by Daniel Olsen
The Cougars and Aggies both took second place in their respective conference tournaments. One team is safely in while another is hoping to avoid potential bid stealers. The other four eligible teams in Utah, Weber State, UVU and SUU would be lucky to receive any sort of tournament invite. It’s time to break down where the Aggies and Cougars are predicted to be seeded.
BYU: What seed will they get?
The big question for the Cougars is what seed they will get. Most projections have them at a six or seven line. They could fall to an eight but a five would be a pleasant surprise. The Sunday play rule may impact their seed as well. In most years, the first round is from Thursday to Sunday with the First Four going from Tuesday to Wednesday. That is not the case this year with all games being played in Indiana and COVID restrictions.
The first four games are all scheduled to be played on Thursday. That means they would likely be playing in the Round of 64 on Saturday to get a day of rest. It’s possible BYU as a six seed could be playing one of those play-in teams. The Round of 64 will be played on Friday and Saturday with the Round of 32 being on Sunday and Monday. BYU will play in the Saturday and Monday slates so it’s possible this could impact their seeding. They will also have gone eleven days without playing a game so hopefully the rest will be helpful. Sometimes it can cause rust so the Cougars need to be ready for whoever they play.
Prediction: 6 BYU vs winner of 11 UCLA vs Syracuse
Because of the previously mentioned Sunday play rule, the Cougars seem destined to play the winner of a First Four game. That would require them to move up as two of the first four games are either 11 or 12 seeds with the other two being 16 seeds. If the committee decides to move BYU down, the Cougars could fall as far as an eight seed depending on which seeds are projected to be on Saturday.
Currently, ESPN has BYU as a six seed playing the winner of Drake and Syracuse. The other of their last four in are Louisville and Utah State. With other teams still slated to play championship games on Sunday, the bubble could change a little bit.
BYU should get out of the first game and maybe the weekend if they can move up to a six seed. UCLA is a beatable team and Syracuse, while well-coached, is also beatable. The Bruins haven’t looked that impressive this year as the fourth best team in a Pac-12 Conference that saw Oregon State steal a bid on Saturday night. If BYU wins, they could play a three seed in the second round. That team would likely be from the Big 12. At the moment, ESPN has three teams from that conference on the three line (Oklahoma State, Texas, Kansas). Arkansas is the other projected three seed. Of those teams, Arkansas would be the best matchup. The Big 12 is a tougher conference than the SEC when talking about basketball.
You can listen to today’s Selection Sunday special episode of The Hive Sports podcast with 801 Bracketology:
Utah State: Are they in?
The answer is yes for now. After two bids were stolen late Saturday night (Oregon State and Georgetown) the Aggies are now on the edge of the bubble. It is a far cry from the Mountain West that was once projected to get four teams into the tournament. The only team that is for sure in is San Diego State with the auto bid as the conference tournament champion. That hurts even more because the Aztecs did not need an auto bid.
The Aggies join the likes of Drake, Louisville and Syracuse as the last four in. They are also projected by ESPN as the very last team in. For now, the first four out are Wichita State, Saint Louis, Colorado State and Saint Louis.
Of these teams on the outside, only the Billikens of Saint Louis may have a case. The Aggies rank higher in every aspect though. They are 39 in the NET rankings compared to 43 from SLU. The Aggies also made it to the championship game of the Mountain West tournament while Saint Louis was bounced by St. Bonaventure by 17 points in the Atlantic 10 Semifinals.
There is one more team that could potentially steal a bid and that is the Cincinnati Bearcats. They are slated to play a Houston Cougars team that has been far better all season. The Cougars sit at 22-3 while the Bearcats have barely won more games than they have lost at 12-10. That game will tip off at 1:15 PM MST and end less than an hour before the Selection Committee makes their decision. Utah State will be one of the most heavily debated teams in the room. They already are but if the Bearcats steal the bid, there will be a serious discussion on whether the Aggies should be awarded the top seed in the NIT instead of a tournament bid. Craig Thompson, Mountain West Commissioner and member of the Selection Committee, might have something to say about that.
Prediction: 12 Utah State vs 12 Drake with the winner playing 5 USC on Saturday
The Aggies seem destined to play in the First Four. There is no shame in that. On the bright side, they would match up with a beatable opponent to get that first tournament win in 20 years. As a 12 seed in 2001, the Aggies last tasted victory in the NCAA tournament in OT against Ohio State. Last year’s team that secured the auto-bid and would have had a strong case to end that streak as well.
ESPN has Louisville playing the Aggies as an 11 seed with the winner taking on San Diego State. It doesn’t seem to make sense to put the Aggies against the Aztecs at least in the Round of 64. They will have just played each other the week prior. BYU doesn’t make sense either in the first round as that’s another team the Aggies have already played.
Other teams on the five or six line are Villanova, Tennessee and USC. Because of some of the regional intrigue, USC seems like a good option. To get over the tournament drought, the Aggies will have to win a play-in game and play another Pac-12 team. The last time the Aggies played in the tournament in 2019, they lost to a nine seed Washington team. A matchup with USC seems like the obstacle the Aggies will need to face to advance to the Round of 32. That would be the farthest that they would likely go. While the Aggies are good, it would be tough to face a talented team in the Round of 32.
It might be a little easier than the BYU second round if the Aggies are awarded a 12 seed as projected. Teams on the four line include Virginia, West Virginia, Purdue and Florida State. Those are tough matchups but it would be fun to see Marco Anthony go against his former team that won the 2019 NCAA Championship after being the first number one team to lose to a 16 seed the year prior. The Aggies are an improved team and will give whoever they play a run for their money. Whether Cincinnati bumps them to the NIT or not remains to be seen but one thing is for sure: the Aggies will be playing in the postseason one way or another.
Featured image courtesy David Becker / Getty Images