Coach Rose talked about how the team cannot merely be satisfied with its recent impressive showing at the Las Vegas Invitational, but instead must use it as a stepping stone towards future success. This Saturday's game against No. 9 Michigan State is another opportunity for the program to progress.
"What we really have to do is rely a lot on our captains [and] the experience on the team to make sure that they help our players understand that there's a lot of basketball to be played, and we're still very much the same players that we were [before the Las Vegas Invitational]," Rose said.
Rose indicated that BYU's potential future success this season, particularly any success in the postseason, depends on the team improving.
"I'll promise you that those other three teams [in the Las Vegas Invitational] will be a lot better in March, and we need to be too," Rose said.
Regardless of what improvements the team must make, it has nevertheless gotten off to a better start than it has in recent years. Rose attributed his team's fast start this season to its trip to Europe this past summer. He believed that the team spending so much time together during practice and in competitive environments, all while facing difficult travel schedules and winning exhibition games in difficult gyms, helped to build the team's confidence.
Trent Plaisted is one such player that Rose said has an improved level of self-confidence. Rose said that Plaisted wants the ball and that he wants to take it strong to the basket. That in and of itself isn't necessarily something that's new, but Plaisted's improved free-throw shooting is a welcomed surprise.
"I think [Plaisted has] always gone to the free-throw line expecting that he was gonna make free throws, but this year he's actually having really good success there, so it just makes you a little bit more confident," Rose said.
Rose said that Plaisted tends to get better as each game goes along, and that the games against Louisville and North Carolina were examples of this. He said that the coaching staff was really excited about how, in addition to his typical scoring aggressiveness, Plaisted was aggressive at rebounding the ball.
One player certainly not lacking in confidence is Jonathan Tavernari. Sometimes it seems as though Tavernari has never seen a shot he didn't like.
"[Tavernari] looks to score," said Rose. "I mean, that's the kind of player he is."
Rose said the staff has really worked with Tavernari to transition from his role last year - a role that Rose said was kind of a "specialist" role - to a broader role this year, and that the staff has also worked with him to advance his game.
Tavernari's shot selection has received some criticism, as he has often taken shots with players right in his face. Rose said that the coaches have gone over his shot selection with him and have worked with him on showing more patience and trying to get better shots.
In addition to wild shots, Rose said he discourages plays like the one against Louisville when Tavernari had a behind-the-back pass to Plaisted, setting up a one-handed dunk. Rose said that sometimes the defense makes passes like that the best way to get the ball to the open man, but that it isn't necessarily something he likes to see.
"You just hope they make the play," Rose said with a chuckle.
Besides helping his team improve at all the fundamental elements of basketball, Coach Rose has also had to prepare his team to cope with being nationally ranked. He said he told his team that being ranked makes the target on them bigger.
"Everybody wants to beat the team that's ranked, because for some teams, they get maybe one or two chances a year at that, and so it can really become a huge game for them," said Rose. "And so, we have to be prepared for what people are gonna bring at us, and that's another challenge."
Rather than looking at this as an unfortunate side effect of being ranked, however, Rose said that this is great part of the game; the more successful a team is, the more challenges it has.
The fact that the team now has a big target on its back makes it all that more essential that the team does improve, and one way that Rose said the team can improve is through the development of its bench players, particularly the team's freshmen.
Rose said that the bench is a real plus for the team, and that it has given the team a lift in all of its games. That even goes for the game against North Carolina, when the bench had zero points. Rose said that the bench contributed in other ways; he credited Chris Miles with some good defense and a "huge" assist, and said that Chris Collinsworth came in the game and had some good rebounds.
Collinsworth, who averaged 14 minutes during the Las Vegas Invitational, wasn't the only freshman to get some experience against Louisville and North Carolina; Jimmer Fredette and Michael Loyd saw time - albeit not as much as Collinsworth saw - against both of those teams, and Nick Martineau made a brief appearance against the Tar Heels. Rose said that all of the freshmen are in a position where they can really help this team, depending on what the matchups are, and that he is pleased with how they have played thus far. And while the more experienced players have had a majority of the minutes so far, Rose said he believes the younger players will progress as the season goes along.
Coach Rose has already had to match wits with legendary coaches Roy Williams (North Carolina) and Rick Pitino (Louisville), and on Saturday will do the same with Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. When asked about what it was like to coach against high-profile, well-respected coaches such as these, Rose said that the approach into the game and then after the game is a little bit different, but when it comes to game-time itself, it is essentially the same as any other game he coaches.
However, with a smirk, Rose added that there might be a little bit of a difference when it comes to the officiating, saying, "You maybe wonder if the guy that's had a little bit more success is getting a little bit of an advantage, but for the most part it's pretty similar."