Cougars playing out East

It's very rare for a team to play a non-conference game in the middle of conference play, and it's even rarer for that team to travel to the other side of the country to do so. But, that's exactly what BYU is doing this week as the Cougars head out to the East Coast to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies, all while monster WCC games against Saint Mary's and Gonzaga loom on the schedule.

BYU has some ground to make up in the WCC championship race, and the Cougars' next two conference games will be crucial as they take on Saint Mary's on Saturday and Gonzaga the following Thursday. Both games are at home.

But, focusing on the WCC will have to wait, as the Cougars play a rare road game against the ACC on Wednesday night when they take on Virginia Tech.

The 12-7 Hokies got off to a rough 0-4 start in ACC play, but are coming off of a 47-45 road win against No. 17 Virginia. They are led by head coach Seth Greenberg. The Cougars last played on the road against the ACC when they lost 79-62 at Wake Forest four years ago. However, that game – unlike this one – was before BYU started conference play.

"This will be a challenge," said Coach Rose. "Seth and I have been trying to put a game together for years and I've known him ever since he's been out here at Long Beach State years and years ago. This is kind of what he suggested, and it wasn't ideal for us but we didn't have our conference schedule at the time, but the conference told us they would kind of help us get through this."

The Cougars headed to Blackburg early Tuesday, changing time zones twice along the way.

"Well I think that the time changes … [have] an effect, but it's just something that the core group of this team has done and been successful with," said Rose, noting that the team traveled to New York twice last season in addition to traveling for the NCAA Tournament.

Though the timing of this difficult road trip is unusual, part of the appeal was the return game that BYU will get next season at Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City. That rematch against the Hokies will take place before conference play starts.

"I think that this time of year is probably what is the most challenging for us," said Rose. "It's so hard for us to get really good quality games back here in Utah, in Provo and in Salt Lake [up at] Energy Solutions Arena. This was an opportunity that came up, and wasn't the most ideal situation but at the time when it came up we figured that we were jumping into a new league and we didn't really have a feel for that situation and how that was gonna play out, and so we decided to do it."

Although the Cougars have been focused on WCC play for a while now, Rose said that focus shouldn't be an issue this Wednesday.

"Well I think every game we prepare for, we prepare with a high level of importance. As far as our urgency is concerned, games like this can really help your team in a lot of ways."

Coach Greenberg's team, meanwhile, typically plays low-scoring games at a slow tempo.

"His style is really effective, and he's been really successful over the years, but he's going to make it really hard for us to run our offense," said Rose.

The Hokies will work the shot clock and control tempo on offense by passing a lot, perhaps not too unlike what Wisconsin did against BYU earlier this season. The challenge for BYU will be to impose its will on offense.

Virginia Tech has also had similar defensive success as Wisconsin has had. While the Badgers are currently first in the nation in points allowed per game (49.6), the Hokies are tied for 30th with 60.1 allowed per game.

The Hokies have held opponents to 39.7 percent shooting from the field, good for 41st nationally. However, they are first nationally in defending the three-point shot, allowing opponents to shoot only 25.4 percent from outside. That isn't good news for a Cougar team that has only shot 4-of-36 from outside the past two games, so the Cougars will need to rely on their strength, which is the play of their frontcourt. The ability of Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies to score down low will be key.

Meanwhile, Rose said that the Hokies aren't merely good on defense.

"The players that they have are very athletic. They're very good offensive players. Sometimes I think they're underrated offensively. They just don't attempt as many shots as most teams, and that's why they don't score as much."

Injury updates

As of early Monday, Coach Rose said that Stephen Rogers could possibly play against Virginia Tech.

"He's feeling better. He's been on some anti-inflammatory [medicine]. I think the swelling in the knee is gone [for] the most part, and that's eliminated a lot of the soreness and pain."

Rose said his return would be big for BYU, as they could use another shooter.

Meanwhile, Chris Collinsworth still has a ways to go but is improving. The sophomore forward is reportedly encouraged by how his knee has been responding to physical therapy the past couple of weeks.

However, there's no timeline on when he could return to the court.


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