Dave Rose has never missed the NCAA Tournament in back to back years, but if his BYU basketball team is going to make it back to the Big Dance, the Cougars need to finish strong.
BYU is riding a 4-game winning streak into a crucial road trip this week at Pacific and St. Mary's, but the team isn't thinking about the madness of March just yet.
"No, I don't think about it," said leading scorer Tyler Haws. "Obviously we just want to win games. You can't worry about too much of that stuff right now. Maybe in a month or a few weeks, because it really doesn't matter until the end of the season."
As of now, ESPN's Joe Lunardi has BYU as an 11-seed and one of the last teams invited in, but that can change at any time.
"What guys understand is that's so temporary," said Rose. "There is so much left to do, and things can change so quickly no matter what side of the coin you're on."
"I'm not thinking about it," added freshman center Eric Mika. "I'm just worrying about where we're at right now."
Having worked their way up into sole possession of second place in the West Coast Conference, if BYU can win their final five regular season games of the year, which would include victories over St. Mary's and Gonzaga, they would have 22 wins headed into the WCC Tournament and have to feel pretty good about their Big Dance chances.
"We all know this is a big weekend for us," said Mika. "But ever since we came into conference play, we've tried to appreciate every game as a conference championship type game."
"I think that you can feel it from the guys," said Rose. "I think they realize that they're in a position where the games are really important."
But three of BYU's final five games are on the road, and the Cougars are just 2-4 away from the Marriott Center in WCC play. The team hopes their recent play at home will carry over on the road.
"I think our intensity of defense got better," said Haws. "I feel like we made strides there in our games at home. Now we just have to bring that intensity on the road."