Thursday, March 15, 2001

UC Notebook

BYU coach has come long way to NCAAs

By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Brigham Young coach Steve Cleveland can't help but have a unique perspective on participating in his first NCAA Tournament.

        The MVP of the UC Irvine team as a senior in 1976, Cleveland had spent his coaching career in California: 10 seasons at Fresno's Clovis West High School (180-70) and eight at Fresno City College (157-77).

        “I've been a JV high school coach, I've cleaned the gyms; I've driven the bus; I've raised the money,” said Cleveland, 49. “I've done everything. To be here. I have an appreciation for it.”

        BYU, which was 1-25 the season before he took over the program, faces Cincinnati tonight in its first NCAA game in six years.

        Cleveland, in his fourth season in Division I, does not expect his players to be too uptight.

        “We had to win five games in a row on the road to get here, and we had to go into The Pit (at New Mexico), and I promise you this place isn't one-tenth of what The Pit is,” he said. “We've been through the most pressure-packed three weeks of our season already.”

        That said, he thinks getting off to a good start could be key.

        “A message we have to get to Cincinnati is that we can play with them,” Cleveland said. “If we go six or seven minutes without making a basket, that's going to give them a great deal of confidence.”

        AT THE MOVIES: BYU senior Mekeli Wesley was watching a tape of the UC-UAB game from the Conference USA Tournament Wednesday when members of the media came into his coach's hotel room for some interviews.

        He compared the Bearcats to Southern Cal and Iowa State, two nonconference opponents who narrowly defeated the Cougars in December. Cleveland said aside from Iowa State's Jamaal Tinsley, UC's Kenny Satterfield and Steve Logan will be the best guards his team has faced all season.

        “The main thing that stands out to me is their athleticism,” Wesley said. “We don't see as much athleticism at every position in our league as we see with them, so we'll definitely have to counter that with something.

        “We know we're probably going to have to play a pretty perfect game to have a chance to win, but we're all up for it.”

        THE GOOD NEWS: The Bearcats are 8-1 in NCAA Tournament first-round games under Bob Huggins, and they have won those games by an average of 17.1 points. The only loss came in 1994 to Wisconsin (80-72). The closest calls were to Northern Arizona in 1998 (65-62), UNC Greensboro in '96 (66-61) and Temple in '95 (77-71).

        THE BAD NEWS: BYU is 4-0 all-time in Cox Arena, home of San Diego State.

        NCAA TALK: The Bearcats are in their 10th consecutive NCAA Tournament, which has them tied with Kentucky for the seventh-best streak in the country behind North Carolina (27), Arizona (17), Indiana (16), UCLA (13), Kansas (12) and Temple (12).

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