LADELL ANDERSEN, the recently retired BYU basketball coach who once spent a five-year term on the NCAA committee that selected the 64 teams for the national basketball tournament, says the 17-12 Cougars will probably be a team on the bubble when this year's selection committee meets this Sunday.
"BYU is a tough call," says Andersen, who is living in St. George for the winter and playing golf daily. "They could fall either way. The committee looks at a lot of things, and there are so many factors, so many variables. They'll have about nine different sorts of computer printouts on Sunday, taking into account strength of schedules, both inside the league and out. They'll look at them, and they'll look at how a team finished the season, and then they'll have to make some tough decisions."The only way BYU can count on making the tournament for sure is by winning three games this week in Wyoming (at the WAC NCAA-qualifying tournament)."
As for Utah, Andersen says of the 26-2 Utes, "Utah gets in (the NCAA tournament) even if it doesn't make the trip to Laramie. They're already penciled in."
NO VACANCY: Meanwhile, in Laramie, the town is reportedly more than ready to greet the nine WAC schools for the annual postseason tournament that decides the official league qualifier for the NCAA tournament. According to Marsha Stocks of the Laramie Chamber of Commerce, there won't be an empty motel room from Wednesday through Saturday.
"Somebody who pulls in off the freeway to stay overnight in Laramie is going to be in big trouble," says Stocks. "We have been booked up since October of last year. Every room in town is reserved."
Laramie has 17 motels, with approximately 1,400 rooms among them.
Pre-tournament ticket sales in the 15,000-seat Arena Auditorium were approaching the 8,400 mark by late Monday - that's tickets purchased for all tournament sessions. More tickets should be sold when single-session tickets go on sale when the tournament begins.
REMOTE HOPE: The only hope for a room close to Laramie is 30 minutes to the west, in Centennial, Wyo.
"But in Centennial, their room is going fast," said Kevin McKinney, Wyoming's sports information director.
INN-MATES: Two of Laramie's motels - the Laramie Inn and Holiday Inn - will be booked exclusively by the eight tournament teams. Both the University of Utah and BYU will be at the Holiday Inn, along with San Diego State and Colorado State.
The Holiday Inn staff said it will not separate the arch-rival Utes and Cougars. "They pretty much have to room next to each other," said the front desk manager on Monday. "Since the teams will be taking up the entire hotel."
ADD ANDERSEN: The former BYU and Utah State coach doesn't envy coaches who have gone through the rigors of the regular season and now have to gear up for postseason qualifying tournaments.
"It's quite a burden on the coach, and on the basketball program," Andersen says. "You've played three months in a very good league, and you're through clawing, and now you're doing it again. It turns out to be nice for the one team that wins it. It's not so nice for the other eight. And what can really hurt is when a lower division team happens to win. That shoves one or more of the better teams out of the (NCAA tournament) picture.
"It's exciting for the fans, and it makes money for the schools, which is why I think we have those tournaments - to finance some non-income-producing sports. I think we ought to rethink the whole system."
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Utah Coach Rick Majerus, to a fashion writer for the Salt Lake Tribune, "I am to fashion what Ezra Taft Benson is to vice."