p class="TEXT_w_Indent"> If LMU has an advantage today, it is that it played on Thursday (beating Portland) and is more familiar with the Orleans Arena and its different background. It just isn't like a traditional college basketball arena.
Thursday, when the Cougars held their weekly news conference, I asked several players if they like the arena, and whether it is a "shooter's gym."
"I love the Orleans gym," said guard Tyler Haws. "I think it is a great shooter's gym. Teams shoot well in that gym. We haven't had as much success as we would like there, but I think we are ready this year."
Haws scored 20 points in the loss at the Orleans last year to San Diego, but clearly wasn't himself. He acknowledged earlier this season that he played through a "head injury" in that game, but didn't disclose the exact nature of the injury.
Point guard Kyle Collinsworth was in Russia last year, and the year before that when the Cougars went 1-1 in the conference tournament in their first year in the WCC. So, he's never played here, but he remembers watching the Cougars play here before he enrolled at BYU. Thursday, he didn't sound too concerned.
"We are going to have a shootaround Saturday morning, so we will be used to it. I don't remember much about it. I just remember the backdrop is kinda weird. There are like seats behind the hoop. But it is a gym, the hoops are 10 feet. Everything is the same," he said.
Here are a few more comments from Haws about the tourney and the Cougars' readiness level:
"I think we are in a great frame of mind. We have had a few tough challenges this year that have made us get into the right mindset. I feel like this team is tournament-tested. We know what to expect. We know the challenges. Now it is about going out and executing and doing what we know."