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Cougars know this: Run the table in Vegas in order to get to NCAA tourney

Brigham Young Cougars head coach Dave Rose congratulates Brigham Young Cougars guard Kyle Collinsworth (5) as he walks off the floor for the last time after recording his NCAA career record 11th triple-double in the second half of action at the Marriott C
Brigham Young Cougars head coach Dave Rose congratulates Brigham Young Cougars guard Kyle Collinsworth (5) as he walks off the floor for the last time after recording his NCAA career record 11th triple-double in the second half of action at the Marriott Center Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016 in Provo. BYU won 99-81.
Luke Franke, Deseret News

PROVO — BYU coach Dave Rose is painfully aware that it’s been 15 years since the Cougars have won a conference tournament.

He’s also aware that his team almost certainly needs to win the West Coast Conference tournament title this year in order to return to the NCAA tournament.

Rose admitted that knowing that “changes the way I think. You always go down with the idea of winning the tournament. That’s what you want to do and you prepare your guys. We’ve been in quite a few finals and haven’t been able to win it. But I don’t think it makes it any easier to get beat knowing that you might have a chance to get into the tournament or not. I don’t think you play any less competitive or urgent because you might be able to get into the tournament. The bottom line is, you go down there wanting to win this thing.”

No. 3 seed BYU opens the WCC tournament Saturday (2 p.m., MST, BYUtv) against No. 6 Santa Clara in the quarterfinals at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.

“Everybody always wants to talk about the championship game,” Rose said. “All I ever worry about is trying to get past that first game. It seems like they all run together but, in reality, it’s a one-game season. Hopefully, you can perform well in that and then go to the next one-game season. If you get to the finals, then hopefully you’ve got enough left to compete and get this thing done. I do believe that it’s probably the only way we’re going to get in (to the NCAA tournament).”

Senior guard Kyle Collinsworth said his approach to this tournament is playing like “a dragon out there trying to do anything you can to win. I want to play in (the NCAA tournament) so bad and I know my teammates do. No matter what happens, it’s not going to be a lack of effort, a lack of passion. I’m going to bring that and I’m going to make sure that I get all the guys to bring the energy and passion and give ourselves a great chance to win. It’s huge for us but I told our guys to take it one practice at a time, one game at a time. If you think ahead, it kind of gets overwhelming, winning three games in Vegas. You get anxiety thinking like that. I’m getting the guys to think about getting better today … If we have that kind of mindset, that’s how you win these tournaments — taking it one day and one game at a time.”

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Kyle Collinsworth earned the WCC's Player of the Year award Tuesday, and Rose said Collinsworth is worthy of the honor.

“Kyle’s not only had a great year, he’s had a great career here. To this point, he’s won 102 games in his four years as a senior. He’s been to the Sweet 16. His league season this year was pretty consistent. He was a big part of the success that we had. Everybody who votes for player of the year all around the country probably has different criteria. But Kyle kind of covered all the bases.”

“It’s a great award. You’re not sure what to expect. I feel like I deserved it based on the numbers,” Collinsworth said. “It’s an award that’s won in the offseason with the hard work and rehab. It’s good to see some reward come from all the hard work.”

HEALTHY TEAM?: In recent years, BYU has experienced bad luck with late-season injuries. In 2012, Noah Hartsock entered the tournament with a knee injury. In 2013, Haws sustained a concussion prior to the tournament. Last year, both Anson Winder and Skyler Halford were dealing with nagging injuries at tournament time.

Rose thought his team was healthy this year, he said, until two players (he didn’t identify them) collided during Wednesday’s practice.

“Hopefully they show up tomorrow able to practice again,” Rose said.

EMAIL: jeffc@deseretnews.com