Selection Sunday, how we’ve missed you.
The pandemic canceled Selection Sunday last season and BYU fans never got to find out what kind of damage Yoeli Childs, T.J. Haws, Jake Toolson and friends would have done in the NCAA Tournament.
In 2021, there is joy in Provo: The Cougars are a No. 6 seed in the East Regional and will play the winner of a First Four game (Michigan State-UCLA) on Saturday in the first round of March Madness.
BYU will play at 7:40 p.m. MT on Saturday at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The game will be televised on CBS.
Cougar coach Mark Pope tied his last two teams together prior to Sunday’s announcement by orchestrating a Zoom call that included last year’s seven seniors.
“They taught us how to lead, they taught us how to sacrifice and they taught us how to compete,” Pope said. “I just know this has been a long and winding story to finally get a chance to play in the postseason. They are super grateful and cheering for us.”
The Cougars collected on the floor of the Marriott Center and watched CBS’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Selection Show on the arena big screen, which was lowered to floor level. CBS cameras caught the players and coaches celebration when their name was announced after three commercial breaks.
Cougar senior guard Alex Barcello was a member of the 2019-20 team that had earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament but never got to play.
He contrasted his feelings from last year to Sunday as “Night and day.”
“We were so excited to see our name pop up next to the 6,” Barcello said. “It was unbelievable. We’re so grateful and really excited for this opportunity to go shock a lot of people.”
Center Matt Haarms, who was part of three NCAA Tournament teams at Purdue said, “Revealing the brackets is such a great event. March Madness is one of the greatest sporting events. When we were featured on the big screen finding out who we play, it was really awesome.”
Michigan State and UCLA — both No. 11 seeds — will meet in a First Four game on Thursday.
“We’re motivated,” Barcello said. “We know both are great teams. They are both well coached and fast paced teams. The last few days we’ve been guessing the matchups we would have today and one of the teams we guessed was Michigan State. We’ll need to keep playing as physical as we can, play in transition and crash the boards as hard as we can.”
This is Pope’s first NCAA Tournament team in his head coaching career. He said before he left for the Marriott Center on Sunday he was playing the March Madness anthem “One Shining Moment” as he walked through his house.
“This tournament is the greatest sporting event in the world,” Pope said. “These guys now have a chance to go have their moment. Now 68 teams get to take their swing to leave a mark on the tournament and that’s exhilarating. I love this tournament so much.”
The entire 2021 NCAA Tournament will be staged in Indianapolis and the surrounding area. The Cougars will leave for Indy on Monday and aside from practices, weight lifting, team meetings and games will be limited to their hotel rooms for the duration of their stay in the tournament.
“We’ve got to get on that plane tomorrow,” Pope said. “We passed our (COVID-19) tests today and we have another test tomorrow. We’ve just got to get to that bubble. That’s my biggest sense of urgency. There’s no way we’re going to miss this thing.”