BYU earns NCAA at-large bid; will face Oregon in Milwaukee

Published: Sunday, March 16 2014 8:20 p.m. MDT

Coach Dave Rose talks during a press conference after the BYU men's basketball team received an at-large invitation to the 2014 NCAA tournament and will play Oregon of the Pac-12 in the second round of the West Region on Thursday in Milwaukee. BYU is the No. 10 seed in the West Region and Oregon is the No. 7 seed.

Jaren Wilkey/BYU, Jaren Wilkey/BYU

PROVO — BYU coach Dave Rose remembers the disappointment he and his players and staff felt in locker rooms this season after the Cougars dropped close games to ranked teams during the non-conference portion of the schedule.

But on Selection Sunday, the payoff for playing an arduous schedule came. In an instant, elation replaced disappointment — and doubt.

BYU received a higher-than-expected No. 10 seed and will play No. 7 Oregon at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wis., Thursday (approximately 1:10 p.m., MDT, truTV) in the NCAA tournament’s second round.

"I just believe these guys went through a really difficult schedule in the non-conference," Rose said. "I’m really glad to see they were rewarded for it.”

Though the Cougars (23-11) lost their share of those big non-conference games — including one at Oregon (23-9) in December — that factor apparently played a big role in earning a bid to the NCAA tournament.

Many bracketologists had projected BYU to be on the bubble, figuring that if it got into the Big Dance, it would be dispatched to Dayton for the First Four.

For the first time, Rose said, he monitored what the bracketologists were projecting, as well as games that could impact the Cougars making the Field of 68, this past week.

“You listen to everybody and it kind of seemed pretty consistent that we were going to be in the last team in and we were going to end up in Dayton,” Rose said. “I was really just hoping that was true. To see how it turned out, we were really excited.”

In the Ducks of the Pac-12, the Cougars will be facing one of those teams they lost to earlier this season. BYU suffered a heartbreaking 100-96 overtime decision to then-No. 13 ranked Oregon in Eugene after squandering a late lead.

Besides Oregon, the NCAA tournament teams BYU played this year include No. 1 seed Wichita State, No. 3 Iowa State, No. 6 UMass, No. 7 Texas, No. 8 Gonzaga and No. 10 Stanford.

Guard Tyler Haws acknowledged that BYU’s strength of schedule helped his team get into the Big Dance.

“We took a big challenge in our preseason to go out and play people,” Haws said. “That’s a big tribute to the coaches for putting together a great schedule. I think we had some big wins late in the season and we’re playing our best basketball right now.”

The Cougars gathered at Rose’s house to watch the Selection Show Sunday afternoon to learn their postseason fate.

“Everyone was kind of antsy. Not a lot of talking,” Haws said. “(Rose) has a little theater room. We were all in there watching. Everyone was like, ‘this could be us.’ We saw each one of those get filled up. So we were kind of sweating a little bit. When we saw our name called, it was a big relief for everyone. Everyone went crazy. We’re just really excited.”

“I almost passed out,” freshman Eric Mika said of the celebration. “I was jumping around and the room got really hot really fast. I had to sit down after a little bit. It was fun and exciting.”

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