The Cougars met the media here at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee today, participating in the NCAA-mandated interview sessions with the media and practicing for the first time in the place that usually houses the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks.
There were a few BYU fans in attendance at the free, open practice, but most of the 500 or so folks in attendance were there to watch Wisconsin, which took the court when BYU was finished.
The Cougars gathered at midcourt for their traditional team photo when they were done; This is the seventh time BYU has made the NCAA Tournament in coach Dave Rose’s nine-year tenure, so they are getting accustomed to the practice-ending rite.
BYU chose Tyler Haws and Anson Winder to represent the team from the podium, along with Rose, of course.
Neither Rose nor the players said anything inflammatory or anything like that — no surprise there — as most of the questions centered on life without Kyle Collinsworth and/or the game against Oregon back on Dec. 21 in Eugene that the Ducks won 100-96 in overtime.
In my opinion, the best comment was delivered by Rose when I asked him what he would say to national analysts such as Digger Phelps and Doug Gottlieb who have said BYU doesn’t belong in the tournament this year.
"Probably I’d just tell them that if you would spend five months with our team, you would have a whole different understanding or reasoning or interpretation or feeling about our team," he said. "Because these guys deserve to be here."
I asked the same question of Haws, Winder, Eric Mika, Josh Sharp, Matt Carlino and Nate Austin.
Here are their replies:
"You know, we don’t pay attention a lot to what people say about us, but we’re pretty confident we should be in the tournament and we’ve got to go prove ourselves." — Tyler Haws
"That’s a challenge we will have to step up and have to deal with, and overall with the motivation of this tournament and having a loss [of Collinsworth], it is a competitive factor. We want to come in and compete, and that’s what we’ve done all year and we’re excited for the challenge." — Anson Winder
"Everyone tells you what people are saying, so it is hard to avoid what people are saying at this point. But yeah, you hear that stuff. But it doesn’t really matter. We are in the tournament, so now it is just about winning games … I think it should be [motivation] for our team. If you are not supposed to be here, then you really have nothing to lose. So we will see." — Matt Carlino
"Maybe it motivates us a little bit. It is not encouraging to see people think you are not going to win. But like I said, it is not like we are searching out for people to prove wrong. We know we can win, so we are just going to go play our game." — Eric Mika
"The fact of the matter is our team won enough games to get in, and we got in. The committee felt our strength of schedule was enough, and that’s what matters. … Our motivation is doing it for each other. We don’t need anything else. We trust each other. We enjoy playing with each other." — Nate Austin
"There are a lot of people saying a lot of different things. Our main thing is, no matter what anyone else says, we want to go win a game and prove we do belong. We played Oregon before and we played them tough. We want to go out and put it on the line on Thursday." — Josh Sharp
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