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A chef’s special: Tuesday has all the makings for a BYU upset

BYU coach Mark Pope calls out a play during a game against Kansas State, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, in Manhattan, Kan. Next up for the Cougars is a Tuesday night contest at No. 7 Kansas.

A chef that is cooking up something special starts with a recipe and the right ingredients. It’s no different for BYU in its hopes to upset No. 7 Kansas Tuesday night at Allen Fieldhouse (7 p.m., ESPN+).

The Cougars’ recipe has been in place for months — defend like crazy, rebound, take care of the ball and hit 37% of the 35 3-point shots they plan to shoot. BYU hasn’t been perfect in meeting that wish list, but they have been good enough to win 19 games and make plans for the NCAA Tournament.

As for the ingredients to beat the Jayhawks, the Cougars have everything they need, including some extra spice by BYU being left out of this week’s AP Top 25 poll for the first time since late November.

First: BYU is coming off a road loss at Kansas State, where point guard Dallin Hall had one of his worst offensive nights of the season, making just one of 10 shots and finishing with four points. He is primed for a bounce-back night on Tuesday. When Hall is right, the Cougars can beat anyone, as Baylor, Texas, Iowa State and West Virginia can attest.

Second: Kansas star Kevin McCullar Jr. will miss the game due to an injury. The 6-foot-7 guard averages 19 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. The Jayhawks routed Texas without him Saturday, 86-67, but there will be a game where he is greatly missed. Why can’t it be Tuesday?

Third: The limited history between BYU and Kansas makes it challenging for the Jayhawks to take the Cougars seriously. It’s not that they don’t think BYU is good, it’s just a game that is free of any emotional ties. The teams have met five times. Kansas is 4-1 with the most recent win in the 2019 Maui Invitational. BYU hasn’t played in Allen Fieldhouse since 1971.

Fourth: Kansas has bigger fish to fry at No. 15 Baylor, rival Kansas State and at No. 1 Houston following Tuesday’s date with now unranked BYU. This is not to say the Jayhawks will take the Cougars lightly, but human nature is human nature and Kansas has heavier opponents on the way. Where there is a vulnerability, there is a chance for the underdog.

Fifth: BYU has absolutely nothing to lose. It has no reason not to go play loose and free. Not only are the Jayhawks favored on their home floor, where they are 15-0 this season, but Kansas is a Quad 1 opponent. The Cougars will strengthen their NET ranking just by showing up.

This isn’t a debate about who the better program is, who has the tougher home court or even which team has a better coach. This is about which group of guys will show up and be the better roster on this one night.

In a pair of 20-minute halves, with a confident team capable of hitting 3-point shots from anywhere on the court, why not let it all fly and make it a night to remember? A team can do that when it is talented and has nothing to lose.

Sixth: Lifelong Jayhawks basketball fan, and former high school star in Ulysses, Kansas, Sheri Dew, is pulling for the Cougars. The executive vice president of Deseret Management Corporation (which owns the Deseret News) and CEO of Deseret Book is all-in on her alma mater — BYU.

Dew will be watching on television as the Cougars and Jayhawks clash in Lawrence. However, seeing her two teams battle in Provo (perhaps next year) will be the thrill of a lifetime.

“I have to root for the Cougars. I think it will be awesome. I can’t imagine watching them and looking across and there is (Kansas coach) Bill Self, one of the great coaches of all time,” Dew told the “Y’s Guys” podcast last fall. “It will be amazing.”

A chef would have a lot of fun in the kitchen with all these ingredients and a masterful recipe to follow — so can BYU at Allen Fieldhouse. Last Tuesday, the Cougars stunned No. 11 Baylor at the Marriott Center and made headlines from coast to coast. Just imagine if they could do the same at Kansas.

Is it likely? Not according to Las Vegas. But is it possible? Every night around college basketball we see evidence that anything is possible. So why not Tuesday and why not BYU?

Nike’s famous slogan is “Just Do It.” In honor of Sheri’s Kansas legacy and as a final pitch for her Cougars, we’ll tweak it a bit — “Just Dew It!”

Kansas forward David McCormack looks to shoot between BYU forward Kolby Lee (40) and guard Zac Seljaas (2) during game, Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019, in Lahaina, Hawaii. The two teams will meet for the sixth time Tuesday night in Lawrence, Kansas. | Marco Garcia, Associated Press
Kansas forward David McCormack looks to shoot between BYU forward Kolby Lee (40) and guard Zac Seljaas (2) during game, Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019, in Lahaina, Hawaii. The two teams will meet for the sixth time Tuesday night in Lawrence, Kansas. | Marco Garcia, Associated Press