game for the Cougars after Davies had been kicked off the team for breaking the school honor code. Davies was averaging 11.1 points and a team-high 6.2 rebounds.
BYU is now trying to move on, although Davies will join the team on the bench during the tournament.
While the Cougars won’t have one of their top defenders available, they do have one of the nation’s most dynamic players in Fredette, who leads Division I in scoring with 27.9 points per game.
Coach Dave Rose said if Fredette and Jackson Emery, who is second on the team with 12.7 points per game, play well, the Cougars should be fine. Because of the dismissal of Davies and an injury to forward Chris Collinsworth, he has been forced to use a guard-heavy lineup with Fredette and Emery carrying a heavier burden.
“I don’t really know if we all know how things are going to work,” Rose said. “We’ve got players that just need to step up. If Jackson and Jimmer can play well, I think that we’ll be fine.”
Fredette averaged 32.5 points in the final four games, and he shot 12 of 24 from the floor in the win over Wyoming after shooting below 40 percent the previous five games. Emery added 18 points against the Cowboys.
This will be the final MWC tournament for the Cougars, who join the West Coast Conference for 2011-12.
BYU recognizes that many do not see it as a favorite to win the tournament title with the team possibly having to go through New Mexico, which dealt the Cougars two of their three losses, to set up a potential championship game against No. 7 San Diego State.
“Yeah, there’s some skeptics out there,” junior Charles Abouo said. “We still have a really deep team. It’s been like that all year. We’re still the same group, regardless of which individual is out we’re really confident.”
BYU was upset by UNLV in the semifinals of the MWC tournament last season after defeating TCU in the quarterfinals. Fredette had 45 points in the 95-85 victory over the Horned Frogs and then scored 30 in the loss to UNLV.
Fredette and the Cougars defeated TCU twice during the regular season, extending their winning streak between the teams to 15 games.
The Horned Frogs (11-21) advanced following a 70-61 win over Wyoming on Wednesday in the tournament’s play-in game. The win snapped a 13-game losing streak.
Greg Hill scored 18 points and Hank Thorns added 13. After blowing an 11-point first-half lead, TCU trailed by one in the second half before going on a 9-0 run to take control.
“This tournament is a new season,” Thorns said. “We’re 1-0 now.”
The Horned Frogs had lost four straight conference tournament games since last advancing in 2007.