BYU will try to shake a jinx when it meets Colorado State in its WAC tournament opener here Thursday.
In seven years of WAC tournaments, the Cougars have won just two games. Their 2-7 record is the worst in the conference over that period, and they are the only team never to finish in the top three. Their only victories came in overtime against Air Force in 1987, and against Hawaii when the tournament was held in Provo.A pretty remarkable record, considering that in six of those seven years, BYU was among the tournament's top four seeds.
BYU Coach Roger Reid is aware of the Cougars' lamentable showing over the years but isn't ready to accept responsibility for it. He points out that he has made only one appearance in the tourney as a head coach.
"I'll take the credit for last year's loss, but not those others," he said.
Last year, though, typified the Cougars' tournament futility. After tying for first place in the regular season, they were seeded second and matched up with seventh-seed Utah. They lost by one in overtime in a game Reid says they should have won.
"We were up by five with 27 seconds to go, we had Marty Haws at the free-throw line and our best people in there and we lost," Reid said.
This time, BYU is again seeded second and will face the No. 7 seed, Colorado State, a team the Cougs pounded twice during the regular season. Reid said he doesn't like the idea of giving the Rams a third strike.
"The more times you play somebody, the better chance you have of losing," he said. "I just think you'd rather play somebody that doesn't know you."
Reid knows that a loss to CSU could do serious damage to the Cougars' hopes of playing in the NCAA Tournament, especially after last Saturday's one-point defeat by Utah. With the Utes a lock to make the 64-team NCAA field, BYU could be in real trouble if a team like Wyoming or UTEP wins this tournament and earns the automatic bid. The NCAA selection committee would then have to decide not only whether to invite three WAC teams, but whether to make the third team BYU or New Mexico. The Cougars (17-12) beat the Lobos twice and played a stronger schedule, but the Lobos have a better record (20-8) and defeated ranked teams Utah and New Mexico State.
To earn that NCAA berth, Reid is ready to pull out all the stops, including putting guard Scott Moon back into the starting lineup. Moon broke a bone in his hand less than two weeks ago but played briefly against Utah. He's been practicing, and Reid said there's a good chance he'll start. If he can be effective, it would do much for the Cougars' depth on the guardline.
BYU fans, meanwhile, have been wondering where Shawn Bradley was down the stretch of last Saturday's game. After seeming to cause the Utes some serious defensive problems in the first half, Bradley started the second half by getting his offensive game untracked and scoring BYU's first six points. A short time later, Bradley was yanked in favor of backup Gary Trost and never returned.
Reid said he put Trost in because Bradley committed three turnovers in his brief second-half stint, and because Ute center Walter Watts had started to find ways to get around the 7-foot-6 Cougar center. "Trost just looked like he would be able to play a little stronger against Watts," Reid said.
If they lose, they will fly home and wait for an NIT bid.