With BYU, Utah and Weber State all getting into their respective conference schedules, each team will have its set of goals as it looks to get into the NCAA Tournament known by many as March Madness.
Some schools will have an easy transition into conference play, while others will be thrown into the fire by facing the toughest opponents to open conference play.
Here’s a quick look at three teams as they head into their respective conference schedules:
Wildcats hot entering league play
Weber State mens’ hoops may not have its all-conference performer anymore, but the team is posting impressive numbers.
The Wildcats posted their largest win in school history, defeating the NAIA school University of the Southwest 110-45 on Saturday night.
The win provides a boost heading into a week of conference play, where the Wildcats look to keep pace with conference rivals Montana and Southern Utah.
Weber State (7-3, 2-0) will play host to a pair of conference foes this week.
Thursday night will feature Northern Colorado (3-7, 1-1) while North Dakota (3-8, 0-2) will arrive on Saturday evening. Both schools are expected to finish at the bottom of the Big Sky, giving Weber State confidence that it can remain at the top of the standings.
Thursday and Saturday tip-offs will be at 7 p.m.
BYU eases in to conference schedule
Last season, BYU men’s basketball entered the West Coast Conference as a wild card, not knowing what to expect in the new league. A season later, the Cougars (10-4) are more familiar with WCC play, and should make a serious run at the conference title.
They will start this Thursday at the Marriott Center, when they host Loyola Marymount (7-6), before traveling to San Francisco (7-6) on Saturday night.
Thursday’s contest will start at 7 p.m. and can be seen on BYUtv. BYUtv will also air Saturday’s game, which starts at 8 p.m.
The Cougars are coming off an impressive win over ACC school Virginia Tech last Saturday. They defeated the Hokies 97-71 at Energy Solutions Arena.
Sophomore Tyler Haws put in 42 points, the highest single-game total in the NCAA this year. Overall, Haws made 14 of 25 shots, including six of his eight 3-point shots.
He is the second Haws to score more than 40 points in BYU history; his father Marty scored 40 against Siena in 1989.
Haws was able to capitalize Saturday night, and will need to continue to do so for the Cougars if they want a chance at the conference crown.
Virginia Tech doubled center Brandon Davies frequently, a strategy that may be employed by other WCC schools.
Loyola Marymount may need to employ similar tactics. Their top rebounder is a 6-1 guard, and their tallest starter stands at 6-8.
The Lions start former Davis High star Chase Flint, who is in his first season with the Lions after playing last year at Eastern Utah. Flint leads his team in assists and averages 7 points per game as a starter.
Utes thrown into PAC-12 fire
After finishing at the bottom of the PAC-12 last season, Larry Krystkowiak would love nothing more for his team than to get off to a hot start this week in conference play.
He may need to wait more than a week.
PAC-12 play starts Thursday for the Utes, and they will face two of the top teams in the conference off the bat in a weekend road trip.
The first stop will be in Tempe, Ariz. on Wednesday night, when the Utes will face 11-2 Arizona State before traveling to Tucson, Ariz. and challenging third-ranked and undefeated Arizona on Saturday. Both games will air on the PAC-12 Network.
The Utes are still looking for their first conference road win since the 2010-2011 season, and it looks to be a difficult task.
The Utes are showing improvement under Krystkowiak, however. They enter conference play with an 8-4 overall record. Jarred DuBois and Jordan Loveridge continue to lead a balanced Ute attack, both averaging more than 13 points.
If the Utes want a victory this weekend, the key will be maintaining the pace and playing solid defense. The Utes allow only 57.2 points per game, on average, among the best in the PAC-12. The Utes score an average of 76 points per night.