Tom Smart, Deseret News
BYU's Noah Hartsock shoots over St. Mary's Brad Waldow as Brigham Young University is defeated by Saint Mary's 80-66 as they play men's basketball Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012, in Provo, Utah.

PROVO — As BYU gets set for its inaugural West Coast Conference Tournament, the biggest question surrounds the health of injured forward Noah Hartsock.

The No. 3 seeded Cougars will play in Friday's quarterfinals (9 p.m. MST, ESPNU) against the winner of Thursday night's matchup between No. 6 San Diego and No. 7 Pepperdine.

Will Hartsock be available to play on Friday?

"We'll know Friday at game-time," coach Dave Rose said.

Hartsock, who did not practice Wednesday, is nursing a knee sprain and did not play in last Saturday's regular-season finale against Portland.

"He improves every day. But he's not in a position to practice yet," Rose said. "We probably won't practice him until Friday. If he's ready to go Friday, we'll know at game-time. If not, we'll hope for Saturday, if we're still playing Saturday. … Without Noah in practice, we've had three or four lineups we've been working with, ways that we'll play offense and defense with lineups. This time has been useful for us."

Guard Matt Carlino reaggravated a knee injury last Saturday, but he said the knee isn't bothering him.

"I feel good. My knee's still good," said Carlino. "This week, having to prepare for the tournament, has been good for our team. We're really excited to start the postseason."

PREPARING FOR TWO: It's been tough not knowing which team the Cougars will face Friday, Carlino said.

"It's harder when you don't know who your opponent is going to be. We're trying to make the best of it. We're working hard. It's hard to really lock in when you don't know who you're going to play."

BYU is 4-0 against San Diego and Pepperdine this season.

"We played both of these teams twice, so we're familiar with them," Rose said. "San Diego is a team, if we end up playing them, we haven't played them for a long time. We've been through the last four or five weeks of their games, just working on concepts from both teams."

UCLA AND CARLINO: Carlino has been reluctant to discuss the reasons for his decision to transfer to BYU from UCLA.

But Sports Illustrated's new in-depth report on the Bruins' basketball problems includes anecdotes and insights about Carlino's brief stay in Westwood, and sheds light on why Carlino may have decided to leave UCLA.

On Wednesday, Carlino said he saw the article and "read the quotes, mostly."

However, he declined to comment on the specifics of the story.


LAS VEGAS — Ryan Nicholas scored a career-high 24 points to lead Portland to a 74-70 victory Wednesday night over Santa Clara in the first game of the West Coast tournament.

Kevin Bailey scored 13 and Tanner Riley added 12 points for the eighth-seeded Pilots (7-23), who advance to play No. 5 seed San Francisco on Thursday at 7 p.m. MT. on BYUtv.

San Diego plays Pepperdine at 9 p.m., also on BYUtv. The winner plays BYU on Friday at 9 p.m.

— Associated Press