The Strength of BYU's Basketball Team

The No. 10 BYU men's basketball team is riding on 15-game winning streak and looks to remain unbeaten in the Mountain West Conference as it prepares to face No. 23 New Mexico in The Pit on Wednesday. Center Chris Miles gives insight into the Cougars' success.

The Cougars are now ranked as high as No. 10 in the nation. But when examining this Cougar team on the court, does the program clearly possess top-10 talent? Currently, BYU is ranked higher than many prominent college basketball programs, and the Cougars have achieved their highest ranking in the polls since the 1988-89 season. Cougar center Chris Miles said he believes the Cougars' talent is reflective of their current ranking.

"On nights when we shoot it really, really well I think any team in the country would have a really tough time guarding us," said Miles. "At nights when we don't shoot it as well we fight and scrap, rebound and find a way to win."

Miles enjoys the current status of his Cougar team, but knows that things can change quickly on the hardwood. Even though he and his teammates may approve of their new ranking, there is still a sense of caution in keeping perspective.

"It's nice and it's terrific," said Miles with a smile. "In some ways, just as far as the season goes, it goes by so fast and we've just started this thing a couple of months ago and you don't know what to expect. It's gone by so fast that it's been kind of unexpected, but at the same time we believe that we can win every game that we play. That's kind of how it's been this season for the most part and so we just want to keep on going."

The Cougars may not have the caliber of athletes that some teams ranked within the top 10 possess, but Miles feels the team is able to overcome some of those deficiencies by having other team qualities.

"I think the key to our success is our ability to not be selfish as a team," Miles said. "We all like each other on and off the floor and I think that helps us. We all trust each other. There are certain teams where they expect things from a certain guy on their team and those players absolutely take over.

"We have guys that can do that and Jimmer [Fredette] is obviously one of those kind of guys, and Jonathan [Tavernari] is another that can score a lot. Even when those guys are off, or when Jimmer was sick, we'll play together as a team and find a way to win. I think if you look at our track record and how we practice, being unselfish has been our key to wins."

After the win over San Diego State, Aztec junior guard D.J. Gay mentioned that this Cougar team was the most cohesive unit the Aztecs have played against this season. The team chemistry has been another part of the success of the Cougar formula.

"We work hard and we all respect each other," said Miles. "We all try to live a life that's respectable, and I think that plays into it. We all really like each other and we all believe in what we are doing on and off the floor, so the unity and willing to work together as one is there.

"Another part of it is being really unselfish. It's easy to get carried away and say, ‘This is my future career and this is what I want to do.' Some guys end up doing that and score 25 points a game but end up on a team with a .500 record. I think we as a team have recognized what's most important. When you look back you always remember how many games you won, but you don't always remember how many points you scored in those games. Recognizing what's most important and playing for each other is what we've done."

Tavernari, once a starter, is a perfect example of the unselfishness and team-comes-first mentality Miles spoke of. Tavernari now comes off the bench after feeling his play didn't warrant starter status. The Cougars will look to take their winning formula on the road as they face the Lobos of New Mexico this Wednesday in Albuquerque.

"New Mexico is a really tough team and they're a really good team at home," said Miles. "They're also a really good team on the road. That means they're good in any situation. They will play with a terrific effort any given night and I think they can beat anybody, so we need to be prepared, play really tough, take care of the ball the whole game and makes shots. We also need to play an unselfish."

The Lobos will be gunning for the Cougars, who are sitting on top of the Mountain West Conference standings with a 5-0 record. New Mexico is tied at second place with UNLV at 4-2. Miles expect the contest to be a shootout in front of a rowdy crowd at The Pit.

"They are a really good shooting team," Miles said. "Everyone on their team is a threat from anywhere on the floor and not all teams are like that as far as their guys being able to make [three point shots] or slash. They push the ball well and are strong with the ball. I think their defense kind of fuels their offense and that's what I think we're up against."

The Cougars will look for redemption after losing to the Lobos last year 81-62 at The Pit by making sure they don't have a repeat performance.

"It's crazy because we didn't play very well the whole game," Miles said of that loss last year. "We didn't play at our pace. We weren't cutting very well and we weren't filling. We weren't shooting that good and I think we were a little bit rushed, so as far as playing at the speed that we wanted to play, we didn't really do that. For some reason we were still kind of close in the second half, and the way we played in that game we probably shouldn't have been. I think as far as our approach and how we play right from the start will make a big difference for us."

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