BYU was left out of the Big Dance again, which wasn’t a surprise.
But with how conference championships panned out the days leading up to Selection Sunday, BYU coach Dave Rose didn’t know if the Cougars would even make the National Invitational Tournament.
“I think what was more intense was watching the week unfold,” Rose said. “We’ve been doing this for a couple of years now where we play early then we go home and sit and watch. It’s amazing how many years it just went perfectly for us. … The Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, it seemed to not be going very well for us as far as who was needed to win and who was getting beat.”
But the tide turned and BYU landed a No. 6 seed in the 32-team competition and will take on No. 3 Stanford Wednesday night.
Now, instead of hanging up their sneakers and waving goodbye to the 2017–18 season, the Cougars get an opportunity to progress in postseason play at the NIT, which they know they are fortunate to have.
“It’s another opportunity to improve. We’re very lucky to have another game,” said BYU sophomore Yoeli Childs. “I think this group of guys is really excited to go out there and play together one last time. I think it’s all about getting better and just maximizing your potential. Everybody wants us to be in the NCAA Tournament. We want to be in that tournament too, but being mad about it or wishing something else happened isn’t going to do anything for you.”
[pullquote]“It’s another opportunity to improve. We’re very lucky to have another game.” — Yoeli Childs, BYU sophomore[/pullquote]
As the Cougars look to improve their own skills, they will be trying out “experimental rules.” For the third time in the last four years, the NIT will experiment with a few new rules. These rule changes include:
- Extending back the 3-point line by 20 inches, which will match the FIBA arc
- Widening the free-throw line by four feet, which will match NBA regulation
- Switching to 10-minute quarters. Teams will shoot free throws after the fifth foul of each quarter.
- Resetting the shot clock to 20 seconds after an offensive rebound instead of 30 seconds
“I like the quarter system,” Rose said following practice Monday. “We play that in FIBA when we go on international trips. … The widening the lane. You actually might see that happen soon in our game just to give it more space. That can actually help us with how we play with interior passing and spacing.”
As for the 3-point line lengthening, Rose wishes the NCAA, NBA and FIBA would choose a distance and keep it consistent across the organizations.
“I don’t know if they’ll change that line as far as the NCAA is concerned,” Rose said. “We’ve done a couple of shooting lines with the line moved back to the FIBA line that we’re playing with and the numbers are pretty similar, so we’ll see how it works.”
To prepare, the Cougars taped up the Marriott Center to match the new rules. If they win against Stanford Wednesday, they could host in the next round of the NIT.
“We’re prepared for a home game,” Rose said.
Before BYU can even think of hosting a game, the team needs to pass Stanford, a team Rose calls “powerful.” Stanford is a fast-paced team with good size and strength, which doesn’t depend on shooting threes.
“I like the draw because it’s familiar,” Rose said. “We’ve traveled to the Bay Area quite a bit. We know how to do it.”
BYU plays Stanford on Wednesday, March 14 at 8 p.m. MT. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.