We don’t pay attention a lot to what people say about us, but we’re pretty confident we should be in the tournament and we’ve got to go prove ourselves. —Tyler Haws
MILWAUKEE — BYU players and coaches are aware that several national pundits have said this week that the Cougars either didn’t deserve a spot in the NCAA tournament or received a seed that was too favorable.
BYU (23-11), the No. 10 seed in the West Regional, takes on No. 7 Oregon Thursday at the Bradley Center.
What would Cougar coach Dave Rose say to those detractors?
“I’d just tell them that if you would spend five months with our team, you would have a whole different understanding or reasoning or interpretation or feeling about our team because these guys deserve to be here,” he said.
Will such comments by the national media serve as motivation for BYU Thursday?
“We don’t pay attention a lot to what people say about us, but we’re pretty confident we should be in the tournament and we’ve got to go prove ourselves,” said guard Tyler Haws.
THE REMATCH: The Cougars are looking forward to an opportunity to avenge a 100-96 overtime loss at Oregon in December.
“We left a lot on the floor — a lot of easy baskets,” BYU's Frank Bartley IV recalled. “We had a lot of opportunities to score. We didn’t get stops in the end. It all happens for a reason. We learned from it. This rematch is all we’ve been thinking about. As soon as they called our name (on Selection Sunday), we’ve thought about beating Oregon.”
TRACK MEET?: BYU and Oregon raced up and down the court in that game in December.
"We can score," said Duck forward Mike Moser. "We don’t really have trouble doing that at all.”
Moser knows the Cougars can score, too.
“BYU is a very talented team. We learned that up in Eugene when they scored about a hundred points on us," Moser said. "They can obviously score in a hurry. But we definitely have grown since that game and they’ve grown and come a long way, too. It will probably be a really different game."
The Cougars raced to an early lead against the Ducks.
“Their transition was really faster and quicker than we anticipated,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said of BYU. “They jumped on us pretty early. We were unable to keep up with them. Their speed and the way they got it up and down the floor really surprised us. We know we’ve got to put our defensive transition together quicker. I think that will be a big, big key in the game.”
LIFE WITHOUT COLLINSWORTH: Guard Kyle Collinsworth suffered a season-ending knee injury in the West Coast Conference finals against Gonzaga.
It was tough for Rose’s team to deal with at first.
“The first day of practice when Kyle wasn’t there, it was an emotional train wreck with our guys,” Rose recalled. “Everybody would try to go through the motions and play hard. The feel in the gym was basically everybody feeling sorry for Kyle or maybe feeling sorry for themselves.”
Since then, the Cougars have held several practices, and Rose said his team’s spirits brightened considerably when they received an NCAA tournament bid.
Collinsworth underwent surgery on his knee Tuesday.
FEAR FACTOR: Altman is wary of what other Cougar players can do with Collinsworth out.
"It's been our experience that when someone goes down that first game, the team really gets together and somebody steps up and has a big game," Altman said. "You've got to be real fearful of someone who loses a player (like Collinsworth). They've got a lot of guys sitting there waiting for an opportunity and will jump in there and try to help, to show they can do it. They've got people that are very talented."