DENVER -- Colorado has been really good to BYU.
Well, all except the capital city.
The Cougars would like the woeful Denver trend to end tonight when they face Wofford in an evening game (5:15) to start the NCAA Tournament.
BYU coach Dave Rose is 1-4 at the Pepsi Center, the last time being a first-round Mountain West Conference tournament loss to Utah. That was the famous game when Ute freshman center Luke Nevill left the pre-game shootaround early because of a heart condition, was questionable to play, then tossed in 29 points to send BYU home early - and basically ruin any chance Rose's first head-coached team in Provo of somehow finagling an NCAA berth.
BYU went 1-3 in the three-year MWC showcase here (the only win coming to start the 2004 tournament against Wyoming) and also lost in the '04 NCAA first round against Syracuse.
That's when the Orange unleashed a guy a lot like Jimmer Fredette - Gerry McNamara - who had 43 points, including nine 3-pointers.
Rose was an assistant coach that year. Fourth-year assistant coach Terry Nashif was on the roster but didn't see the court.
Then there's Director of Basketball Operations Mike Hall, who shakes his head Wednesday when the game is brought up.
Hall was a junior newcomer who recorded arguably his best shooting day during his two-year stint. He scored 17 points, nailing all three 3-point tries to help diminish the famous Syracuse zone defense that begged opponents to fire from the perimeter.
BYU was tied at halftime with the defending national champions in a game that changed its leader 10 times.
"That one was tough," Hall said, "because we put ourselves in a great position to win it."
The one BYU staffer with fond Denver memories is associate head coach Dave Rice.
He won a national championship here in 1990, seeing a couple of minutes at the end with UNLV's wildly successful team that defeated Duke by 30 points.
"Really great memories," Rice said. "Every time I come through Denver, just really fond memories of spending time here."
BYU could play two games here if all goes well, then return home for a few days before shuttling to New Orleans if it can get by St. John's or Gonzaga in the second round.
I don't recall: During Rick Pitino's press conference the Louisville coach was asked about the time his team shut out BYU guard Jimmer Fredette.
"I'm sorry? Anybody remember that?" Pitino asked. "Did we shut him out? I don't remember shutting him out. Maybe we did. We lost that game, didn't we?"
BYU beat Louisville 78-76 in Las Vegas on Nov. 23, 2007, during Fredette's freshman season. For the record, Fredette was 0-for-2 from the 3-point line, missed one free throw and picked up a foul in 12 minutes of play.
"I obviously watched him a lot this year on television," Pitino said. "I'm a big fan of his. He is a young man that really understands how to play the game. He's really very difficult to stop because he's so crafty and uses both hands so well, has great range. And he's very difficult to stop."
NCAA Bracket One: President Barack Obama submits an NCAA bracket every year, and this year he was asked about BYU and Fredette.
"Unbelievable. Best scorer obviously in the country. Great talent," the president responded.
Fredette said he had heard about the president's comment.
"That's pretty cool to have the president talking about you and everything. It just comes with the territory. If you have a good team, you're playing well, you're going to get notoriety. You have to realize that and just take it in stride.
"There's times for everything. There's time for media and there's time for basketball and there's time for everything else, school, social life, whatever it is. You just got to separate everything so it doesn't all mesh into one. But it's been fun. It's been a great year. I've had a lot of fun with it. I'm just excited for it to keep going."
Draftability: In his press conference, Rose was asked about Fredette's NBA draft stock.
"Where you realize that he is a player that's really on their radar is a lot of teams say they really love him, but they don't think they'll be around at their pick," Rose said. "Then you realize there's probably a lot of talk about Jimmer in the draft."
T.J. Fredette has gone on record that he'd love his younger brother to play in their home state of New York with the Knicks.
