BYU does not want repeat performance


Brigham Young made several encore performances this basketball season: winning its second straight Mountain West Conference regular-season title, reaching at least 25 wins for the second consecutive year and finishing the season with the school's second top-25 national ranking in a row.

The Cougars (27-7), who were ranked 24th in last week's Associated Press poll, also earned their second straight invitation to the NCAA Tournament and are seeded eighth for the second consecutive season.

One performance BYU doesn't want to repeat, though, is last year's 79-77 loss to Xavier in the first round.

On Thursday, the Cougars will play ninth-seeded Texas A&M (24-10) in the first round of the NCAA West Regional in Anaheim, Calif.

"We played really well in last year's game, we just came up a little short," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "I expect this team to play just as well, and hopefully they'll make a few more plays down the stretch."

BYU, which returned two starters and five lettermen from last year's team, watched Sunday's selection show together in a theater room on campus.

"We were just all really excited to be in the tournament, and we're glad this year we'll stay a little closer to home," Rose said.

The Cougars will be playing in their 23rd NCAA Tournament and are looking to advance to the second round for the first time since 1993 when they beat Southern Methodist before losing to Kansas.

BYU is 11-25 in the NCAA Tournament overall and has lost its last five first-round games (1995, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007).

"One of the real keys (to success) is to prepare and focus on what you've done all year and go out and play like you've played," Rose said. "You don't need to change things.

"That's why the experience of playing in the tournament can help."

The Aggies, who lost to Kansas 77-71 in the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament, are led by all-Big 12 honorable mention picks Josh Carter and Joseph Jones.

Carter leads the team in scoring average at 11.9 points per game and was last year's national co-leader in 3-point shooting percentage (50).

Rose said he saw Texas A&M play for "maybe a half" of a game this season.

"I know they're very athletic, a really good rebounding team and a good defensive team," he said.

If the Cougars can get past the Aggies, they'll almost certainly play top seed UCLA (31-3), which is playing Mississippi Valley State (17-15) in the first round.

"Every team that wins a first-round game will play a really good team in the second round," Rose said.

BYU, which lost to UNLV in the Mountain West tournament championship game for the second straight year, started this season 7-0, capped by a 78-76 win over then-No. 6 Louisville at the Orleans Arena on Nov. 23.

"We proved that we can play with the best in the country," BYU sophomore and Bishop Gorman High School product Jonathan Tavernari said. "We can beat anybody on any given night."

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-0254.

 

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