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September 21, 2009
BYU has won at least a share of the Mountain West Conference title in three consecutive seasons and has an excellent shot at a fourth crown in a row. While most of the other MWC teams suffered major losses, the Cougars return four starters, including all-conference picks Jimmer Fredette and Jonathan Tavernari.
Jimmer Fredette is the MWC's only returning first-team all-conference selection.
Tavernari is versatile enough to shoot the 3-pointer and crash the boards. Tavernari ranks second in school history with 202 career 3-pointers. He ranked sixth in the conference in scoring (15.7) and fourth in rebounding (7.2) to earn third-team all-conference honors last season. Tavernari entered his name for NBA draft consideration before deciding to stay in school for his senior season. Chris Miles returns as the Cougars' starting center after averaging 7.1 points and 4.0 rebounds. BYU could have a tough time replacing Lee Cummard, a first-team all-conference selection who ranked third in the league in scoring (16.8) and eighth in rebounding (6.2) last season. Swingman Charles Abouo might be the team's best athlete and could slide into Cummard's starting spot, though he won't be as productive. Abouo, who played on the Ivory Coast national team over the summer, is a slasher who has 3-point range.
Fredette is the MWC's only returning first-team all-conference selection. Fredette ranked fifth in the conference in scoring (16.2), third in assists (4.1) and second in steals (1.5) while directing the MWC's highest-scoring offense last season. Fredette also helped the Cougars lead the conference in assists and assist-turnover ratio. The Cougars also return Jackson Emery, who made the MWC's all-defensive team last season after returning from a two-year mission. Emery averaged 7.8 points per game and helped BYU lead the MWC in field-goal percentage defense. Lamont Morgan should provide valuable minutes off the bench again this season, and Michael Loyd returns to action after redshirting last season.
The Cougars will have extra inspiration this year each time they look on the bench. Coach Dave Rose was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this summer, but he said the cancer is in remission and shouldn't keep him from doing his job. BYU already figured to enter the season as the MWC's most talented team. The extra incentive makes the Cougars an even more prohibitive favorite. BYU should win the league title and go dancing again. The next step is finally getting beyond the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Preseason rankings were compiled by basketball writers David Fox, Mike Huguenin, Jason King and Steve Megargee.
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