PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball announces the 2021-22 season against Horizon League champion Cleveland State.
BYU (0-0) and Cleveland State (0-0) both made appearances in the NCAA tournament a season ago. Each team fell in the first round of Big Dance in Indianapolis last March.
BYU and Cleveland State are just one of five opening games featuring two teams from last year’s NCAA tournament.
“We are delighted to start. It happens. This offer Tuesday [against Cleveland State] is like a mid-season conference game that’s just going to be a battle. It’s a great team that rides here; we’re excited about them, ”said third-year BYU coach Mark Pope.
BYU vs. Cleveland State
Tip time: 8 p.m. (HMT)
Site: Marriott Center, Provo, Utah
Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM – Pre-game starts at 7 p.m.)
Series: First meeting
BYU Basketball opens 2021-22 season with high expectations
The third year of the Mark Pope era for BYU basketball features a dynamic roster looking to return to the NCAA tournament as a single-digit seed. But this time, they want to make a run after being bounced back early by UCLA.
It helps BYU get custody Alex Barcello back for another year. Barcello was an AP All-American Honorable Mention a season ago, and he’s taken advantage of the free year of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Barcello team up with transfer Milwaukee graduate Te’Jon Lucas to form an experienced backcourt. Barcello and Lucas’ guard tandem will be one of the most experienced guard tandems in the country this season.
The frontcourt has a few questions about how the rotation will play out each night, but the parts are there for top production, starting with preseason All-WCC pick Caleb Lohner. In his first season a year ago, Lohner became one of the top rebounders in the past two decades for BYU basketball.
In third place is Gideon George, who looks set to make big strides in his game after his freshman year at BYU from the ranks of JUCO.
The central position includes Richard Harward, who has rubbed shoulders with Mark Pope since their days together at UVU. He understands what Pope, himself a former center, expects from the job. Harward had a scary moment in the exhibition victory over Colorado Christian, where he collapsed on the bench and then had to be taken to the locker room by his teammates. Pope said on Thursday Harward would be fine and he said it could have been dehydration for Orem’s 6-foot-11, 256-pound senior.
What you need to know about the State of Cleveland
Cleveland State finished last season 19-7 overall and won the Horizon League conference tournament. A league tournament that current BYU goalie Te’Jon Lucas took part in last year with Milwaukee, whom the Vikings beat en route to the league tournament title.
The Vikings have been on the rise for the past two years under star coach Dennis Gates, consecutive Horizon League Coach of the Year. Gates worked for nearly a decade on the Florida State Bench under the direction of FSU coach Leonard Hamilton.
The Vikings bring back 14 players from last year’s NCAA tournament squad, as well as a former WCC starter to Transfer Portal’s Pacific Broc Finstuen and Florida State Grad Transfer Guardian Nathanael Jack . They are the pre-season favorites to win the Horizon League again in the 2021-22 season.
CSU scored just 6.4 three-point field goals per game last season.
G – Alex Barcello, 6-2, 192, Sr.
G – Te’Jon Lucas, 6-1, 187, Sr.
F – Gideon George, 6-6, 210, Sr.
F – Caleb Lohner, 6-8, 235, Soph.
C – Richard Harward, 6-11, 256, Sr.
Cleveland State (0-0)
G – Craig Beaudion, 6-3, 170, Sr.
G – Tre Gomillion, 6-4, 215, Sr.
G – D’Moi Hodge, 6-4, 180, Sr.
F – Torrey Patton, 6-5, 195, Sr.
F – Deante Johnson, 6-9, 210, Sr.
Prediction: BYU basketball prediction season with a win
BYU’s three-point shot will make the difference against Cleveland State. BYU and its staff are unlikely to faze the Vikings, as they are an experienced senior team who are convinced they can win. But the first regular-season game at the Marriott Center with a full capacity opportunity since BYU’s momentous victory over Gonzaga in February 2020 will rock Cleveland State.
BYU’s guard tandem of Barcello and Lucas only has one match under their belt in the exhibit. Look for Lucas to be aggressive in this game, taking on a team familiar with his staff.
The Vikings lag behind at halftime, but BYU pulls away midway through the second half to claim a double-digit victory on opening night.
BYU 81, State of Cleveland 65
Mitch Harper is a BYU insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.