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Dick Harmon: Cougars draw national media spotlight

Published: Wednesday, March 23 2011 11:33 p.m. MDT

NEW ORLEANS — It is interesting what stirs the media about BYU at this stage of the NCAA Tournament.

Jimmer Fredette, of course, is first.

The Brandon Davies suspension is a close second or third.

Last year in Oklahoma City, reporters waiting for BYU player interviews at the NCAA regional discussed HBO's series "Big Love" and polygamist lifestyles.

Some media folks can't get enough of the fact that BYU's postseason appearances this year have been in Las Vegas (MWC tournament) and here near Bourbon Street, cities known more for their decadence than their basketball.

It's as if BYU's players were aliens in a world without oxygen. How can they survive?

Of course, the real show begins tonight when No. 2 seed Florida plays No. 3 BYU. But on Wednesday, there were plenty of storylines to report about among the writers dispatched here from from coast to coast.

"This is a great city, I've had relatives live here," said BYU senior guard Jackson Emery.

"We love that we're playing here," said BYU coach Dave Rose.

A reporter asked Jimmer what he'd do if he walked by a strip club.

"Just keep walking, keep walking," said Jimmer.

Here in SEC country, BYU players, Rose and specifically Fredette were asked about one of the most storied SEC players of all time, LSU's Pistol Pete Maravich, and how he compares to Jimmer.

Rose called both relentless scorers, and Jimmer said he hoped that someday he could measure up to the legend.

ESPN.com columnist Rick Reilly got his own private time with Jimmer when Duff Tittle, BYU's associate athletic director over media relations, escorted Reilly around like royalty, getting the famous sportswriter private elbow time with the Cougars' star.

Mike DeCourcy, the basketball columnist for The Sporting News — which just named Fredette its National Player of the Year — is here, too, and so is ESPN.com's Andy Katz, a guy who once covered the WAC as a beat writer in Albuquerque and Fresno.

John Akers of the Basketball Times, a publication that also named Fredette college basketball's best player, is here, along with Greg Logan of Newsday, Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com and Mike Lopresti, who works for Gannett and is the college sports columnist for USA Today.

Other national media types on hand for today's regional at New Orleans Arena include Pete Thamel of the New York Times.

When Florida players took to the media podium Wednesday, Mike Bianchi, a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel, asked Gator forward Chandler Parsons, "How shocked were you when you found out that BYU had kicked one of its best players off the team for having premarital sex, and how many Gators would be left on the team if you had that rule?"

Biachi's question drew laughter from the media and from the Florida players on the podium. The inference was clear — not many would survive BYU's honor code.

Parsons responded the best he could: "I mean, rules are rules, so he knew what he was doing. I mean, it's something that we can't worry about really because he's not playing in the game tomorrow and that's really none of my business. Yeah, that's it."

After Florida's press conference, I asked Bianchi for his take on Jimmermania and how it's been played in Florida. Do Floridans' really know that much about the Cougar star when his national exposure has been limited to mostly ESPN SportsCenter highlights this season and folks who know how to find BYU games on satellite TV.

"They think he's charismatic and a scorer," said Bianchi.

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