"I always liked the Knicks growing up because I was pretty close to there, my brother liked them," Jimmer Fredette said. "I always liked those teams. They had with Allan Houston and Patrick Ewing and those guys, I always liked them growing up. It would be cool to go there, but you never have any idea where to go. Right now I'm not really focused on that. Right now I'm focused on this tournament, this game we have ahead and what we have to accomplish here first."
Honors: Four would-be first-time winners headline the four finalists for the 2011 Naismith Men's College Coach of the Year, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced today. Rose, Mike Brey (Notre Dame), Steve Fisher (San Diego State) and Thad Matta (Ohio State) make up the final ballot for the most prestigious national award presented annually to the top men's college basketball coach. The winner will be announced in early April.
A Battle in Tucson: Fredette's old friend, Talor Battle, is enjoying his first NCAA appearance as a senior guard at Penn State.
"It's definitely been an uphill climb," Battle said Thursday in Tucson, Ariz., during his team's portion of media day. "You know, we've had some tough breaks. You know, I remember standing and watching (the tournament selection show) this year, and we did enough work to get in. ...This is all new to us."
Fredette, meanwhile, is enjoying his fourth consecutive NCAA bid.
But they have something in common, besides being former teammates for the Albany (N.Y.) City Rocks.
Both will go down among the best players in their respective schools' history.
"His numbers speak for themselves," Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said. "You know, he's our all-time leading scorer; 600 rebounds, 500 assists. I think there's only three guys (at PSU) that have done that. He is a very competitive kid. He really wants to do well."
Off the floor, Fredette and Battle share a lot, too.
"Off the floor, Talor is a tremendous kid," DeChellis said. "He's got a great personality. He's got a great smile. He's got a great spirit about him. And those are the things when said and done that I think I'll remember most about him. ...He is a competitive, competitive guy. Hates to lose."
Don't be fooled: Some of the Wofford players made comments earlier this week that they want to play BYU because they aren't as athletic as a team from a major conference. Fredette was asked about his own athleticism.
"I just go out and try to be the best I can. I know I'm very skilled and I've worked on my skills a lot throughout the years because I knew I was going to have to. I knew I wouldn't be the biggest, the most athletic. The thing is I'm deceivingly athletic and deceivingly fast. People don't realize that. You have to be in order to get by guys. You can't be slow. Even if you have great moves, they'll be able to guard you.
"I've worked very hard at that with my uncle in personal training. I'm a lot faster and shiftier than people give you credit for."
Seeds can grow: In BYU's previous four NCAA appearances under Rose the Cougars have been seeded No. 8 three times and No. 7 once. This year, BYU is a No. 3 seed.
"It feels very similar," Rose said of coming in seeded higher than in previous years. "It's a great opportunity. You want to be able to seize that opportunity. When you start your season and you realize that it's, you know, November 12th, November 13th, and there are so many teams, their goal is to get to this tournament. You realize that a small percentage are going to be here. You hope it's you. The bottom line is the feeling is very similar. Now you have this opportunity. Let's try and play our best basketball while we're here."
Best line: Rose was asked if his experiences with Houston as a player in the Final Four have been passed along to help his team.
"Well, I think that was so long ago, the things I do remember probably are half true," Rose said with a smile.
"But the one thing that is true is that the more success that the team has, the more it will help each individual be successful later on."
The other guys: Wofford head coach Mike Young continued to be very complimentary of BYU.
"I said to a couple people yesterday, the more I watch, the more respect I have for them. I've gotten to the point now after four or five more games, I'm not going to watch anymore, we're just going to come and play at seven tomorrow and see what happens.
There's a reason they won 30 games in the regular season. There's a reason they're ranked No. 8 in the country. It's because they are quite good. But we'll bring an old - in a good way - an old, very smart, tough team over here tomorrow. I know our guys are beyond excited and will play quite well."
Mile high, indeed: Young addressed the issue of the higher altitude in Denver.
