ANAHEIM — If BYU loses today's first-round NCAA Tournament game to Texas A&M, it won't be for lack of complaining by some of its most ardent fans.

Is BYU's No. 8 seeding punishment for refusing to play on Sunday, or an overall lack of respect? Or is it a conspiracy?

Can't the Cougars just catch a break?

Ever since Sunday's announcement, many have moaned about BYU receiving another mid-level seeding. They sound like the Griswolds at the locked gates of Wally World.

Why, why, WHY?

"We were hoping for a little better seed," allowed guard Sam Burgess, "but you know, we're happy. We know that all the teams in this thing are great teams, and so you're going to play a good team regardless of your seed."

When the Cougars meet No. 9 Texas A&M, they have approximately the same problem they did last year against Xavier. They're playing a lower seed that is armed and dangerous. Hence, the specter of another discouraging first-round exit.

If only BYU could get a higher seed, things might be different. Then it would almost certainly get out of the first round for the first time since the earth was a steaming swamp, right?

To which BYU coach Dave Rose responded on Wednesday, "I believe seeding is a very real part of the tournament, but matchups also become a real key. There are some teams that are seeded maybe a lot higher, that you might match up a little better against."

"But," he continued, "once the bracket's announced, and you have been assigned who you are going to play, it's time to go to work."

So much for the kick-me theory.

The Cougs are in the field, no whining allowed.

Although everyone, even Rose, likes higher seeds in the NCAA Tournament, it's probably not as big a deal to coaches as it is to fans. To win the championship, you have to beat everybody. Unless you're North Carolina, somewhere along the line, you're going to play someone rated higher.

Win a few games, and next time out, you may get the benefit of the doubt.

Ex-Utah coach Rick Majerus had the NCAA Tournament protocol down cold. He scoffed at the Mountain West Tournament; considered it just another Vegas freak show. But his teams made 10 NCAA Tournament appearances and won at least one game nine times. Utah got as far as the championship game once, the Elite Eight once and the Sweet 16 two other times.

In the Majerus era, Utah won 17 tournament games — 14th-most in the nation. He won at least one game for six straight years.

While it's true Majerus had a few great seedings — the Utes were No. 2 twice and No. 3 once — he almost always made the most of his chances. In 1993, his team was an eighth seed, but beat No. 9 Pitt — by 21 points. In 1998, the third-rated Utes beat No. 1- seeded Arizona and No. 1-seeded North Carolina on their way to the title game. In 2000, the eighth-seeded Utes beat No. 9 Saint Louis and in 2003 the No. 9 Utes beat No. 8 Oregon.

Utah's 2005 team was seeded sixth, but beat No. 3 Oklahoma in the second round.

BYU hasn't been beyond the first round since 1993, hasn't beaten a higher seed since the 10th-seeded Cougars beat seventh-seeded Virginia in 1991. The No. 8 Cougars lost to No. 9 Xavier last year; they also lost as an eight seed in 1995 to Tulane.

Seeding, though, isn't an overriding issue with Rose. He's a believer in pairing up with whomever, wherever. He proved that in the regular season when the Cougars played Louisville of the Big East, North Carolina and Wake Forest of the ACC and Michigan State of the Big Ten.

It's not like he's afraid to play good teams.

Besides, he was on the top-rated 1983 Houston team that lost in the championship game to No. 6 North Carolina State.

Surprising things can happen, even when you don't start where you'd like.

So at this point, it's probably a good idea for BYU to do what it says it will do — roll the ball out and play.

It can worry about arguing after it has won.

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