NCAA hope not dying as Cougars prepare for Colorado, Wyoming

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    By SETH LEWIS

    The BYU men’s basketball team knows venturing to Colorado State and Wyoming can be the equivalent of invading Normandy with a BB gun.

    Just ask Mekeli Wesley.

    He remembers well the night in Laramie two years ago when Wyoming students donned T-shirts featuring a bloody cougar under the words, “Valentine’s Day Massacre.”

    And it was, indeed.

    After the Cowboys’ 77-54 flogging, fans leaned over the rails and showered the Cougars with slurs as they shuffled up the ramp.

    “I can attest that these guys play a lot better at home,” Wesley said.

    No joke. The Cowboys are 10-1 this season in Laramie, and Colorado State is 7-3 in Fort Collins.

    The Cougars face both this week — Colorado State tonight (7 p.m., KSL radio) and Wyoming on Saturday.

    “Obviously, they’re totally different teams at home,” Wesley said. “It’ll be hard to get a win, but not impossible.”

    But win they must if the Cougars (16-7, 5-5) are to keep alive the NCAA Tourney hopes that were born with Saturday’s upset of UNLV.

    “If we win one or two games this week, we can consider the NCAA Tournament as a possibility,” coach Steve Cleveland said.

    Even if BYU — which is a half-game behind Wyoming and tied with Colorado for fifth in the league — drops both, the NIT isn’t out of the postseason equation.

    Still, Todd Christensen likes the Cougars’ chances of making the field of 64.

    “I think we’re going to the NCAAs,” he said. “I think there’s still a possibility.”

    There certainly will be if Christensen and the rest of the Cougars’ role players take some of the offensive load off Wesley and Terrell Lyday, who combine for nearly 50 percent of the team’s points.

    After all, when Christensen or fellow shooting guard Michael Vranes scores in double figures, the Cougars haven’t lost.

    “It’s a pretty interesting little statistic,” Christensen said. “It has given Mike and I added incentive.”

    Problem is, since point guard Matt Montague averages three points a game, opponents can lay off him and smother Christensen on the perimeter.

    “I think there have been times that we’ve wished Matt was more a threat offensively,” Cleveland said.

    Regardless, Cleveland figures Christensen — who shoots a team-best 48.5 percent from the floor — may be on the brink of something big.

    “I fully expect Todd will make baskets on this road trip,” he said. “He has the green light from this coaching staff.”

    Christensen may have to match three-point bombs with the Rams (15-10 overall), the NCAA leaders from behind the arc shooting 43 percent.

    That might seem hard to believe, given that the Rams hit a paltry 19 percent in their 68-47 loss to the Cougars last month.

    “They had open looks and didn’t shoot very well,” Cleveland said. “We can’t expect them to have an off night at their own place.”

    The Cougars also can’t expect Rams star forward Ceedric Goodwyn — the league’s fourth-leading scorer at 17.4 points a game — to disappear like he did at the Marriott Center.

    “We’re playing some very explosive post players the next few days,” Cleveland said.

    That would include Wyoming’s inside pair of center Josh Davis and forward LeDarion Jones, who together average 27.4 points.

    Combine that with raucous crowds and trips to Laramie and Fort Collins never looked grimmer.

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