PROVO — It’s nobody’s first choice, but the BYU men’s basketball team will continue its season after last week’s loss to Saint Mary’s in the West Coast Conference tournament semifinals.
BYU drew a No. 3 seed and will host No. 6 Texas-Arlington Wednesday at 7 p.m. MT on ESPN2 and KSL Newsradio. The Mavericks (25-8) claimed an autobid to the tournament via the Sun Belt regular season championship.
The Cougars (22-11) are 1-0 all-time against UT Arlington, having last faced the Mavericks in 1988. Among the Mavericks' 25 wins is a 65-51 victory over Saint Mary's in Moraga, California last December. Arlington finished the season losing two of the past three games with an 83-62 loss to Texas State in the Sun Belt semifinals.
UT Arlington averages 77.3 points per game, and is led by Sun Belt player of the year Kevin Hervey, who averaged 17.1 points and 8.6 rebounds during the regular season. The Mavericks also boast Sun Belt coach of the year Scott Cross, who is 202-147 in his 11th season in Arlington, Texas. The Mavs have been to the postseason five times under Cross, including an NCAA Tournament bid in 2008 and an NIT trip in 2012.
The winner will advance to face the winner of second-seeded Houston (21-10) and Akron (26-8). BYU coach Dave Rose was a co-captain of the national runner-up Phi Slamma Jamma team at Houston in 1983, and injured point guard L.J. Rose recently transferred to BYU from Houston as a graduate senior.
The Cougars, who made a run to last year’s NIT semifinals in New York City, made their first back-to-back appearances in the second-tier tournament since 1953-54, when the NIT was the predominant postseason invitational in college basketball.
The four No. 1 seeds in the tournament, and the last four out of the NCAA Tournament, were Syracuse (18-14), Cal (21-12), Iowa (18-14) and Illinois State (27-6). Syracuse will face UNC Greensboro (25-9), Cal will face Cal State Bakersfield (22-9), Illinois State will face UC Irvine (21-14) and Iowa will face Summit League champions South Dakota (22-11) in their first-ever NIT appearance.
BYU will play in Cal’s region of the bracket, opposite third-seeded Utah (20-11), who will face Boise State (19-11) Tuesday at 8 p.m. MT on ESPNU.
All NIT games will be broadcast on the ESPN family of networks, and the semifinals and final will be played at Madison Square Garden in New York City.