BLACKSBURG Va. — BYU coach Dave Rose has known Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg for 20 years, dating back to when Rose was at the helm at Dixie College and Greenberg held the reins at Long Beach State.
That longstanding friendship paved the way for tonight's non-conference meeting (5 p.m. MST, ESPN3) between the Cougars and Hokies at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Va.
"Seth and I have been trying to put a game together for years," Rose said.
Certainly, though, late January is odd timing for a non-league contest. BYU is in the middle of its inaugural West Coast Conference campaign while Virginia Tech is hip-deep in its Atlantic Coast Conference wars.
The Hokies are confident and riding high after upsetting their in-state rivals, then-No. 18 Virginia, 47-45, in Charlottesville, Va., last Sunday. With the win, Virginia Tech earned its first ACC victory of the season and snapped a four-game losing streak.
"This time of year is probably what's the most challenging for us," Rose said of the timing of the game. "This will be a challenge … This is kind of what (Greenberg) suggested. It wasn't ideal for us, but we didn't have our conference schedule at the time. The conference told us they would help us get through this."
The Cougars will return to Provo right after the game and begin preparations for Saturday's showdown against WCC leader Saint Mary's. The following Thursday, BYU hosts WCC perennial power Gonzaga.
Hmm. Is that what the WCC considers as help?
Virginia Tech, meanwhile, has a huge ACC home game against No. 4 Duke next week.
A big part of the reason Rose chose to schedule this game is that Greenberg and the Hokies agreed to play the Cougars in Utah next season.
"It's so hard for us to get good quality games back here in Utah, in Provo and in Salt Lake, at Energy Solutions Arena," Rose said. "This is an opportunity that came up. It wasn't the most ideal situation, but at the time it came up, we figured that we were jumping into a new league and we didn't really have a feel for that situation, how it would play out. We decided to do it.
"We look forward to the challenge and hopefully our guys will respond. We look forward to their return game next year, too. But that won't be during league (play). That will probably be in the preseason."
Rose is always trying to schedule opponents that will challenge his team, and excite the fanbase. But such games aren't always convenient.
"If they're willing to play, then I would like to play," Rose said. "I'm looking for good games that our fans will enjoy. I think our fans will really enjoy an ACC game in Salt Lake next year."
BYU and Virginia Tech have met only once in basketball, and that was in 1967, when the Cougars won 97-64. BYU has never beaten a current member of the ACC in a true road game. The Cougars are 0-8 all-time in ACC road games, with the most recent loss coming in 2008 at Wake Forest. BYU fell 79-62.
Though this matchup is not a conference game, Rose said he and his team are motivated to come home with a victory.
"Every game we prepare for with a high level of importance," Rose said. "As far as our urgency is concerned, I think games like this can really help your team in a lot of ways. These are competitive guys and competitive guys like to win. We'll put everything into it that we can."
The Hokies employ a deliberate, slow-down approach, similar to Air Force. They like to make multiple passes per possession and take the shot clock down to the waning seconds before attempting a shot.
"(Greenberg's) style is really effective and he's been really successful over the years," Rose said. "He's going to make it really hard for us to run our offense. He'll probably try to jam our outlet pass. I mean, do things that will make it difficult for us to run up and down and get quick shots.
"… The players that they have are very athletic and they're very good offensive players. Sometimes they're underrated offensively. They don't attempt as many shots as some teams and that's why they don't score as much. That's their style. That will be the real challenge for us, to see if we can impose our will upon how they play in their building."
Cougars on the air
BYU (17-5, 6-2 WCC)
at Virginia Tech (12-7, 1-4 ACC)
Tonight, 5 p.m., MST
TV: ESPN3 Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FMHeady goes here
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