College Basketball Nation: Brock Zylstra

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The NCAA tournament has arrived at the KFC Yum! Center, and this pod definitely comes Kentucky-fried for your enjoyment.

Murray State begins the day by playing within its state's borders, and No. 1 seed Kentucky and No. 16 seed Western Kentucky will renew their intermittent rivalry in the evening. But some outsiders will seek to crash this Commonwealth celebration.

Let's take a look at the afternoon games on tap here Thursday:

No. 6 seed Murray State (30-1) vs. No. 11 seed Colorado State (19-13), 12:15 p.m. ET

What to watch: Is Murray State for real? That has been a season-long question, as the Racers won their first 23 games and broke into the top 10 for the first time in school history. They ended the season ranked ninth in the coaches' poll but received a No. 6 seed because of a soft schedule. But they drew a favorable opening matchup in Colorado State, a guard-oriented team that doesn't have a player over 6-foot-6. The Rams love any open shot and rank sixth nationally in 3-point field goal percentage.

Who to watch: Murray State guard Isaiah Canaan is one of the top players in the country, averaging 19.2 points and shooting 47 percent from 3-point range. Colorado State coach Tim Miles admiringly described Canaan as a "pain in the butt" and went so far as to compare him to Jimmer Fredette. If the Racers make a run in this tournament, Canaan could be one of the breakout stars of March.

Why to watch: Any team that goes 30-1 must be doing something right, and Murray State can cause enough matchup problems to make a run to the Sweet 16. The Ohio Valley Conference champ has won a game in each of the last two NCAA tournaments. Colorado State is looking for its first NCAA win since 1989, and the highly entertaining Miles will churn out some memorable sound bites if it happens.

What they're saying: "I think we're kind of used to this situation. We've kind of been looked at as an underdog all year long. I know that gym's probably not going to be in our favor [Thursday]. Our conference tournament kind of prepared us for that a little bit. So we're used to this kind of atmosphere. We're going to try not to let that stuff get to us and just concentrate on our game plan and the way we've got to play to win." -- Colorado State guard Wes Eikmeier.

"I think Murray's always been on the map. They have a great winning tradition. But I just think with this year that it just opened up some more eyes. More people kind of went out of their way to see where Murray State was, who these guys were, what are they doing, how do they represent themselves. So I think it was just a matter of us doing a little bit extra for the program." -- Murray State guard Donte Poole.

Of note: Poole signed with Colorado State out of high school and even attended summer school there in 2007. ... The Racers are one of just five teams to enter the NCAA tournament with only one loss but not earn a No. 1 seed. The best showing by any of those previous teams was Texas Tech's Sweet 16 run in 1996. ... Miles has often worn a Smarty Jones hat in honor of the 2004 Kentucky Derby winner to remind his teams of their underdog possibilities. "And just by chance, we end up in Louisville," he said. "I thought that was pretty cool karma."

No. 3 seed Marquette (25-7) vs. No. 14 seed BYU (26-8), approximately 2:45 p.m. ET

What to watch: Marquette crashed the Sweet 16 as a No. 11 seed a year ago and now looms as a potential Final Four threat in the West Region. The Golden Eagles love to get out in transition, and BYU just beat one of the fastest teams in the country while completing a stunning comeback against Iona in Dayton. Can BYU follow VCU's unconventional path from a year ago?

Who to watch: Marquette's 1-2 punch of Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder. Johnson-Odom can beat you from 3-point range or off the bounce, while Big East player of the year Crowder is a 6-6 matchup nightmare who can do a little of everything. Both are seniors who won't be easily rattled.

Why to watch: BYU has already turned in possibly one of the most entertaining games of this year's tournament, and the Cougars have the fascinating redemption saga of forward Brandon Davies. Marquette matches the high energy of its coach, Buzz Williams, and is almost never boring.

What they're saying: "When I first got in here, I smelled the chicken being cooked. So that reminded me of the last time we were here." -- Marquette's Crowder, recalling his team's last appearance at the KFC Yum! Center, when the Golden Eagles blew an 18-point lead in the final six minutes during a loss last year to Louisville.

"A lot of confidence comes from coming from behind and winning, especially in the NCAA tournament. There's a lot of new emotions and adrenaline that comes into play when you're in this tournament. It gives us a lot of confidence to know that we can play and battle back from a pretty big deficit." -- BYU forward Brock Zylstra.

