PROVO With 27 overall victories and another outright Mountain West Conference championship on its resume, BYU was optimistic that this might be the year to receive its most favorable NCAA tournament seed in years.
As it turned out, the Cougars (27-7) are, for the second consecutive season, a No. 8 seed. They'll face No. 9 Texas A&M (24-10) in the West Region's first round Thursday in Anaheim, Calif. The winner of that game will likely meet No. 1 seed UCLA in the second round.
"I think we were hoping for a higher (seed). We were hoping for the best," said senior guard Sam Burgess. "But we're not disappointed by any means. You're always hoping for something a little bit better. But that's a great spot, it's a great seed. We're happy with that. We knew we were in (the tournament). We were hoping we'd get a better one than last year. But an eighth seed's good."
Guard Lee Cummard said potential seeding wasn't discussed much as a team. "I figured somewhere between six and 11. I'm just glad to be close to home and that we're still playing."
BYU, which received one of 34 at-large bids, fell in the MWC championship game to UNLV Saturday night, then rode a bus back to Provo Sunday. The Cougars arrived just in time to watch the Selection Sunday proceedings in the Student Athlete Center. The Runnin' Rebels, who seized the league's automatic NCAA berth by virtue of their win over BYU, are also a No. 8 seed, but they were dispatched to the Midwest Regional in Omaha, Neb., where they'll meet Kent State in the first round.
"You want to win the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament because then you sleep a lot easier," said coach Dave Rose. "You can see there are a lot of really good basketball teams that aren't playing in the NCAA tournament. To get to this point, where your name is called and you're in ... I feel a lot better right now than I did last night."BYU is also glad to be sent to an area with a large contingent of Cougar fans. "I'm excited that we're staying in the West, which will make the travel logistics a little bit easier," Rose said. "We have a good fan base in Southern California."