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BYU basketball: Cougar freshmen get their first first-hand look at NCAA tourney

BYU's #23 Tyler Haws signs autographs for a group of kids from Oklahoma after practice.  BYU practiced in the Ford Center in Oklahoma City in preparation for their first round NCAA game against Florida on Thursday.
BYU's #23 Tyler Haws signs autographs for a group of kids from Oklahoma after practice. BYU practiced in the Ford Center in Oklahoma City in preparation for their first round NCAA game against Florida on Thursday.
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

OKLAHOMA CITY — Cougar freshmen Brandon Davies and Tyler Haws are having an eye-opening experience in their first trip to the NCAA Tournament.

"It's unreal, from the police escort to walking through the tunnels and seeing how everything is set up. It's just a neat experience. It feels real cool to be a part of it," Davies said Wednesday prior to BYU's shoot-around time on the Ford Center floor.

Neither, however, seems too overwhelmed by the media circus surrounding the preparations for BYU's first-round game Thursday against Florida. Yes, they're having fun. But both say they've been coached and advised by their teammates who have been here before on how to keep the tournament hype in perspective and not let it affect how they play.

"I can't wait to get out there. This is really going to be fun for me," Davies said in regards to the anxious feelings he wants to convert into energy on the court.

Haws, who hasn't played since suffering an eye injury a week ago against TCU, is just as excited and anxious, but also feeling a little energized by his time off. Haws is expected to start Thursday's game.

"If anything, I was able to get a little rest," Haws said. "Once you get down to the end of the season, it's kind of tough to find your legs. But I feel like (the time off) has helped me a little bit. I'm really excited to get out there tomorrow and play."

As for Haws' left eye that was swollen shut for a couple of days? Well, it's red, but almost totally back open.

"Every day it feels like it opens up a little more and I start to look like myself a little bit more," he said.

Davies is probably not going to get the start on Thursday, but will play a big role and plenty of minutes. The Gators are fully aware of the offensive firepower the freshman from Provo High possesses.

"Everyone's going to play a big role and everyone's going to have to contribute. We're going to need everyone's best effort at some point in this game," Davies said. "I know I'm going to get a significant amount of playing time, so when I get my time, it's going to be time to work hard."

Avoiding foul trouble will be key if Davies hopes to feel free to let loose on the offensive end. That could be challenging, however, with the way Florida big guys Chandler Parsons and Vernon Macklin attack the hole and rebound.

"It's going to take a lot from us to stop both of them. They both have strong moves to the basket so I think they're going to stick to that. I think it's going to be a really battle down low," Davies said.

Every chance BYU's veterans have had the past few days to advise the two youngsters, their words have been pretty similar to what junior guard Jackson Emery is telling them.

"Relax, have fun, and don't let all the spotlights take you away from what we've done all year," he said.

e-mail: jimr@desnews.com