WCC preview: Enter 'monster' BYU

SAN BRUNO, Calif. -- BYU coach Dave Rose said he doesn’t think much about realignment, but he does know that the Cougars’ entry into the West Coast Conference won’t be easy -- not with Gonzaga having won the last 11 regular-season championships.

So for those who think Brigham Young downgraded leagues by leaving the Mountain West, Rose believes the WCC will present an even greater challenge for a program coming off a Sweet 16 appearance and five straight NCAA tournament bids.

“We won four of the last five regular-season championships in the Mountain West Conference, and to do that in this league will be way more of a challenge than what we’ve seen because there were good teams in the Mountain West Conference, but there wasn’t the same team with the same tradition and the same expectation,” Rose said.

“I don’t think it’s up to BYU to break [Gonzaga’s streak]. It’s up to everybody in the league to try to participate in that.”

Rose is cautious when discussing what should develop into a “healthy rivalry” with Gonzaga, as Mark Few called it. After all, the Cougars are new to the WCC and face a lot of unknowns when heading into other opposing gyms as well.

“We could beat Gonzaga twice and lose to everybody else and have a horrible season,” Rose said. “Our situation is to understand how difficult it’s going to be to win at Santa Clara and try to win at San Francisco and at Saint Mary’s. Our opening game is at Saint Mary’s, and how many games have they lost at their place in the last five years?”

And in case anyone has forgotten, this is no longer a BYU team with Jimmer Fredette. Rose said the offense will run through the team’s post players this season, including Brandon Davies and Noah Hartsock, with guards playing at actually an even faster pace, using passes to get the ball up the court rather than Fredette’s dribble.

“We’re going to attack and attack on both ends of the floor for 40 minutes,” Rose said. “I hope that we get four or five guys on this team that can score somewhere between 12 and 18 points a game. I think we have the guys to do it.

“There’s going to be opportunity. The most exciting thing about our first 10 or 12 practices is that these guys know there’s an opportunity for somebody. Whoever kind of takes advantage of that opportunity it's going to be their time.”

There certainly exists some uncertainty as Rose will rely upon Stephen Rogers, Brock Zylstra and freshmen Damarcus Harrison and Anson Winder to play larger roles. But no matter if Fredette is there or not, ask any WCC coach, and it’s clear the expectation is that BYU is a powerhouse and a force to be reckoned with.

“What are my real thoughts? They’re a monster. They’re a monster,” San Francisco coach Rex Walters said. “This is not a jab at Mark [Few]. They [BYU] beat our conference champion by [22 points] on a neutral court.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us. Our five have to play harder, smarter, more together when they’re on the court against BYU. They’re a monster. It’s going to be a challenge.”