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BYU women dancing with Buffaloes

PROVO — After falling to New Mexico in the Mountain West Conference Tournament championship game on Saturday, the BYU women's basketball team woke up Sunday sitting on the proverbial NCAA Tournament bubble.

The Cougars (19-11) didn't reach the magical 20-win plateau and, due to a spate of adversity, failed to live up to preseason expectations.

But coach Jeff Judkins says he wasn't too worried before the pairings were announced Sunday afternoon. He felt confident that his team would be included in the field of 64.

Turned out, he was right.

BYU, the No. 11 seed in the Mideast Region, will visit No. 6 Colorado (22-7) in Boulder — on the Buffaloes' home court — Saturday. Tipoff time is yet to be determined.

Last season, the Cougars were the No. 6 seed in the Midwest Region and wound up posting victories over Florida and Iowa State and advancing to the Sweet 16.

BYU's success a year ago may have helped it earn an invitation this season, Judkins said. That, and the fact the Cougars played six teams that are in the 2003 Big Dance — Texas, Utah, New Mexico, UC Santa Barbara, Weber State and George Washington. The Longhorns, whom the Cougars beat in their season-opener, is a No. 2 seed.

"I felt our schedule this year really helped us," Judkins said.

Colorado finished in fourth place in the Big 12 and lost to Texas, 62-47, in the Big 12 Tournament semifinals. Victories over Big 12 schools like Texas this year and Iowa State a year ago caught the attention of CU coach Ceal Barry.

"I don't know much about BYU," she said. "The only thing I know about them is they beat Iowa State on their home floor last year in the NCAA Tournament and I know that any team that's capable of doing that is a good basketball team."

Judkins doesn't know much about Colorado, but he said he plans to glean information about the Buffaloes from the coaches at Colorado State, which faced CU this season.

Though the Cougars must play a true road game to open the tournament, Judkins likes the draw. "It's a good matchup for us. Colorado is a good team, but it's a team we can beat," he said. "We've played in some tough places, like New Mexico. We're not afraid to play anybody. Plus, we won't have to travel very far. I'm really happy about it."

Guard Kali Taylor said she wasn't so sure BYU would go to the NCAAs.

"I was wondering about that and I was concerned," she said. "Then I saw that Utah and New Mexico got in, then I was pretty sure we'd make it. I think we all just let out a sigh of relief."

Despite Saturday's loss to the Lobos, the Cougars are proud of the way they performed in the MWC Tournament at Las Vegas last week — defeating tournament host UNLV on a last-second shot and then knocking off top-seeded Utah. "This team came together on this trip," Judkins said.

BYU hopes that confidence will carry through to the NCAA Tournament. "We played well and we feel good about how everyone's playing," Taylor said. "We're excited. We're ready to go and do some damage."

Colorado is led by Tera Bjorkland (17.9 ppg), Kate Fagan (10.4 ppg) and Sabrina Scott (10 ppg). The Buffaloes are making their third straight tournament appearance.

The winner of the BYU-CU game will take on the winner of No. 3 North Carolina (27-5) and No. 14 Austin Peay (27-3).


E-MAIL: jeffc@desnews.com