PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – For the first time since the Jimmer Fredette era some nine years ago, the BYU basketball team is ranked in the Top-25, coming in at #23 in the nation this week.
But this is not the ultimate goal for the Cougars, who have won six in a row headed into their final two home games this week against Santa Clara and Gonzaga.
“It’s definitely really cool,” said BYU guard Jake Toolson. “It’s something that is a product of all the hard work that we’ve put in. It’s something that we’re really proud of, but it’s not something that we said before the season that our ultimate goal is to be ranked.”
“We still have a lot of work to do,” added senior guard TJ Haws. “That’s not our end goal. I think our mentality and mindset everyday coming into practice and coming into this game tomorrow hasn’t changed.”
“I would love to say that the sportswriters are really attracted to my incredible wit and humor,” Joked first-year head coach Mark Pope. “But I don’t think that’s why they ranked us 23. I think it’s because I have a good team and because the guys have played really well.
It’s going to be an electric atmosphere Saturday night at the Marriott Center with #2 Gonzaga coming into town, and it being Senior Night for Yoeli Childs, TJ Haws, Dalton Nixon, Jake Toolson and Zac Seljaas. But while their status in the NCAA Tournament is somewhat secure, BYU knows it can’t afford a slip up tomorrow against a very good 18-win Santa Clara team.
“You’re going to have all the cliches in sports,” Pope said. “Some people are going to say are you overlooking Santa Clara because of Gonzaga or because of Senior Night or the end of the season. But a great locker room doesn’t do that, and I believe that we have a great locker room. I think that our guys are really locked in.”
“It is such a weird thought to think that these are our last games in the Marriott Center,” Haws said. “It’s been my life for four years, and it’s weird that is coming to a close. But hopefully we can finish this thing out in the Marriott Center with a couple wins. That would be really great for us.”
“Having these being our last home games, I think it does add a little bit of a different feel than a normal week,” Toolson added. “But we’re focused on winning this game tomorrow against Santa Clara. But we’re definitely enjoying every moment.”