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BYU basketball: Cougs, Terriers to draw on tourney experience

Published: Tuesday, March 15 2011 11:58 p.m. MDT

DENVER — When No. 3-seeded BYU and No. 14 Wofford square off Thursday in an opening round NCAA Tournament game at the Pepsi Center, it will match two teams that are grateful to have tournament experience.

Last season, the Terriers, as a No. 13 seed, were tied with No. 4 Wisconsin in the final minute before losing, 53-49. This veteran Wofford squad won't be in awe of the Big Dance atmosphere.

"We're going to be better prepared for the environment. We're going to be better prepared for the stage. There's nothing like experience," said coach Mike Young. "(BYU) may whip our tails. But we're going to be better prepared to handle everything that comes along with this weekend and we'll do everything we can do give ourselves a chance to win."

"We know they're an experienced team and that they've played in this tournament before," said BYU guard Jimmer Fredette. "They almost won a game last year against a good team, Wisconsin. We know it's going to be a tough matchup and we're excited to play."

BYU coach Dave Rose is wary of Wofford's eight-game winning streak and the confidence it played with as it won the Southern Conference Tournament. "We've got to figure out a way to break that confidence," Rose said.

Meanwhile, this marks five straight NCAA Tournament appearances for the Cougars.

"It helps having experience," said Fredette. "Almost everybody's been through the tournament experience except for a couple of the freshmen. I think that helps, definitely, with distractions, knowing what to expect once you get there, how things work, then playing in an NBA arena and playing well. I think we'll be alright."

Emery said NCAA Tournament experience plays a factor.

"Jimmer and I have had a lot of success and a lot of wins. Winning last year against Florida in the first round gives us a boost of confidence," he explained. "Also, it gives us an advantage of what we need to do in order to win. Most of these guys were on the team last year, so they know what it takes. It takes 40 minutes of basketball. You can't play 30 or 35. You have to play 40 complete minutes. In last year's case, it was 50 minutes (double overtime). You just have to come ready to fight to the end."

TODAY'S SCHEDULE: BYU is scheduled to participate in the NCAA news conference at 3:35 p.m. today. The Cougars will practice from 4:25-5:05 p.m. at the Pepsi Center. Wofford's news conference starts at 5:15 and will practice from 5:55-6:35 p.m.. Practices are open to the public.

DID YOU KNOW?: Wofford is located in Spartanburg, S.C., about 1,306 miles away from the Pepsi Center. For BYU, it's only a 482-mile journey to Denver. While BYU's enrollment is more than 35,000, about 1,450 students are enrolled at Wofford.

DENVER, AGAIN: This isn't the first time BYU has started an NCAA Tournament in Denver. In 2004, the No. 12-seeded Cougars jumped out to an early lead against No. 5 Syracuse at the Pepsi Center. But the Orangemen, the defending national champions, prevailed, 80-75, thanks in large part to a 43-point performance by guard Gerry McNamara, who nailed nine 3-pointers.

Mike Hall, BYU's director of basketball operations, played on that Cougar team.

MINNESOTA MAFIA: The core of Wofford's team — forward Noah Dahlman and guards Cameron Rundles and Jamar Diggs — hails from Minneapolis.

Thus, the trio is dubbed the "Minnesota Mafia."

"(The nickname) just kind of stuck a little bit because we're all tough guys," Dahlman said. "Being from the Midwest, we're not flashy at all. We use our game. We're going to grind it out, and it paid off tonight. These guys paid dividends for this program."

NO. 3 VS. NO. 14: In NCAA Tournament history, the No. 3 seed has a 77-15 (.837) record against No. 14 seeds. However, according to bracketscience.com, "No. 3 seeds are nearly four times more prone to first-round upsets than two seeds. More amazingly, they're less likely to win one game in the tourney than seeds are to win two."

Recent upsets involving 3-14 matchups? Weber State beat North Carolina in 1999; Bucknell knocked off Kansas in 2005; and Northwestern State defeated Iowa in 2006.

e-mail: jeffc@desnews.com

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