BYU's basketball team is all settled in here in Dayton, Ohio, awaiting Tuesday night's NCAA Tournament "First Four" game against the Iona Gaels. The Cougars arrived Monday morning, did their media obligations this afternoon and then practiced on the University of Dayton Arena floor for 40 minutes. They also practiced at another gymnasium on Monday.
Oddly, the Cougars scrimmaged for part of the time at the UD Arena; Can't say I have ever seen a team do that before in their NCAA-alotted time at the tournament venue.
The media talked to coach Dave Rose before that practice session, so we weren't able to ask him about it. My guess is that because the Cougars have gone 10 days without playing, they need all the game-situation playing time they can get right now.
Stephen Rogers (knee) did not practice on Monday, and given Rose's Sunday statement that Rogers suffered another setback, it is highly doubtful that the junior sharpshooter will play on Tuesday. That's a shame, because Tuesday's game promises to be a fast-paced shootout, and both teams' depth will be tested.
Mentioned before that Rose, Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies addressed the media today during BYU's portion of the news conference. If you want to read everything that was said, go here for a transcript.
If not, I've pulled out a few of the better comments here:
Hartsock on how his sore left leg is doing:
"You know, the leg's feeling pretty good right now. The only thing that's really bothering me is maybe my ankle. The knee's feeling really good. But I've been able to practice on it. It feels pretty good right now.And I don't know if we played a team that really resembles Iona, because you watch the film, they just get up and down so quick. They have great guards, excellent shooters. I don't think we've ever matched up to a team like that before.
But I'm just excited to go out there and compete with them and see how the game goes."
Hartsock on the news that President Barack Obama is expected to attend the game:
"I'm not a big political guy. I know who the President is, but I know that he played some pickup ball at North Carolina not too long ago, but other than that, you know, just another fan in the stands."
Hartsock on the difference between last year with Jimmer Fredette in the NCAAs and this year:
"It's a big difference. I remember last year having that 3 seed, a lot of expectations not only to win the first game, but advance deep into the tournament.
You know, it's a neat feeling, because it's the First Four, and it's still exciting, I'll say that, just being part of the tournament once more, and being part of this program that's been to it quite a bit. It's a lot of fun, and excited for another tournament, another chance at a tournament title.
Davies on Iona guard MoMo Jones, who played for Arizona against BYU in 2009 and 2010:
"He's a great player. He definitely hurt us when we were there. I think he had 20‑something points around there.
He's a great shooter, great guy, great player. It's going to be fun to‑‑ he's our only really familiar face on that team that we know maybe more than anyone else on that team."
Davies on whether he's licking his chops because Iona doesn't have a player taller than 6-foot-7:
"They're great players. They're big, strong dudes. They know how to play. They know how to use their bodies. And it's going to be a battle regardless of their height. And we're expected to see different defenses by them down low and everything.
So it's not a matter of who‑‑ like who is going to be defending me or Noah, it's going to take a lot out of us offensively to score on both those guys, whoever they bring in.
BYU coach Dave Rose on whether last year's tourney experience will help this year:
"I hope it helps in our preparation. As far as when you start playing, the guys who can feel the most comfortable out there in this environment the quickest I think are the ones the most successful.
Usually you can rely on experienced players, players who have been through this environment to maybe feel a little more comfortable.
But that's kind of what you hope happens. Once the ball's tipped and it comes down to execution, comes down to effort, and hopefully that your team can start to play the way you've played all year long in this environment as soon as possible."
Rose on whether they want the game to turn into a track meet:
"Well, what I want to do is get our guys into the flow of the game, how we play. And that's an up‑tempo, fast‑paced game. What we really have to concentrate on is in transition defense, to make them take contested shots.
Their point guard is as good with the ball as anybody we've ever played. And he not only can finish at the rim, he's a great 3‑point shooter. And then he can really make plays for his teammates. And his teammates are good finishers. They can finish at the rim, they can finish from the 3‑point line. We're playing the leading scoring team in the country with the point guard who has the most assists.
So it's not a team that's creating things for themselves. They play together. They share the ball, and transition defense will be a huge factor in this game.
And I would bet that he would tell you the same thing; that he probably thinks transition defense is a big key for his team, because that's how we both play."
Rose on whether the long layoff has been helpful:
"It's hard to say, because rhythm, feel, repetition I think is something that coaches really rely on as far as how their team's going to play.
And I think that the time off has been good for our players who have needed to heal, and hopefully we'll physically be better prepared.
But mentally and how we execute, that will be a question mark for us because of the time. It's been a long time since we played, and hopefully we can get back really comfortable into how we play, what we want to do, how we need to execute, because all it will take is a few minutes and this team can‑‑ they can score a lot of points in a very small amount of time.
And so we're going to have to be good all game long and we'll have to be really consistent throughout the game."