When BYU and Wofford meet on the NCAA Tournament hardwoods on Thursday, it won't be for the first time. The Cougars and Terriers met once previously, in 1998's season opener at the Marriott Center. Both teams were coming off nine-win seasons the year before, and both teams would end 1998-99 with almost identical records; BYU went 12-16, while Wofford went 11-16.
On the respective benches on Nov. 13, 1998, were assistant coaches, both of whom would one day take over for their bosses and lead their programs as head coaches. BYU's Dave Rose says he and Wofford head man Mike Young have since gotten to know each other while out on the recruiting trail.
"Mike came up to me and talked about our game in Provo," says Rose of one their first encounters, "and we've kept kind of a friendship since then."
Young remembers well the game in 1998, which ended up as a 73-67 win for BYU.
"We were right there; we were nip and tuck," Young says. "It was tight down the stretch, the ball was put in play, and BYU has six players on the floor. There's a (player) who casually walks off the baseline, right in front of an official, and he never blinks. Not that it had anything to do with the outcome, but I do remember that."
"I remember what a phenomenal environment it was," says Young, "and I remember the city, and how cordial and kind they were, until the ball went into the air. That was one of the toughest crowds we've every played in front of, and we've played in front of some tough ones."
Rose and Young's recent meetings often occurred while Rose and assistant coach Terry Nashif were traveling together, recruiting South Carolina native Damarcus Harrison, who has since signed to play for BYU this upcoming season. Young (whose school is located in Spartanburg, S.C.) says "every gym that I would go to, if Damarcus was there, lo and behold, here sits Dave and Terry."
"I accused them of having rental property in South Carolina," Young says. "The job they did with that kid, in pursuing him â€¦ golly, if there was a staff that deserved to get a good player, it was them. I just admire the heck out of Dave and Terry. It will be nice to see them, but I don't look forward to playing their team, I can tell you that."
Of the BYU Cougars, Young says "I'm more impressed with them the more I watch them. We hear so much about (Jimmer) Fredette, but we are every bit as impressed with their team." Young calls Fredette "a special, special player â€¦ he scores like he breathes â€” it's amazing. I love watching him play; he doesn't say a word, he just whips you, and goes on about his business."
The Southern Conference champion Terriers are appearing in the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year, having fallen just short of a massive upset in the first round last year. Wofford, the No. 13 seed, had tied No. 4 seed Wisconsin with only 1:17 to play before the Badgers held on for a narrow four-point victory. This year's 21-12 Terrier team is one of the best shooting teams in the country, ranking eighth in field goal percentage and sixth in 3-point accuracy.
"We're going to have to spend a lot of time figuring out their schemes and what they like to do," says Rose. "Mike (Young) is a very, very good coach, and his guys are tough."
TOURNEY TIDBITS: BYU has never lost to a double-digit seed at the NCAA Tournament, going 4-0 since seeding was introduced in 1979. BYU is making its 26th NCAA Tournament appearance. Only 21 college basketball programs have played in more NCAA Tournaments. BYU is appearing in a fifth-consecutive NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. BYU's last Mountain Time NCAA Tournament appearance was in 2004, as BYU lost 80-75 to Syracuse in the first round at the Pepsi Center.
Greg Wrubell is the radio play-by-play "Voice of the Cougars," and hosts BYU Football and Basketball Coaches' Shows on KSL Newsradio and KSL 5 Television. Wrubell's blog "Cougar Tracks" can be found at byu.ksl.com. "Behind the Mic" is published every Tuesday during the BYU football and basketball seasons. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org