by Daniel Olsen
Beware the ides of March! Taxes, extra hours at the office and college basketball are enough to make anyone crazy. It’s time to put on that favorite pair of green socks and eat those lucky charms though. As February draws to a close, BYU is the only team in the state that will likely clinch an at-large bid. The others may have to win their conference tournament to get there. It’s time to take a look at how exactly the Cougars got there this year without upsetting Gonzaga like they did the year prior.
1. Only one bad loss
After BYU lost to the Pepperdine Wave, their season might have been Pepper-DONE had they suffered another loss like that to a bad team in the NET rankings. Luckily, the Cougars got the narrow overtime win over Pacific shortly afterwards to keep their tournament hopes alive. Since then BYU hasn’t looked back as they are winners of five of their last six with the only loss being Gonzaga. The Cougars took their mulligan game and didn’t allow themselves to lose any life headed into March.
2. Quality non-conference
If we rewind to the start of the season, BYU didn’t lose to any bad teams and even beat a few good teams. San Diego State is ranked in the top 25 and perhaps their best win of the year. The rival Utah State Aggies are hovering on the bubble so they were a good win on the road in Logan. St. John’s is also another bubble team which the Cougars beat. USC and Boise State were the only non-conference losses for BYU and they are both tournament teams.
3. Beauty in the eyes of the beholders
When looking at every ranking system, it’s clear that every Bracketology expert believes that BYU is a solid tournament team. Below are the current rankings by some well-known systems:
AP Top 25: tied for 32 in votes
Coaches Poll: Tied for 35 in votes
Prediction: Since the official NCAA NET rating is the most important system, it’s safe to assume BYU is far away from any bubble danger even if they lose their finale to Saint Mary’s tomorrow. Even if they lose early in the WCC tournament, they still wouldn’t be in the last four in or last four byes. They would be starting in the round of 64 and likely as a favored seed (8 or higher).
Joe Lunardi of ESPN currently has BYU as a seven seed playing VCU in the first round. The Rams did a number on the rival Aggies in a season opener. While they would be a tough out, I am going to say BYU gets at least one tournament win. Because of BYU’s honor code preventing them from a Sunday game, it could cost them a seed or two.
BYU will stay at the seven seed but gets a bubble Mountain West opponent. They will play Colorado State in the first round and win before losing to a two seed in the second round. It could be a top Big Ten team like Ohio State or Illinois.
Either way, this will be a monumental achievement for a team that hasn’t been to the Big Dance since their First Four comeback in 2015. They also haven’t won a Round of 64 game since their Sweet 16 run with Jimmer in 2011. The Cougars would have had an at-large last year had the tournament not been cancelled. There will be a belated celebration for BYU Hoops fans on Selection Sunday.
Featured image via BYU Cougars.