There has been a little bit of talk along the Wasatch Front recently about an idea that has been around for at least 20 years, maybe longer. Why not get the state's top for college basketball programs Utah, BYU, Utah State and Weber State together for an annual early-season basketball tournament? Maybe play it at a neutral site such as EnergySolutions Arena in downtown Salt Lake City. Utah athletic director Chris Hill mentioned it last month, and Tribune columnist Gordon Monson broached the subject in this way last week. Saturday, a phenomenal, boisterous, split crowd of 18,235 watched BYU handle USU 85-74 at ESA. The Cougars and Aggies will continue to play at ESA every third year. Next year's game will be played in Logan and the teams will return to Provo in 2015.
BYU plays one or two games a year at ESA because the Marriott Center is unavailable for a week in early December due to the Christmas Around the World production.
Monday, I asked BYU coach Dave Rose whether he would like to see a four-team holiday tournament at ESA each year involving the four top local programs. I got the feeling that he would be against it. Here is his reply: "It is hard to get any legs to it because [coaches] want to play games in their home venue," Rose said. "I think if you go to that, but can still figure out a way where teams would travel to everybody's place, it might be something that would have more legs, and [coaches] might be interested in it. But if you are going to play that once a year, and it takes away [home games it won't work]. It is hard to get home games. It is just [part] of all of our business here in the Wasatch area. We've all got good teams. We've got good home venues. So if you take the instate games away, it makes it really difficult to manage that." Rose had other things on his mind on Monday, most notably tonight's game against 5-3 North Texas at the Marriott Center (7 p.m., BYUtv). The Mean Green is a lot like Texas, which BYU struggled with last Monday before prevailing 86-82 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. Here's my preview of the game in which oddsmakers have established BYU as an 18-point favorite. I posted some video of the first 3-4 minutes of Rose's 10-minute chat with the media after practice on Monday. Here are more comments from the coach about a variety of topics, including the new rules in college basketball, his team's rugged nonconference schedule, and how well the Cougars played against the Aggies: On what improvement he saw against USU: "Well, I thought that we competed really well as a group, together. I think that sometimes you go back and watch the film and maybe you were more impressed with the film than you were with the game. In this situation, I think we were more impressed [with the game]. As we went back and watched film, we had certain parts of that game where we really competed well as a group. We didn't do everything right, but our effort was so good that it made it tougher on them. We had guys helping each other, trusting each other. I mentioned that to the team. I thought the best thing about that game was we really grew as a group in our ability to trust each other."On what style of officiating he prefers: "I worry more about our players being able to adjust to that night, and how it is being called. And that's what I thought our guys were really good at. One of the few games all year that I don't think I made one substitution all night based on foul issues. It was all strategic issues, and team issues, and what was the best way to try to manage a game. So the fact that our guys were able to adjust to that was more of a factor for us than how the game was going to be called."On how much practice time has been devoted to foul management with new rules:"Earlier in the year and the first few weeks of the season, our guys spent a lot of time on not only trying to manage that during practice, but watching film after practice to try and get a real idea. I think what they came up with is most of it is all hands. If you can keep your hands out of the play, and anticipate and get to the spot, then you probably have a chance. Charges late by second defenders are almost impossible to get now, so that is something that our guys have to learn. We don't spend as much time on it now because I think the guys have figured it out a little bit."On the freshman and newcomers making contributions: "Well, the news guys really gave us a lift in that game. Eric Mika was terrific, Frank [Bartley] was really good. Skyler Halford gave us a real lift. Those are guys that this is the first time through for them, as far as our program is concerned, and so you take that group with Luke [Worthington], and you just hope guys continue to feel more and more comfortable with the more time they get."On whether he worried about how aggressive Eric Mika would be with the goggles:"I think any time a player gets hurt, and it doesn't matter, even experienced guys, when you come back you don't really know the extent of where they are at. When Tyler came back in that Iowa State game, Kyle had a hip [injury] at the time. These guys are playing their hardest and the best they can, but you don't really know how hurt they are because they don't want to let you know. That's kind of the issue with Eric. He's a tough kid, he's a physical kid. And we hoped as a staff when he came back that those would still be his main traits. That he would be a physical game, that he wouldn't back away. The glasses have helped him continue to be able to stick his body in there, then that is a good thing. The game he played the other night was just fantastic, not only his ability to score, but his ability to rebound in really crucial times for us offensively and defensively. He kinda just gave us an anchor in the middle, and it was a really good feeling."On having such a tough schedule and whether it was one he anticipated having this year: "We knew the teams would be good. You don't know when you sign up for a tournament if those guys are going to be ranked at the time. The Oregon thing, we knew they would be really good. And the UMass thing, we knew they would be good, and now they are ranked. Iowa State was kind of a question mark, because they lost so many players last year. But the way Fred recruits, and he's got transfers that are immediately eligible. Maybe he is the one guy that we were surprised [they would be that good]. But maybe that big win against Michigan pushed them through. And sometimes when you play ranked teams, your are pretty impressed because they are good. But sometimes those unranked teams are better. Maybe a little bit tougher, but just haven't got the publicity yet. One thing I do believe is every game is a real challenge for our guys. I think that will help us as we move along. You've got to get ready every night to come and play."On the new handcheck rule and how it effects the game: "Well, I think it is a positive thing, that referees are trying to get you more freedom to move, and attack the rim. I think the consistency of that call will be where we go from here, from here to the end of the year. I do know that defenders now are a little more hesitant to try to initiate contact out front and get you off your mark. If you can get your head and shoulders and attack their hip, you have a little more freedom to do that now because they are a little more worried about getting in foul trouble." On whether this is a better practice team than last year's team: "I think our practices are more competitive this year because our practice squad is a lot more talented. We've got guys on there, Chase [Fischer] for one, who will actually play for us next year. There are walk-ons on our roster who are really engaged in the day to day preparations for us, who actually play against us in Graham and Andrew. And Andrew Topham is a guy who is versatile for us. I like that group of guys. They work really hard and challenge us. Every day is a little bit different. It is not that we come in here and dominate those guys every day."