PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – With the NCAA announcement that teams can begin the 2020-21 season November 25th, BYU head coach Mark Pope sounded relieved.
“We’re really happy to have a start date,” said Pope, who led BYU to a 24-8 season in his first year with the Cougars, and would have made the NCAA Tournament if it wasn’t cancelled because of COVID-19. “I think the idea of we’re trying for November 25th where we’re only going to lose 15 days of the season is really encouraging.”
As far as scheduling goes, Pope admits he doesn’t really have a clue as to who the Cougars will play this season.
“I can already see the headline, ‘Coach Pope knows nothing,” he said with a laugh. “It’s actually really interesting right now. It’s super fun because it’s just madness and chaos.”
BYU was supposed to play in the Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas November 19th with George Mason, Tulsa and Boston College. But unless that tournament gets rescheduled, it probably will not happen. The Cougars also had several games against Pac-12 schools, including Utah, but those are in jeopardy unless the Pac-12 changes its January 1st start date.
“We don’t know what is going to happen in the coming weeks in terms of what conferences are going to say,” Pope said. “There as been a lot of whispering the the Pac-12 might move off the January 1st date. So, we’ll see. We both really want that [Utah] game. I think the biggest pressure we’re feeling right now is we just want to play the hardest schedule we can possibly play.”
Pope has a deep, talented but mostly new roster this season with several transfers, most notably Purdue 7-foot-3 center Matt Haarms.
“Matt Haarms and fit in beautifully,” Pope said. “That’s part of the reason why he chose to come here is because he fits. He’s taken on a real leadership role, and he’s an extraordinarily talented player.”
The Cougars also welcome in Wasatch Academy 4-star recruit Caleb Lohner, who originally committed to Utah before changing his mind.
“Caleb Lohner brings such a beautiful spirit to our practices in the sense that he just wants to get better. He’s clearly got a really high ceiling.”
There are few atmospheres like the one in the Marriott Center, and Pope hopes BYU fans will be able to attend games this season.
“We’re really hopeful about having fans in the stands,” he said. “What the players on our team accomplished last year, to get that gym to the fevered pitch that it was the end of the season, that was really special.”