Dick Harmon: BYU basketball: Where will the Cougars, Aztecs go from here?
LAS VEGAS — It was San Diego State's turn.
On Saturday, the Aztecs eagerly downed a plate of revenge over the Cougars, a foe that had handed San Diego State coach Steve Fisher's top-10 ranked team its only two losses of the season. It came in the finals of the Mountain West Conference Tournament in the Thomas & Mack Center.
The biggest question now? Where exactly will the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee seed BYU's 30-4 team today when the field is revealed?
We will know in a few hours.
"I don't think one game in a conference tournament on the third night is the way to really evaluate a team," said BYU coach Dave Rose.
"I think that you evaluate a team over the course of four or five months. This team has been all over the country, found ways to win games, competed extremely well against the fourth-ranked RPI in the country, have a regular-season co-championship, has 30 wins, has an RPI in the Top 10. I think these players have earned the right to play on."
Once considered a No. 1 seed when ranked No. 3 two days after defeating the Aztecs in Viejas Arena back on Feb. 26, how much has changed in the eyes of those who will pick the NCAA field? How much will they weigh in a home loss to New Mexico and the loss of post star Brandon Davies?
"We have moved on," said senior guard Jackson Emery. "This is a different team now and we have players who are capable of helping us win."
Well, 30-4 should count for a lot. So should the Cougars' body of work that spreads over four and a half months — including a pair of wins over SDSU by a combined 26 points.
In a fair world, BYU's season should weigh heavier than a league tournament designed to make money over the course of three days.
If BYU had defeated San Diego State a third time last night, the Cougars would've make a great case for a No. 2 seed. Now, they should be a No. 3. It hurts that they got blown out Saturday. If they slip to a 4, it would be a slap to Rose and his squad.
It is evident, with BYU's depth issues, three games in three days isn't a good recipe. The NCAA Tournament doesn't dish up that kind of back-to-back-to-back punishment.
"We haven't played three games in three days," said senior guard Jackson Emery. "We are beat up and tired."
But the BYU captain said his team isn't using that or the absence of Davies as an excuse.
"We've moved on," he said.
BYU will benefit from the star power of Jimmer Fredette. The NCAA TV partnership will look at the Jimmer factor. He's good for ratings. His 52-point outburst against New Mexico was huge — so was an understandable post-Lobo hangover by the Cougars on Saturday in the face of a deep and motivated SDSU crew.
Davies is gone. BYU is 3-2 without him. It affects the Cougars' depth, and the committee will look at that as it establishes a value on BYU, no question. On the other hand, the Cougars finished 8-2 in their last 10 games.
Before Saturday's loss to the Aztecs, the Cougars had an RPI rating of No. 5. It is only a portion of the NCAA formula on Selection Sunday.
Going into Las Vegas, looking at BYU's history at the MWC Tournament here and in Denver, it has seldom finished with smiles and cartwheels for the Cougars. They are 5-4 in the semifinals and 1-4 in finals play.
In the scheme of things at this event, the Cougars came in with a top-10 team and lost to a top-10 team. BYU has lost three consecutive championship games in this affair.
In the most negative light, BYU's 72-54 loss to the Aztecs here Saturday was the largest margin of victory for a championship game since BYU lost to UNLV 79-56 in the 2000 tournament.
"We're a really good team," said Charles Abouo. "We've put together a really good body of work through the season. We are confident in what we can do. We aren't worried about what seed we get, we're just focused on winning and moving ahead in the tournament."
That's one way to spin it.
Abouo said BYU's loss Saturday isn't that big of a deal and the Cougars have to push the excitement button.
"It could be a lot worse, we could be one of those teams done for the season," he said. "We got beat by a good team tonight. We aren't too worried about the future of our season, we'll be in good shape."
In truth, a few days of good rest is absolutely the best medicine for Rose and his squad.
And it's tough to cry over 30-4.
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