"That obviously adds a little bit of extra focus," said senior guard Craig Cusick. "Usually we have a chance at an at-large bid, and this year probably not. We know that it is do or die to get to the tournament, so we need to make sure we're ready."
"Our backs are against the wall," added senior forward Brock Zylstra. "We know we have to get these three wins to reach our goal that we set every year."
"It's definitely going to inspire us and make us play harder," said WCC leading scorer Tyler Haws. "I feel like in practice this week, guys are on edge a little bit."
It's not going to be easy. First up, either Pepperdine or San Diego in the quarterfinals Friday night. The Waves gave the Cougars a tough game in Malibu, while the Toreros already beat BYU in San Diego. If BYU wins, they'll take on #23 St. Mary's in the semifinals, and if the Cougars survive that test, they'll most likely have to face #1-ranked Gonzaga.
"Those games are always going to be in the back of our minds, knowing that we have to play [St. Mary's and Gonzaga]," said Zylstra. We'll be ready to play them when that time comes, but right now we're focused on this game ahead of us."
"We can't look past Friday," added Cusick. "San Diego beat us this year and Pepperdine almost beat us."
"There has been no mention of St. Mary's or Gonzaga yet," said head coach Dave Rose. "If we're talking on Friday night after a win, I'll answer all the questions you have about St. Mary's."
BYU has made the NCAA Tournament six straight years, the longest streak in school history. But almost everybody thinks that streak is going to end this weekend and the Cougars will be N-I-T bound. But that's OK with the Cougars.
"Lots of people are writing us off," said Haws. "But everyone in our locker room still believes. I definitely still believe. We have a big challenge ahead of us, but I think we can do it."
"One of the stats I saw is that we have a four percent chance to get to the tournament," said Zylstra. "That's motivating to us to prove people wrong."
"I think we believe that even though the odds are stacked against us that we can do this," said Rose.
"Oh, it's definitely doable," said senior center Brandon Davies. "We have all the confidence in the world in each other, and we can't wait to get out there."
BYU's first game is set for Friday night 9:30 p.m. mountain time against either Pepperdine or San Diego.