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BYU basketball: Cougars to face Florida in NCAA Tournament

PROVO — Some might feel the No. 7 seed BYU received Sunday for this week's NCAA men's basketball tournament is a bit of a slight, considering the Cougars won 29 games and were ranked No. 14 before losing to UNLV on Friday night.

The Cougars themselves, however, don't seem to mind much.

"I know our guys are excited to go play," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "It's a great thing for our university and a good thing for this team and our athletic program."

Exactly how the Cougars reacted to the announced seed and a matchup on Thursday at 11:20 a.m. Central Time against the Florida Gators, a 10 seed, in the Ford Center in Oklahoma City is unknown since they watched the selection show, along with family members, in private.

When players came out to face the media, however, no one looked shocked or disappointed. Most players said they were expecting a five, six or seven seed.

"We didn't finish down in Vegas this week, so I think it's a very good seed for us," senior Jonathan Tavernari said.

Rose joked that he was just glad not to be an eight seed again and not to have to play Texas A&M again, the team that ousted the Cougars the past two years. If anyone in BYU's camp felt the seven seed showed a lack of respect for their 29-5 regular season, they were not showing it.

"If we do feel like that, then I hope we use it as motivation," junior guard Jimmer Fredette said.

More important than the seed, team members said, is the matchup and bracket. The Cougars feel they match up well with the Gators, a mostly guard-oriented team with a 21-12 record that many experts called a "bubble" team.

"They don't play like a bubble team. They play really good," Tavernari said. "But if we keep our expectations where they should be, and we don't get all caught up in the hype, I think we'll be OK. We have to make sure that we take things one day at a time and keep our feet on the ground."

Several national experts also like BYU's bracket, which could have them advancing to face Kansas State in the second-round on Saturday if they can first get past Florida. Also, two wins this week would earn the Cougars a trip to the West Regionals in Salt Lake City next week.

"Salt Lake City and the Sweet 16, that would be special if we could do that," Fredette said.

Will that chance to play in Utah by advancing past Oklahoma City motivate the Cougars to win their first NCAA Tournament game since 1993?

"It's a real challenge, and we'll take them one challenge at a time. But if you get past the first-round game and you know that a win in the second-round game will take you close to home, you know. Individual things that motivate guys, anything that's good, I'm all for it," Rose said.

Losing last Friday to UNLV in Las Vegas for an eighth straight time could also add to BYU's hunger.

"It might . . . when you come off a loss, sometimes, you're a little bit more determined. But we'll see," Rose said.

As far as the Cougars handling the pressure of getting that seven-game losing streak in the NCAA Tournament monkey off their backs, Rose is making sure to keep his players focused on positive things.

"It's this team. This is a challenge that this team has. This team doesn't have the challenge of three, four, five, six other teams. This team has its own unique opportunity and let's take advantage of it," Rose said.

The focus in days to come will be on preparing well, practicing hard, and then on Thursday executing well and playing well.

"We're grateful to be in this tournament. It's the fourth year in a row, which shows a lot to the consistency of our players and our program," Rose said.

Though not complaining about their seed, the Cougars were a little surprised in the gap of the seeds for the four Mountain West Conference teams invited to the Big Dance on Sunday. New Mexico is a three, UNLV an eight and San Diego State, which one the MWC Tournament, an 11.

"There's four teams from our league, and you (reporters) have all seen them play, and we've all battled back and fourth against each other, and to have the discrepancy from a three to an 11, these teams are a lot closer as far as the quality of teams . . . it's probably a little bit wider than you would think," Rose said.

BYU on the air

No. 7 BYU (29-5) vs. No. 10 Florida(21-12)

Thursday, 10:20 a.m. at Oklahoma City

TV: CBS (Ch. 2)

Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM

Selection Sunday 2010 NCAA tournament seedings

Midwest region

No. 1. Kansas vs. No. 16. LeHigh

No. 8. UNLV vs. No. 9. Northern Iowa

No. 5. Michigan State vs. No. 12. New Mexico State

No. 4. Maryland vs. No. 13. Houston

No. 3. Georgetown vs. No. 14 Ohio

No. 6. Tennessee vs. No. 11. San Diego State

No. 7. Oklahoma State vs. No. 10 Georgia Tech

No. 2. Ohio State vs. No. 15 U.C. Santa Barbara

West region

No. 1. Syracuse vs. No. 16 Vermont

No. 8. Gonzaga vs. No. 9. Florida State

No. 5. Butler vs. No. 12. UTEP

No. 4. Vanderbilt vs. No. 13. Murray State

No. 7. BYU vs. No. 10. Florida

No. 6. Xavier vs. No. 11. Minnesota

No. 3. Pittsburgh vs. No. 14. Oakland

No. 2. Kansas State vs. No. 15. North Texas

East region

No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 16 Eastern Tennessee State

No. 8 Texas vs. No. 9 Wake Forest

No. 5 Temple vs. No. 12 Cornell

No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 Wofford

No. 6 Marquette vs. No. 10 Washington

No. 3 New Mexico vs. No. 14 Montana

No. 2 West Virginia vs. No. 15 Morgan State

No. 7 Clemson vs. No. 10 Missouri

South region

No. 1 Duke vs. No. 16 Arkansas Pine-Bluff/Winthrop winner

No. 8 Cal vs. No. 9 Louisville

No. 5 Texas A&M vs. No. 12 Utah State

No. 4 Purdue vs. No. 13 Siena

No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 15 Robert Morris

No. 7 Richmond vs. No. 10 Saint Mary's

No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 14 Sam Houston State

No. 6 Notre Dame vs. No. 11 Old Dominion

To print a tournament bracket click here.