For the second year in a row, BYU will face a team from the basketball-rich Atlantic Coast Conference in Thursday's opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
The NCAA selection committee Sunday made the 20-12 Cougars the 10th seed in the West Regional, which pits them against the 21-11 Virginia Cavaliers.This will be the fourth time in five years that BYU has appeared in the NCAA tourney.
The best news for the Cougars, though, is that they will play in Salt Lake City at the University of Utah's Huntsman Center.
"We have a lot of young men on our team that played high school basketball here, that played in the Huntsman Center, that won state championships there," BYU Coach Roger Reid said Sunday evening on his weekly TV show.
"I just hope our BYU fans . . . will start buying tickets and crowd those red seats out with blue shirts."
Virginia should be a formidable opponent for the Cougars. The Cavaliers finished third in the ACC regular season, then narrowly lost to eventual champion North Carolina in the semifinals of the conference's postseason tourney.
Last year, BYU lost to heavily favored Clemson 49-47 in first-round play at Hartford, Conn.
The winner of Thursday's game will advance to play the winner between No. 2 seed Arizona and No. 15 seed St. Francis, Pa. The West Regional field also includes the nation's No. 1-ranked team, UNLV, and Utah.
"This is one of the strongest fields in the NCAA Tournament," Reid said. "But there are no easy teams in the tournament."
New Mexico joins BYU and Utah as the WAC's three representatives in the tournament. The Lobos face Oklahoma State in their opening round game.
In addition to the WAC teams, four of BYU's opponents this season made the NCAA field: East Tennessee State, St. John's, Arizona State and Rutgers. The Cougars lost to all five, but only Rutgers managed a double-digit margin of victory. The average margin was 6.8 points.