Team preview: BYU

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

Too bad every season can't be like Dave Rose's first as head man in Provo.

The long-time assistant under Steve Cleveland took over a team that was the consensus pick to finish last in the Mountain West, a safe guess considering BYU's top player, Mike Hall, was gone and there were more questions surrounding the returning talent than there had been in years.

The Cougars were supposed to be rebuilding, while Cleveland left a nine-win team for the Fresno State job.

Rose and his team exceeded those expectations just a bit. The Cougars won 20 games, were the second-most improved team in the nation, and played in the NIT. Rose, deservedly, was chosen MWC Coach of the Year.

"Dave Rose did a great job there," said the always-understated Lon Kruger, whose UNLV team split with BYU.

Rose isn't much for hype, either. It's about the team with him -- and he'll talk about that all day long.

"When I first got the job, we had a group of guys here that were just kind of down about the season we had before," Rose said. "But it was a great group of guys. They were really, really determined to have a great season. And their off-season really made it. They almost changed their mentality. They believed that they deserved to win games. The players were just really, really good in terms of making a commitment to get better. The chemistry was just terrific."

How does one summer of bonding cause a 180-degree turnaround, though? Enter co-captains Brock Reichner (10.4 ppg, 2.5 apg, 2.5 rpg) and Austin Ainge (3.6 ppg, 2.6 apg, 1.6 rpg).

"Brock did a lot of things with Austin to pull the group together," said Rose, who referenced several outdoors activities and competitions.

Reichner, who also happens to be Rose's son in law, delivered on the court, too, and helped ease the transition from assistant to head coach for Rose.

"The fact that he was as good as he was for our team made it a lot easier for our family," Rose said.

Reichner was a deadly shooter from three-point range (53-for-110, .482) and was especially uncanny on the road. That will be as hard to replace as his contributions to the team's chemistry.

"Besides all the intangible things, we're going to miss his three-point shooting. He shot 60 percent on road games," Rose said. "Brock kept us in the game until our young guys could get started. I don't know if I've ever had that -- a player shoot that well from three on the road for a whole season."

Ainge, in contrast, had to swallow his pride a bit and watch his minutes and numbers dwindle significantly as a junior because of an influx of newcomers. But in keeping with the team-first attitude, the 6-2 guard bought into his new role just fine.

"He filled the role as a backup point guard," Rose said. "He filled the role as a scorer. Austin had a very difficult role because he didn't know what it was going to be from night to night."

Sometimes, Ainge could produce instant offense, as he did in BYU's epic 100-90 shootout over visiting San Diego State on Feb. 22. Ainge, who Rose said had a "near perfect game" scored a season-high 16 points in 18 minutes by going 6-for-6 -- including four three-pointers.

Along with Reichner, Derek Dawes (3.2 ppg, 1.6 rpg), a 6-11, 275-pound center whose career was cut short because of a shoulder injury that required surgery in the off-season, has also departed.

"Derek was a real experienced player, with good size," Rose said. "But that injury caused him to be inconsistent. Three different times, he had his shoulder pop out. That affects you mentally and physically -- knowing it's not right. The injury was a lot more serious than we thought it was."

Jackson Emery (2.8 ppg, 1.5 rpg), a 6-3, 175-pound guard, left on a Mormon mission and will be a sophomore when he returns. Emery, who started the final six games of the season, was a top perimeter defender.