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BYU basketball: Cougars adjusting to WCC's unconventional schedule

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 18 2012 11:27 p.m. MST

PROVO — When BYU played San Diego last Monday, it marked the second meeting between the West Coast Conference foes in a little more than two weeks.

And it was exactly two weeks ago that the Cougars visited Loyola Marymount and defeated the Lions — the same team that invades the Marriott Center Thursday night (6:30 p.m., MST, BYUtv).

It's all part of the WCC's unconventional scheduling model.

For years in the WCC, as an eight-team league, each school played the other seven throughout the month of January, then the rotation started over in February.

But with the addition of BYU this year, scheduling for nine teams has become a more complicated issue. In fact, league officials relied on a computer software program to assist them.

In order to generate the 2011-12 WCC schedule, the league used the same software program used by other conferences and the NBA, according to Jeff Tourial, the WCC's director of communications and new media.

There are several scheduling guidelines the WCC has implemented, including no more than three consecutive conference road games per team, and no more than one Monday WCC contest per team.

"However, several wrinkles had to be thrown into the equation before the software could work its magic," Tourial said.

The WCC Tournament traditionally tips off at the end of February (Feb. 29 this season). In order to keep that schedule, the league had to start in late December in order to squeeze in the extra games, as teams transitioned from a 14-game conference schedule to a 16-game schedule.

There were additional complications. Santa Clara hosted a tournament after Christmas, which meant the Broncos couldn't start WCC play that weekend. And in February, both Loyola Marymount and Saint Mary's will participate in Sears BracketBusters, which meant they couldn't play conference games that weekend.

"Of course, with nine teams, every Thursday and Saturday, at least one team will be without a conference game," Tourial said.

Meanwhile, the WCC's contract with ESPN plays a key role in scheduling, too.

"Our national television partner, ESPN, helps select matchups for its Thursday night schedule so many of our marquee contests will appear on Thursdays," Tourial said.

Two of those marquee matchups, both on Thursdays in February, feature WCC newcomer BYU and perennial WCC powerhouse Gonzaga.

The Cougars host the Bulldogs on Feb. 2, then travel to Spokane on Feb. 23. Both games will be televised on ESPN2.

"As you can see, it's a pretty complex situation that has a lot of variables," Tourial said. "From there, the computer runs it and we triple-check to make sure all of our guidelines are met. Ultimately, everybody plays everybody twice between late December and late February."

When asked about the WCC's quirky scheduling, BYU coach Dave Rose said he's not concerned about such matters, explaining that the games "all count the same."

Still, tonight's game against LMU could be quite a bit different from just two weeks ago considering that Lion forward Ashley Hamilton will play Thursday night after missing the Jan. 5 contest against BYU with a foot injury.

"You never get the same game — you never get the same team when you play them the second time through," Rose said.

email: jeffc@desnews.com

Cougars on the air

Loyola Marymount (10-8, 3-2)

at BYU (16-4, 5-1)

Today, 6:30 p.m., MT

Marriott Center, Provo

TV: BYUtv Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM

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