Let the Madness Begin

March Madness is upon us. On Sunday the Cougars found out they received a No. 8 seed and will face No. 9 seed Texas A&M in Anaheim, with the winner facing a likely game against No. 1 seed UCLA. This is the second year in a row that BYU has received a No. 8 seed despite hopes - and even expectations - for a better seed. Nevertheless, players and coaches say they are happy to be in the tournament.

Senior guard Sam Burgess said he knew the team was in the tournament prior to the announcement, and that he was just hoping to get a better seed than last year. That obviously did not happen, but Burgess said a No. 8 seed is still good, and that the No. 8-9 matchup makes for a good game.

Shortly after finding out the team's opening-round matchup, Burgess talked about what would come next.

"I'm sure all the guys will go home and figure out all of Texas A&M's games, how they did, who they beat, who they lost to, so we can … compare to each other," said Burgess, "and that's just how we do it, and I'm sure Monday we'll hit it hard and try to prepare for them the best way that the coaches can help us."

Burgess may not have been sweating over whether or not BYU would make the tournament, but Coach Rose said it was tough to lose in the championship game of the MWC Tournament, knowing that BYU would then have to count on an at-large bid.

"You want to win the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament because then you sleep a lot easier," said Rose.

While BYU was classified as a lock for the tournament by fans and experts alike, Coach Rose nevertheless said that after getting to the point where the team's name was actually called and it knew it was in and where it was going, he felt a lot better than he did the night before.

When asked about whether he was hoping for a better seed, Coach Rose said that the main thing the team and coaching staff was hoping for was to get themselves in a position to where they would get in the tournament, be able to play and compete, and stay a little bit closer to home. In addition, he said that there are a lot of really good basketball teams that aren't even playing in the NCAA Tournament.

So, rather than complaining about seeding, Coach Rose said he is not only really excited to be in the tournament, but is excited to be staying out west. Playing in Anaheim, Rose said, is nice because it makes travel logistics a bit easier, and also because BYU has a good fan base in Southern California.

As for Texas A&M, Rose said he has seen the Aggies play off and on prior to Sunday, but hasn't seen a full game of theirs. He said Texas A&M is a very athletic and long team, and is a very good defensive team as well.

In the time that Rose has been at BYU, including his years as an assistant coach, BYU has been matched up with power conference teams in the first round of the NCAA Tournament several times. However, BYU has also been matched up with the Cincinnati Bearcats in 2001 when they were still members of Conference USA, and was matched up with the Atlantic 10's Xavier last year. Rose said he doesn't bother focusing on whether or not he would rather play a team that's not from a power conference.

"I don't know if you can try to sit around and worry about it. I don't."

Nevertheless, during the time Rose has been the head coach, the Cougars have managed to avoid being matched up against any teams coming off of recent national championships. BYU's 2004 opponent, Syracuse, was the defending national championship, and BYU's 2003 opponent, Connecticut, had won its own championship four years earlier.

"Have we checked?" asked Rose jokingly when told about how he hadn't been scheduled against any recent national champions. "Have we checked to see if A&M has won a national championship?"

Many of BYU's players and staff members have the benefit of having gone to the tournament last year, thus knowing what to expect and having some prior experience to draw upon. Coach Rose was asked about what lessons the team could take away from last year's game against Xavier.

"Well, I think our players last year did a terrific job of preparing," said Rose. "I think we executed really well. We had got the game in a position to win it. We were a few plays short. Xavier made a few plays more than we did, and so what we want to do is to prepare the same way, have our focus be good, and get in a situation this year where we make a few more plays."


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