Provo • The BYU Cougars are playing a nonconference basketball game thousands of miles away from home on Wednesday night, but that doesn’t mean the game against Virginia Tech of the Atlantic Coast Conference is meaningless.
As far as the 17-5 Cougars’ hopes for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament are concerned, it is enormous, although at 1-4, Virginia Tech is tied with Georgia Tech for the worst record in the ACC.
A win over the 12-7 Hokies probably won’t do much for the Cougars’ NCAA Tournament résumé, but a loss would probably mean BYU would have to win all eight of its remaining West Coast Conference games to get in the big dance if it doesn’t win the conference tournament.
Tipoff is at 5 p.m. and the game can be viewed online only on ESPN3.com.
Coach Dave Rose said the Cougars are not assigning any more, or any less, importance to the game at 9,847-seat Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, but acknowledged games like these are crucial to building national credibility.
“I think every game we prepare for, we prepare with a high level of importance,” Rose said. “As far as our urgency is concerned, games like this can really help your team in a lot of ways. But obviously the goal in preparation and the goal as we coach the game and play the game, is that these are competitive guys, and competitive guys like to win, and so we will put everything into it that we can.”
Rose and Va. Tech coach Seth Greenberg are friends from way back when Greenberg coached out West at Long Beach State and have been trying to work out a series for several years, Rose said. Next year, the Hokies will play BYU in Salt Lake City at EnergySolutions Arena, probably in December.
With a huge homestand looming — the Cougars play host to No. 21 Saint Mary’s on Saturday and Gonzaga on Feb. 2 — Rose acknowledged crossing a couple time zones for a game now is a huge challenge.
“It wasn’t ideal for us, but we didn’t have our conference schedule at the time,” he said. “That’s kind of how it came out in August for us” when the conference schedule was announced.
Rose said the game could come down to a test of wills: BYU pushes the ball at every opportunity and averages 80 points per game, 13th-most in the country. Virginia Tech is excellent defensively and allows just 60.1 points a game, tied for 30th in the country.
BYU at Virginia Tech
P At Cassell Coliseum (Blacksburg, Va.)
Tipoff • 5 p.m.
TV • ESPN3.com
Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Records • BYU 17-5, 6-2; Virginia Tech 12-7, 1-4
Series • BYU leads, 1-0
Last meeting • BYU, 97-64 (Dec. 29, 1967)
About the Cougars • They are averaging exactly 80 points per game. They are allowing 65.1 ppg. … Forward Noah Hartsock has 1,003 career points and is the 43rd player in school history to pass the 1,000-point plateau. … They are playing a rare nonconference game in the middle of the WCC season, the first time since playing UTEP in 2009 that they have stepped out of conference during league play.
About the Hokies • They are led in scoring by 6-foot-3 guard Erick Green, who is averaging 16.1 points per game. He’s the only starter averaging in double figures. … Dorian Finney-Smith, a 6-8 forward, leads them in rebounding with 7.5 per game. … They are scoring only 67.6 points per game, but allowing just 60.1 ppg. … They are among the nation’s leaders in 3-point percentage defense, holding opponents to 25.4 percent shooting from 3-point range.