"We're not going to belabor it," he said. "We're going to keep them hydrated, all those things. Hey, listen, if BYU beats us, it's because they outplay us, it's not going to be because we're 5,500 miles in the air. I don't know what we are. I don't know much about that altitude. Give me that coast down there. That's where I'm most comfortable.
(If we get beat) it will be because of Emery, Fredette, Hartsock, not because we're up in the air here."
Respect: Comparisons have been made between Fredette and another athlete of great faith, former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, now with the Broncos.
"I think that Tim Tebow is a great guy, a great football player, and a great leader," Fredette said. "I think that's one of his greatest qualities is that he knows how to get his team to play the best that they possibly can. That's what I try to do, go out there and lead by example, try to say some things, try to get my team motivated to go out and play. I definitely watched him throughout his career.
"He's been a great story, similar in that people definitely have doubted us throughout our careers. But one thing about both of us I think is that we're very mentally tough. And we want to show these people that we can do these things, we can go out there and be successful at any level. I have great respect for Tim Tebow for that."
On the ball: Wofford guard Jamar Diggs will be charged with guarding Fredette the majority of the time.
"Like I said before, I'm just trying to slow him down," Diggs said. "I pride myself on defense. I consider myself one of the best defenders on our team. It's my job to go out there and guard the other team's best player. Clearly Fredette is the best player. Again, I'm not going to try to stop him, just try to slow him down so hopefully we can be successful."
Taking a break: After a loss at Temple, Richmond coach Chris Mooney (head man at Air Force in 2004-05) had his team play touch football. What followed was a seven-game winning streak, including a victory in the Atlantic 10 tournament title game.
"The demands that we put on our players, there has to be outlets," Mooney said. "There have been a lot of those for us over the years, big ones like a foreign tour, and small ones like touch football games, barbecues, whatnot. I think it's important.
"We came back from a loss against Temple where we didn't play well, no one was very happy. It wasn't at that point in the season or their careers that we needed to try harder, necessarily. We needed to take a step back and take a breath. We went out and played football for about an hour
on a beautiful Richmond day. It helped us relax a little bit, go in and play as well as we could the next game without any kind of lingering effects from the Temple loss."
Lesson learned: Gonzaga, making its 13th straight appearance in the NCAA tournament, began the year 4-5 but when on to claim the West Coast Conference Tournament title with a win over St. Mary's.
"At the start of the season we took a lot of lumps, had to do a lot of learning and growing up, like most teams," Gonzaga senior guard Steven Gray said. "It's just unfortunate that we weren't able to get very many wins. A lot of our learning took place on the big stage.
"But this team was able to really draw a line in the sand and started winning games when we had to to get us here."
Watch that guy: Morehead State's Kenneth Faried is the NCAA's all-time leading rebounder.
He passed a guy who was pretty good in his college days and had a fair level of success at the NBA - Tim Duncan (Wake Forest, San Antonio Spurs).
The 6-foot-8 senior passed Duncan in mid-February. Then he had 1,576 rebounds, six more than Duncan collected at Wake Forest from 1994-97.
Pitino said he's enjoying scouting him for the first-round game. Faried, a 6-foot-8 senior, averages 14.5 rebounds per game, but also 17.6 points.
"My admiration for this young man Faried...you know, you don't see this anymore. You don't see a Dennis Rodman come along anymore," Pitino said of comparing the Morehead State boarder to the former NBA standout. "He's Dennis Rodman with a jump shot. That's one of the highest compliments I can give, because I am a big fan of Rodman from my NBA (coaching) days. A guy who gets around, never lets you catch the ball in the post; shot blocker, great defender, draws the charge - and is the leading rebounder in the history of the game."
Famous team: Louisville has a couple of noteworthy names, as well. Mark Jackson, Jr., the son of the former NBA point guard (who played the 2002-03 season with the Utah Jazz) is a Cardinal that is redshirting as a freshman. Chris Smith, whose brother J.R. plays for the NBA's Denver Nuggets, averages about nine points.