After a long time being on the NCAA Tournament bubble BYU was finally awarded a 10-seed in the Western Region. They will face the #7 Oregon Ducks for the second time this season in Milwaukee, Wisconsin this Thursday.
This will be BYU's 28th appearance in the tournament and their 6th appearance in the past seven years. The Cougars have an overall record of 15-30 in tournament play.
BYU joins Weber State as the only two Utah teams to make an appearance in the NCAA Tournament this season after having zero teams making it last year. Utah Valley University and Utah will make their appearances in the NIT this season.
Many people believe that BYU does not deserve the bid because of other teams like UW-Green Bay and SMU getting snubbed from the tournament. However, BYU has been tested all year long by having a tough schedule throughout the season, including match ups with Wichita State, Iowa State, Texas, Stanford, Oregon, Mt. St. Mary's and Gonzaga. All which are in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. BYU is 4-5 against these teams this season.
The Cougars also finished out the season strong by finishing the season by going 15-4 after starting the season 8-7 (0-2 WCC) and making an appearance in the WCC Tournament where they lost to Gonzaga.
The Cougars will have their hands full against the Ducks on Thursday (TruTV ~1:15pm MST). BYU has not proven to be strong road warriors going 9-10 this year on the road and at neutral sites. The Cougars will be hurting without Kyle Collinsworth (ACL) who is the teams leading assist man and second on the team in steals behind Matt Carlino. Collinsworth had 15 points, eight assists and five rebounds the last time the teams played. It is unclear who Dave Rose will start in replacement of Collinsworth but the team will need to step up their toughness and hustle without him.
The Ducks and Cougars both play uptempo styles and each have their struggles on defense. The Cougars have a slight advantage by scoring 84.2 ppg compared to the Ducks 81.8 ppg. The Ducks have slightly a better defense where they steal and block the ball more often than the Cougars. However, the Cougars are better at crashing the boards than most teams in the nation by averaging 27.9 rpg (6th in the nation).
Overall we can expect this to be an exciting and high scoring game between the two. Some of the matchups that you should look for will include Tyler Haws v Joseph Young who are both the teams leading scores. Both players love to shoot the deep ball and moving the ball quick. The other matchup to watch will be Nate Austin v Mike Moser. Moser is the second leading scorer on the Ducks averaging 13.5ppg and stands tall at 6-8. Austin will have the size advantage on him and he will be critical in slowing down the Ducks offense and can make up for the injured Collinsworth.
The players that could be the difference maker without Collinsworth would be Josh Sharp and Frank Bartley. Both can run the court and stay on defense on the fast breaks that the Ducks thrive on. Frank Bartley has proved that he can score when he put up 16 against Mount St. Marys (who is currently in the tournament) and averages 2.1 rpg a game while only playing 10 minutes a game which will make up for Collinsworth. Sharp although small brings a tough attitude and according to Coach Rose knows the plays better than anyone else on the team. He can help bring some tenacity to the team that will be needed in the big spotlight.
If BYU advances in the tournament they will play the winner between Wisconsin and American. Wisconsin (Madison) is heavy favorites as they are the #2 seed, and they are only playing 1 hour away from their campus.
Watch your Cougars reaction below when they learned they would be a #10!