Associated Press

Over the course of the Dave Rose era, BYU fans have grown accustomed to watching their team play in the NCAA Tournament. In eight seasons as the head coach, Rose has taken the Cougars to the NCAA Tournament six times.

Rose has piled up an impressive record at BYU: 209 wins and 66 losses. Rose is second all-time in basketball wins and has the highest winning percentage of any coach at BYU (.760).

If the Cougars want to increase their chances of making another NCAA Tournament run this year, they will have to win some big games against some very tough opponents.

"This is a terrific non-conference schedule that will really help our team for league play," Rose said before the season. "We will face many tests and teams from coast to coast."

Here's a closer look at the games BYU will need to win if it wants to go to the NCAA Tournament again this year.

Justin Giles is a recent graduate of the University of Utah. Email: justingiles@deseretnews.com

STANFORD CARDINAL



After opening up the season with a home win over Big Sky favorite Weber State on Friday, the Cougars now face a tough test on the road as they take on Stanford as part of ESPN’s Tipoff Marathon. Both teams come into the game undefeated with 1-0 records.

Stanford, which is known more for its football program than basketball program, still comes into the game with plenty of experienced players. The Cougars will need to come out and play turnover-free basketball if they want to beat the Cardinal. The Cardinal, which were picked to finish sixth in the Pac-12 this year, are looking as well to get a signature win this season, and BYU would do that for them.

A win would do wonders for the Cougars' resume when the NCAA committee looks over their body of work to determine who gets invited to the big dance and who gets left home.

UTAH UTES
Tom Smart

The Utes basketball team has seen some major improvement over the last couple of years. It wasn't that long ago that the Utes won just six games in an entire season. Luckily for fans, the Utes are improving, and the Pac-12 media have taken notice.

After being picked to come in last during their first two seasons in the conference, expectations on the hill are higher. The media expect the Utes to finish ninth in the league, edging out Oregon State, USC and Washington State.

While BYU has dominated the rivalry as of late, the Cougars haven't been rewarded because the Utes have been a drag on BYU's strength of schedule. This year the Utes look much improved and will give BYU all they can handle when the two teams collide Dec. 14 at the Huntsman Center.

UTAH STATE AGGIES



The Utah State Aggies men's basketball team is new to the Mountain West Conference, and it looks as though it is going to have to earn the respect of the league. The Aggies were predicted to finish fifth overall in the conference.

"The first thing I'd say is that it's a little odd," USU head coach Stew Morrill said about being picked fifth. "We're used to being picked pretty high in the polls in the past. … the reality is that we've got to prove that we belong. I've been saying that all along since we got into the Mountain West. We've got to prove that we're competitive first, and if we prove that, we have to prove we can contend and try and be a team that's up with the top of the league. You've got to be competitive before you can be a contender."

Utah State returns a lot of players this year, including four starters in Preston Medlin, Spencer Butterfield, Jarred Shaw and guard Marcel Davis. The Aggies, who have one of the biggest home-court advantages in the nation, look poised to return to the NCAA Tournament under Morrill.

The game is in Salt Lake City at EnergySolutions Arena on Nov. 30.

TEXAS LONGHORNS



The Texas Longhorns basketball team has fallen to ranks that Longhorn fans have not seen in a long, long time. Coach Rick Barnes is coming off his first losing season (16-18) and has yet another extremely young team. With many player departures (NBA, Europe, transfers), Texas is still in rebuilding mode.

Even though Texas is young, expectations are somewhat high at Texas, where losing is never accepted. Barnes' seat is getting warmer with every loss, and it doesn't help that the Longhorns are picked near the bottom of the league, eighth overall in the Big 12 Preseason Media Poll.

With a new athletic director coming to Texas next year, Barnes is going to need a big season if he wants to keep his job. A lot will be on the line when these teams meet on Nov. 25.

IOWA STATE CYCLONES
Associated Press

Fred Hoiberg is entering his fourth season as the head coach at Iowa State, and it seems that expectations have never been higher. After all, Iowa State was predicted to finish fourth overall in the Big 12 by the experts.

Last year, Iowa State finished the season 23-12, making its way into the NCAA Tournament before losing in the third round to Ohio State on a last-second 3-point shot by Aaron Craft.

Iowa State and BYU played against each other last year, and the outcome was an ugly one for the Cougars as Iowa State won the game 83-62. BYU will look to get revenge when it hosts the Cyclones on Nov. 20.

OREGON DUCKS
Associated Press

Oregon, like Stanford, is known for its football team and not usually for its basketball team. Nevertheless, Oregon is led by coach Dana Altman, who hopes to continue building off of his team's Sweet 16 appearance last year. The Ducks knocked off Oklahoma State and St. Louis in the NCAA Tournament before eventually falling to Louisville 77-69 last year.

While the Ducks lost some key players to graduation and the NBA, they have enough talent to make another run. After all, they were picked to finish fourth overall in the Pac-12 Conference Preseason Media Poll.

The last time BYU and Oregon played each other was back in 2011, and BYU won 79-65 at EnergySolutions Arena. This year, the No. 18 Ducks will host the Cougars in a big non-conference game for both programs.

Besides playing against St. Mary's and Gonzaga this year, this could be BYU's toughest game of the year.

WCC BOTTOM DWELLERS

Pepperdine, San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Diego

Playing in the West Coast Conference has been a big change for the Cougars and their fans. Among the biggest differences are game times, TV coverage and smaller arenas, but the biggest difference is the strength of schedule between the two leagues.

It's no secret that the Mountain West Conference was a top basketball league. Teams could afford to lose a couple games and still make it into the NCAA Tournament. Not so much in the West Coast Conference. Losing a game or two to mediocre teams will cost a trip the big dance. BYU found this out last year; it lost games against San Diego and San Francisco.

If BYU wants to return the NCAA Tournament this year, the Cougars will have to take care of business in the West Coast Conference. If not, they could very well be on the outside looking in again.