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Will this season’s BYU Basketball team be better than last season?

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It’s commonly said that no one likes change, and in basketball that holds true in many ways. Across the college basketball landscape, seismic events shifted the landscape and spun the coaching carousel. BYU basketball felt the effects of this change were greater than many programs, losing their head coach and several key contributors along the way.

Since attaining NBA-experienced coach Kevin Young, BYU restructured and galvanized its hoops program. They’ve added experienced and talented coaches to back up their commander and landed unprecedented recruits along with veteran hoopers to re-establish some stability for the basketball team.

This stability was well-needed for a program that had its legs cut out from under them just as they were finally getting into a rhythm. Kentucky hired Mark Pope because of what he accomplished with the Cougars, and BYU had been a beacon of innovation in the college game, standing behind the sweet-shooting Jaxson Robinson and the visionary Aly Khalifa.

Both Robinson and Khalifa were out the door following Coach Pope, and much of Cougar Nation’s hopes left with them, until Kevin Young’s introduction–and the inevitable rebranding to KYU–sparked the flame of inspiration in a program destined to enter a dark age.

The hype continues to build, as it so often does when a head coach like Kevin Young breaks onto the scene with so much promise. It’s easy to let ourselves get caught in the wave of excitement surrounding BYU basketball, but let’s take a step back for an objective look into what’s really going on in Provo, and if this team is actually better than last season’s squad.

Keba Keita, Jaxon Robinson, Aly Khalifa

The one-and-done model of recruiting players at the top of their class on a one-year rental before they join the NBA is becoming an outdated and ineffective method of team-building in college basketball–just ask Kentucky.

Roster continuity is becoming a necessary ingredient in the formula of a contending basketball team, and the transfer portal has forced BYU to piece together a collection of players with the hope that team chemistry and familiarity will bond quickly.

When comparing this season’s team to the year previous, continuity was among the squad’s greatest strengths. A team that struggled in the WCC found its footing in the Big 12 Conference, which is arguable a tougher basketball conference than Gonzaga and Friends, Inc. on the west coast. Such chemistry will be difficult to acheive under a new coaching staff.

Elijah Crawford

Sometimes, talent is all you need to get over the hump of basketball contention. BYU has always battled with pre-installed limitations when recruiting the nation’s best players. Culture, honor code, and lack of prestige have long kept the Cougars below the nation’s top programs, but Kevin Young’s coaching staff has already delivered a slew of unthinkable talent for BYU basketball.

4-Star athletes and Top-100 recruits Brody Kozlowski and Elijah Crawford flipped their commitments to BYU, and a solid bunch of transfers filled in the gaps left by players who had transferred out themselves. On top of all that, though, was the introduction of international star and NBA Draft lottery-projected Egor Demin, who committed to join the team for this season before moving onto the highest level of hoops.

With this level of talent, this team is miles ahead of last season’s unit–on paper. Of course, we can never properly project a team’s season by looking at numbers or predictions. Though this team has plenty of talent to fall onto, this is a young team and a new team from last season.

Fousseyni Traore

On top of all this, the Big 12 Conference got even stronger in the offseason, trading Texas and Oklahoma for Arizona and the remaining “Four Corners schools” from the defunct Pac-12. BYU will struggle to reach 5th place in the conference this season, but comparing position in the conference between these two seasons wouldn’t be a fair comparison should this squad fall a few spots in conference standings.

Those who learn to embrace change and adjust their approach to meet change find themselves ahead of the competition. That’s not just some fortune cookie wisdom from my recent stop at Panda Express–in fact, I didn’t receive a fortune at all. I’ve been constantly looking over my shoulder since that day.

We can’t say with any level of certainty that this year’s team is ready to meet the challenge they’ll face in the 2024-25 season, and to meet the precedent set by last season would be a tall task. For a rookie head coach and an unfamiliar roster layout, the upcoming season is a mystery. I say it’s time we quit trying to solve this riddle and move forward with excitement for the new era of BYU hoops.

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