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As Cougars’ schedule eases (a little), what could the future hold?

BYU forward Fousseyni Traore grabs a rebound in Provo on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2024. The Cougars travel to Morgantown Saturday to take on the West Virginia Mountaineers.
BYU forward Fousseyni Traore grabs a rebound in Provo on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2024. The Cougars travel to Morgantown Saturday to take on the West Virginia Mountaineers. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

This article was first published in the Cougar Insiders newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Tuesday night.

Fresh off a spanking of Texas in a sold-out Marriott Center, the Cougars now travel to Morgantown to take on West Virginia, a team that is in last place in the Big 12. This poses a tremendous opportunity for BYU, a team that is finally getting healthy. To date, BYU has faced the toughest Big 12 schedule of any league member, having faced a majority of league teams ranked in the top 30 of the NET.

There is speculation that freshman sensation Marcus Adams Jr., a former four-star recruit who signed with Kansas out of high school, will be available for this road trip. He has been nursing an injury since he transferred from Gonzaga to BYU. Here is a reminder of what kind of talent Adams has in this YouTube video of a 50-point performance in high school.

In the win over Texas, Mark Pope got a tremendous defensive effort from his players and deployed an attack inside the paint that thwarted Texas. The Cougars shot 73% from two-point range by making layups and midrange jumpers when the Longhorns tried to step out and defend the 3-point line.

Here is Jay Drew’s analysis of the game and my column of the big win over the Longhorns. Also, here is a report on a move by BYU administration to curb the Roc from wearing T-shirts on the front row dissing Texas. It made national headlines following the game.

This week features some key matchups in Big 12 men’s basketball. Here is a breakdown of what’s at stake.

Cougar Insider predictions

Question of the week: It appears Fouss Traore has recovered from his hamstring injury. With 16 points and six rebounds off the bench against the Longhorns, how will this impact BYU heading into an easier stretch of competition in Big 12 play and why? Predict the score of BYU at West Virginia.

Jay Drew: The return of Fouss Traore from lingering hamstring issues — assuming the man from Mali is fully recovered — is a huge development for the No. 22-ranked BYU men’s basketball team. Although the Cougars have two other capable post players, Aly Khalifa and Atiki Ally Atiki, Traore is just a little bit different than either of those guys. He’s easily BYU’s best low-post player. He’s BYU’s best back-to-the-basket player.

That means the Cougars have a different offensive weapon, a weapon that should help free up some outside shooting when teams learn they might have to double-team Traore in the post, where at times he’s impossible to stop.

BYU might lose a little defensively with Traore in the game, but his rebounding ability more than makes up for that. He’s just wide enough to make up for a height disadvantage inside. His return can only be seen as a positive development for BYU.

Prediction: BYU 68, West Virginia 65.

Dick Harmon: The return of a healthy Traore could prove to be a huge challenge for opposing defenses and add versatility for Mark Pope. This was evident in the win over Texas when the Longhorns concentrated on stopping BYU’s 3-point attack. Traore was able to body up on Texas post players, allowing double teams because of his size. He is a good free-throw shooter if defenders put him at the line. He also gives Pope another body to absorb fouls if Aly Khalifa and Atiki Ally Atiki get in foul trouble — and that’s a given in this league.

With Traore healthy, it is key that Noah Waterman is back after suffering a concussion, which took him out of the Texas Tech road game. Also key is the return to health of Jaxson Robinson from a high ankle sprain. This could be a huge benefit to the Cougars because he has spelled Dallin Hall at the point and his shooting improved vs. Texas.

If we are to believe BYU is headed into an easier part of its league schedule, all this reversal of health issues could prove massive for Pope.

Prediction: BYU 71, West Virginia 65.

Cougar tales

The Big 12 announced its 2024 football schedule, detailing who BYU will face and where this coming football season. Here is a breakdown of what it means.

BYU’s women’s basketball team nearly knocked off Kansas State and now has a chance to improve down the stretch in Big 12 play.

In this piece by Dave McCann, he explains how losing big leads in Big 12 losses might be in the rearview mirror considering how the Cougars played in the win over Texas.

From the archives

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Extra points

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Comments from Deseret News readers:

I keep seeing doom and gloom overreactions to losses or “we’ve turned the corner” comments on wins. Take a look at the body of work after the season is over to draw better conclusions. For now, we are in the middle of the pack in a great conference. Stay the course and stop overanalyzing single games.

— BYU_Realistic

It’s not just a slogan, there is not an off game or off week in the Big 12. Unlike other conferences, there are no cupcake teams to catch your breath on. I wouldn’t be surprised if 10 teams go dancing.

The corner I hope BYU turned is a more balanced offensive attack (3s, paint and Robinson’s midrange), and better free-throw shooting. Cougs have shown they can compete with anyone.

— CougfaninTx

Up Next

  • Jan. 31 | 5:30 p.m. | Women’s basketball | Kansas | @ Lawrence, Kansas

  • Feb. 1 | 10:30 a.m. | Swimming and diving | Air Force | @ Colorado Springs, Colorado

  • Feb. 2 | 11 a.m. | Women’s tennis | Utah State | @ Logan

  • Feb. 3 | 4 p.m. | Women’s basketball | West Virginia | @ Provo

  • Feb. 3 | 4 p.m. | Men’s basketball | West Virginia | @ Morgantown, West Virginia

  • Feb. 6 | 6 p.m. | Men’s basketball | Oklahoma | @ Norman, Oklahoma

  • Feb. 7 | 7 p.m. | Women’s basketball | Baylor | @ Provo