Of note: Marquette typically wins the fast-break battle, but it gave up a season-high 35 transition points in its loss to Louisville in the Big East tournament last week. ... The last time the Golden Eagles were a No. 3 seed, they made the Final Four in 2003 behind Dwyane Wade. ... With Tuesday's victory, BYU has won NCAA tournament games in three straight years for the first time in school history. ... The Cougars spent Tuesday night in Dayton and made the short bus ride to Louisville on Wednesday, arriving about 2:30 p.m. ... BYU coach Dave Rose said forward Noah Hartsock, who has been battling knee and ankle problems, was "pretty sore" after the Iona game, but he expected Hartsock to be ready to play Thursday.

Rapid Reaction: BYU 78, Iona 72

March, 14, 2012

DAYTON, Ohio -- Reaction from BYU's 78-72 win over Iona.

Overview: The scouting report on Iona was simple. The Gaels can run with anyone (they have the top scoring offense in the country), but they can’t guard anyone.

Both proved to be true in their loss to BYU on Tuesday in the First Four matchup at University of Dayton Arena.

With 4:34 to go in the first half, the Gaels held a 55-31 lead.

Get out your calculators for this one.

That’s a 24-point margin, right? Well, for the next 16 minutes and 31 seconds, the Gaels recorded just seven points.

Huh? How does a team score 55 points in the first 15:24 of the game and then register seven during the next 16:31?

They couldn’t score against BYU’s zone. The Cougars forced Iona to slow down and rely on sets instead of the up-tempo game that had carried the Gaels to that crazy start. Iona was perplexed as BYU kept cutting into its lead.

As Iona’s offense stalled (going scoreless for more than nine minutes), BYU mounted a comeback that resulted in a 71-70 lead for the Cougars on a Noah Hartsock 3-pointer with 2:28 to play. Brandon Davies hit a pair of late free throws, and a Brock Zylstra three-point play with 23 seconds to go gave BYU a 76-70 lead. More late free throws sealed the win for the Cougars.

It was the biggest comeback in NCAA tournament history. That followed the greatest comeback in the last five minutes during Western Kentucky's late push against MVSU in the first game.

The largest deficit of the game was 25 points, making this a 31-point turnaround for BYU. Welcome to March.

Key Player: Davies had 18 points, and Hartsock scored 23. Both were crucial in the win.

Key Stats: Iona scored 55 points and shot 69 percent from the field and 71 percent on 3-pointers in the first 15:26 of the game. But in the final 24:34 of the game, the Gaels scored 17 points, shot 20 percent from the field and made just 1 of 18 3-point attempts.

Misc.: Wow. Again. I know a lot of folks have knocked the First Four setup, but we were treated to a pair of thrilling finishes in Dayton. And that was only Day 1. ... How on earth did that happen? How did Iona blow that lead? I’ve never witnessed that kind of collapse in person.

BYU's new scoring leader is former walk-on

August, 25, 2011
BYU is somewhat of a mystery team heading into its first year in the West Coast Conference, as the Cougars try to find an identity with Jimmer Fredette no longer measuring up shots from the parking lot and Brandon Davies still not yet officially on the team following last season's suspension.

So, while the team's preseason tour of Greece included some sightseeing, it was more of a fact-finding mission and included a detour. The Cougars were a late addition to a tournament that enabled them to play experienced national teams from Greece and Italy.

They lost to the Greeks by 29 and to the Italians by 39, but out of the routs came the emergence of a new leading scorer named Brock Zylstra, a 6-foot-6 junior and former walk-on.

Zylstra averaged 17.3 points and six rebounds on the trip, scoring 26 against an Italian squad featuring three NBA players in a performance that should give him confidence. No one is asking him to replace Fredette or start up Brockmania. But for a swingman who after serving a two-year mission in New Zealand has played 49 games in two seasons averaging 4.3 points for BYU without making a single start, this was a big moment.

And he wasn't the only impressive one in Greece. Senior Charles Abouo averaged 14.8 points and 8.3 rebounds while highly regarded freshman Damarcus Harrison averaged 9.3 points. With the addition of UCLA transfer Matt Carlino in December, coach Dave Rose should have many players to choose from following the departures of Fredette and Jackson Emery. Another newcomer putting up notable numbers was returning missionary Josh Sharp, who after spurning Utah was able to knock off some rust and average 6.3 points and 3.8 rebounds.

The Cougars come home with a much better idea of where they stand.