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

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UW appears excited to face BYU in NIT opener

So how many folks are going to show up in the Marriott Center on Tuesday night for BYU's NIT opening-round game against 18-15 Washington of the Pac 12?

Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar predicted 13,000 or 14,000 in this article in the Seattle Times.

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Although I didn't sense a lot of optimism from BYU fans after the Cougars fell out of the WCC Tournament some 10 days ago with a loss to San Diego, I am going to say Romar's prediction is a good one. I'm thinking around 13,000 as well. We will see.

It is significant, however, that students who have All-Sport passes will get in free. Will some fans stay away because the 7:30 p.m. game will be televised by ESPN?

Judging from the comments coming out of Montlake, it appears that Washington's players are excited to be in the NIT this year. We will hear from BYU players after practice tonight (approximately 5 p.m.) about how they feel about playing in the NIT.

Here's what coach Dave Rose said in a school news release Sunday night:

"We're very excited to be playing in the NIT," Rose said. "It's a great opportunity for our team to keep playing and finish the season strong. This will be so good for our younger players to gain postseason tournament experience but I'm especially excited that our seniors get to play another game in the Marriott Center."

The Huskies know the NIT grind, having made it to the semifinals last year in New York City.

"Washington has a great basketball tradition," Rose said. "They have a nationally respected coach in Lorenzo Romar and compete in one of the top leagues in the country. Our staff and players are really looking forward to Tuesday."

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While the Cougars (21-11) get a taste of postseason play on Tuesday, at least one future Cougar -- maybe two -- will be playing earlier that day in the national junior college championships in Hutchinson, Kansas.

BYU commit Skyler Halford's No. 11 Salt Lake Community College team opens play at the NJCAA D-I men's tournament against No. 22 seed Eastern Oklahoma State College at 11 a.m. MDT.

Halford averages 17.5 points per game for the Bruins, which also feature Sai Tummala of Phoenix, Ariz. BYU has reportedly offered Tummala a scholarship.

If the Bruins (28-4) win on Tuesday, they will get a rematch on Wednesday with No. 3 seed Central Arizona College (29-4). Central Arizona downed SLCC 88-78 in the District I championship game on March 9 and got a first-round bye in the national tournament.



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