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Jay covers BYU athletics for The Salt Lake Tribune. You can follow him on Twitter @drewjay.

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BYU's Hartsock says he's close to 100 percent, ready to face Iona in NCAA Tournament

So the Cougars found out this afternoon that they will play an NCAA Tournament game on Tuesday, against the Iona Gaels, in Dayton, Ohio.

After getting that weeklong question answered, the next query revolved around BYU's best player, Noah Hartsock.

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Has he recovered enough to be a factor in the First Four game? It appears the Cougars are going to be slight favorites (1 or 2 points).

"Noah was a lot better [Saturday]. It was the best he's looked in probably three weeks," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "And so that's a really good sign. Stephen [Rogers] not as good. He had another setback yesterday."

Rose said BYU's overall health "is great."

Saturday's practice was really spirited, he said.

"It was really lively, and I think that our guys will be ready to go," he said.

Hartsock seconded Rose's notion that he's close to being 100 percent.

"I was actually able to do a turnaround jumper for the first time, without pain. So it is feeling better, so I am really excited for another chance to play," he said. "It is feeling much better. They did a great job with the rehab, and it is just getting stronger, better. I am feeling really good about it."

More from Hartsock on Sunday afternoon:

On getting into the tourney:

"I am just really glad and really grateful that we get another shot at the tournament. It is really hard just to sit out a week and not know what is going to happen and just watch other teams play and all this bubble talk and everything.

There are a lot of great teams out there. I am just really thankful that we are getting another chance to play in the NCAA Tournament. No complaints here."

On whether they should have been able to avoid the First Four game:

"You know, that's tough, especially since we didn't necessarily play well in our last game. I am sure the committee saw that and everything. We really deserve to be in the tournament. I am glad about the spot we have right now, because there were a lot of teams that were left out, a lot of disappointed teams. So we are really glad to be in it.:

On what he knows about Iona:

"I got a chance to watch them when they played Nevada in a BracketBuster game. Machado and MoMo Jones, who transferred from Arizona, so they have great guards. They are a really talented team. We are excited to go play it.

The President of the United States is going to be there watching, so I think we are all going to be a little amped up to play that game."

On the quick turnaround, having to play Tuesday:

"You know, I think we are really excited because we haven't played for more than a week. I think we are well-rested enough and ready to play. We are just looking forward to it. I think everyone is excited to play in the tournament."

On what last week was like:

"It has been kind of nerve-wracking. I have probably checked it three times a day, you know, see what Joe Lunardi had to say and just everything.

I read that book that my mom gave me a couple of years ago, that Final Four. It had a portion about the committee. So I actually read that last night, about how they go through deciding everything when they get there, just so I could be as focused as I can, just to see how things happen."

On what game they wished they had back:

"That Baylor game, I think if we had won that, that would have made us a more secure lock in the tournament. I think that would have been really big for us. But it just didn't happen. We couldn't do anything this week, so we just had to watch and I am just real glad we are in this."

On what they take away from the Gonzaga loss in the WCC semis:

"We just reviewed the tape, and we just watched it, and we just weren't competing. We focused a lot on playing hard, being aggressive. These last few practices, this team has worked really hard. I am really pleased with what we have done these last few practices, just going up and down the court, and just working and competing really hard.

They have been tough practices, but they will be good for us."

On how much the last game was Gonzaga playing well, and BYU playing poorly:

"They played really good. They were shooting the ball really well, and it was hard to compete against that. But we can't let that happen. We can't let ourselves get in a hole, because we can't come back from that. That's what we really focused on: we have to start games a whole lot better and pay more attention to the scouting report and play better."



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