Brigham Young Cougars (27-7) vs. Texas A&M Aggies (24-10)
When: Thursday, 7:10 p.m.
BRIGHAM YOUNG COUGARS
1. My Left Foot. BYU lost to UNLV for the second straight year in the Mountain West championship game, but one has to wonder if things would have been different had the Cougars' 6-foot-11 Vuk Ivanovic still been on the roster. Ivanovic, a native of Serbia and Montenegro, broke his foot during practice in January. But one wonders why he just didn't heal himself, being that he's a genetics and biotechnology major. Also, the senior lists his hobbies as Formula 1 Racing, chess, ping-pong and playing the piano; you know, the typical stuff.
2. On Any Given Sunday. As far as the NCAA is concerned, BYU is rather high maintenance. They refuse to let their athletic teams play on Sunday; which would have been a conflict in the NCAA basketball tournament in 2003, had the Cougars reached the Elite Eight. Fortunately, they never made it. Also, the university gets special dispensation from the NCAA due to their athletes' service on LDS missions (typically two years), which do not count against the maximum four years of college eligibility. As a result, BYU players tend to be older than average, and many are already married with families.
3. Black Power! Sophomore guard Jonathan Tavernari got his start playing basketball from his mom, who is a basketball coach in Brazil ... 6-foot-11 sophomore center Chris Miles, who recently returned from an LDS mission, was recruited out of high school by Texas Tech. But for some reason he thought he might be uncomfortable playing for Bobby Knight ... according to his bio, junior guard Lamont Morgan Jr. "is active in the Black Student Union." Who knew? ... senior guard Ben Murdock served his LDS mission in Honolulu, Hawai'i. Who do you have to know to get that gig? — Rick Chandler
TEXAS A&M AGGIES
1. Battle of the Brazos. Texas A&M's rivalry with Baylor is called "The Battle of the Brazos," as the team's campuses sit 90 miles apart, near the Brazos River. The teams have been playing each other since 1914, but no year has been as eventful as this one. The fun started with a five-overtime thriller in College Station, with Baylor emerging with a 116-110 victory. The game wasn't shown on TV, but ESPN Classic later rebroadcast it using footage from A&M's in-arena cameras and
audio from the radio broadcast. In the rematch, Baylor fans ended the game by throwing plastic soda bottles onto the floor after the Aggies' Donald Sloan capped a 71-57 blowout with an off-the-glass dunk dubbed by Aggie fans as "The Baptism."
2. First Half Good, Second Half Not So Much. Few teams have had the rollercoaster season that A&M has. The first half of the season couldn't have gone better, as a 15-1 start took them to the edge of the Top 10. Then came a three-game losing streak and a 7-8 record over final two months. Even within that stretch, the Aggies decided to to things in a big way, including a pair of 27-point losses and a 44-point win.
3. Not Exactly "Win One For The Gipper.". Aggies Coach Mark Turgeon may have gotten an early sense that his team was headed for trouble down the stretch. After two straight losses in January and just prior to the five-overtime bonk to Baylor, Turgeon let it fly: "I know what I'm doing. Have I gotten the most out of my team the last two games? No. But I know no matter what I do, if we win, (former coach Billy) Gillispie's getting the credit, and if we lose, it's my fault. I'm in a no-flippin-win situation this year, and that puts me in a bad mood." The result? Seven more wins from January to March, and losing five of its final seven. — Jeff Beckham