BYU basketball: Elated Cougs earn 10 seed, will play Oregon
Provo • Sheer, unadulterated elation.
To a man, that's how the BYU Cougars described their emotions after seeing their name flash across the television screen in a theater room at coach Dave Rose's house on Sunday afternoon.
In fact, freshman center Eric Mika said he was so overcome with joy that he nearly passed out when it was announced that not only were the Cougars (23-11) in the big dance, but they had received a higher-than-expected 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament. BYU will face No. 7 seed Oregon at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee on Thursday at approximately 1:10 p.m. MDT.
"We were jumping around, and the room got really hot really fast," Mika said a few hours later during a news conference at the Marriott Center. "I had to sit down after a little bit. It was fun. It was exciting."
Even Rose, one of the more stoic coaches in college basketball, admitted to getting caught up in the moment as the Cougars went from a team most prognosticators predicted would be the last team in to a team that probably didn't need to sweat out the last weekend of games, like Rose and the players acknowledged they did.
"Well, we are thrilled," Rose said. "It is a good day. I think that once you get past the emotion of excitement of being in the tournament, you get hit pretty hard with your opponent, and we are familiar with our opponent."
That's because it is a team that handed BYU one of its five nonconference losses, part of a rugged early season schedule that was designed to catch the Selection Committee's attention and earn its respect.
"It really paid off," Rose said, noting that he veered slightly from his normal mode of operation in putting together this schedule when he added road games at UMass and Stanford late, instead of "teams we thought we could beat."
Oregon defeated BYU 100-96 in overtime back on Dec. 21, taking charge of a game that BYU led throughout and by as many as seven points in the final minutes of regulation.
"We all went crazy [when their name was called]," said Matt Carlino, who will likely take the place of injured point guard Kyle Collinsworth in the starting lineup. "It was just an exciting moment for us, especially being familiar with [Oregon]. It is a team we have played, and had a chance to beat at their place. It is an exciting thing."
Rose said he generally avoids following bracketology and researching BYU's chances of making the tournament when it is on the bubble, as it was believed to be this year.
"But this year, I got pretty involved," he said, noting how BYU had an RPI in the low 30s and lost to Gonzaga by 11 points in the WCC championship game, and how the Zags' RPI was in the 20s. "I thought our numbers were good, and Thursday was a good day. Then, Friday was an even better day, and Saturday was a great day as far as how the rest of the teams played out."
It will be BYU's 28th NCAA Tournament appearance and sixth in the past seven years. The Cougars are 15-30 in NCAA Tournament games.
"We do like this matchup," said leading scorer Tyler Haws, who had 32 points at Oregon. "They play a fun style, an uptempo style that we like. Like Matt said, we had our chances to beat them up at their place, so we do like this challenge."