How did the Cougars (23-11) get such a favorable seed after they lost five WCC regular-season games?
It has to start with their rugged non-conference schedule. No question, the Selection Committee rewarded Rose and the Cougars for playing one of the most difficult non-conference schedules in the country. The committee showed that by leaving out SMU, the first team that was currently in the top-25 to be left out since Utah State in 2004. The Mustangs played the 129th most difficult schedule in the country, and they paid for it.
I asked Rose if he put together the schedule with the committee in mind.
"I don't know if we knew exactly, but I had quite a few discussions with our staff when we were scheduling the games, because I wanted the games, and I felt like our schedule was pretty well put together, and we were just trying to finalize the last few games, and in years past we would kind of take the ones that fit the best for us to win, and this year we didn't. We took two road games. We took a road game at Stanford, we took a road game at UMass [Actually at Springfield, Mass.], which we will get them both in the Marriott Center next year. That will be terrific for us. But we were able to win one of them.
The Utah game is part of a series. The Oregon game was part of a series that was delayed until this year. So that was coincidence, I guess. But any time you get in those exempt tournaments, you have a chance to play some really good teams. We got Texas and Wichita State, and it turned out they both had terrific seasons. Next year we will be in the Maui Classic, and we will have three good games there. You look at the field and it is really quality teams.
We didn't finish the schedule last year in a normal way. We waited and took some really tough games, and I think it really paid off."
Rose said scheduling is part art, part science, and that it took the staff some time to figure it out when they joined the WCC three years ago.
"The first time with the league change a couple years ago, and your schedules are out a year or two, we really decided that we are going to change the model to a certain extent. And we really challenged our team. We got a couple of those games, but quite a few of them got away from us. The two overtime games, the overtime game at Oregon and the overtime game at Portland in league, those are things that you always want to get back.
I just believe these guys went through a really difficult schedule in the non-conference, and I am really glad to see that they were rewarded for it."
Here are more of Rose's comments, especially some of those that weren't in the first few minutes of his 15-minute chat with media members on Sunday:
On what the expectation was before Selection Sunday and if he sweated this one out: