Crunch Time

It's crunch time for the Cougars. Every game from here on out, whether in the MWC Tournament or the NCAA Tournament, is a single-elimination game. How well the team does in the conference tournament will determine where it is seeded in the NCAA Tournament, which in turn will determine how far the team goes and whether it can win a game during March Madness for the first time in 15 years.

The postseason features a different brand of basketball. Sure, the team with the most points still wins, and teams can only have five players on the court at one time. And yes, shots from within the arc are worth two points, whereas shots beyond the arc are worth three points. But, what makes the games so different is that they are all single-elimination games with little time to rest or prepare between them.

Trent Plaisted acknowledged that it is a challenge to play in the conference tournament, given the fact that the team faces the prospect of playing single-elimination games back-to-back-to-back.

"But you know, we're a good team and we need to be accustomed to that schedule, and we'll be fine," said Plaisted. "With the way that Coach Rose conditions us and the way we've battled all year, three games in three days shouldn't be that big of a problem."

The tournament for BYU will begin on Thursday when the Cougars take on the Colorado State Rams, who got their first conference win of the season by beating Wyoming in the play-in game on Wednesday. If BYU beats CSU, then on Friday the Cougars will face the winner of the game between Air Force and San Diego State. Finally, a win on Friday will send the Cougars to the championship game on Saturday, where they will face UNLV, New Mexico, Utah or TCU. Given the fact that the tournament is played at UNLV's home court, the Rebels are expected to be the team among those four to advance to the championship game. A BYU-UNLV game would be a rematch of the championship game from last year, a game that UNLV won.

"It's a very tough tournament to win, and there's always upsets, there's always things that you probably don't expect to happen," said Plaisted, "and, you know, it's going to be the same this year, and our goal is just to get there and be in a position to win the whole thing at the very end."

Like virtually any other coach on the planet, Coach Rose will never tell anyone that a game isn't a big game or isn't important. A game against a struggling team - even after the conference championship has been clinched - is treated as importantly as a game against the top team in the nation. And while that line of thinking is hard for some people to buy into, it is definitely true in the postseason when the stakes are so high and a single loss is so costly.

Coach Rose said that when one plays on good teams or is associated with good teams, and they get into March, it is a unique feeling. Every game is a really big game, a fact that can be felt throughout the team and the staff, Rose said.

Coach Rose talked about how the team is able to keep the players focused and in the desired frame of mind as they prepare for and play in these increasingly important games.

"Most of it comes from your experienced players and guys that have been through it before, from your captains and your seniors," said Rose, "and as good as competitors as Ben [Murdock] and Sam [Burgess] are - our senior class - I think they do a really good job of just helping the rest of the guys understand how important it is, and then Lee [Cummard] and Trent and Sam are terrific as captains as far as interacting with the players."

So, with all of the pressure and intensity that the postseason brings, BYU can breathe a little easier knowing that the team has players that have been there before and know what to expect. The team will count on those players, all of which will need to play a big part in helping the team achieve its goals.

"We just want to put ourselves in a position to keep playing," said Rose. "That's another thing that's kind of special about March, is once you get through with the regular season, then it's … a win-or-you're-out kind of situation, and that's what also makes it pretty unique, and we just want to keep playing and keep playing together, [and] keep winning."


Total Blue Sports Top Stories