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BYU basketball: Cougars' NCAA tournament prospects improving

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 7 2012 2:47 p.m. MST

The BYU bench cheers the final baskets of the game as the Cougars beat Gonzaga during NCAA basketball action in Provo, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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PROVO — In terms of BYU's NCAA Tournament at-large hopes, last week's victory over then-No. 24 Gonzaga last week looms large.

After falling to West Coast Conference leader Saint Mary's the previous week, most prognosticators had the Cougars being left out of the Big Dance.

But now, BYU (20-6 overall, 8-3 in the West Coast Conference), which has an RPI of 46, is considered to be in the mix for an at-large berth.

"Thursday's home win over Gonzaga was this season's biggest victory, finally giving Dave Rose's team a top-50 win on which it can at least partially hang its hat," wrote Eamonn Brennan of ESPN.com. "Still, with merely decent computer numbers, BYU can't afford to slip up in its final five WCC games. Another win over Gonzaga — on the road this time — would be a hard-won and crucial résumé boost."

The Cougars host Pepperdine Saturday (4 p.m., MST, BYUtv), followed by three consecutive road games at San Francisco, Santa Clara and Gonzaga.

"After whiffing twice against Saint Mary's, the Cougars handled Gonzaga at home for a very important win," wrote SI.com's Andy Glockner. "While at San Francisco isn't a walkover, only the Gonzaga return trip looks fraught with danger in the remaining league slate. If they can somehow get the sweep, they also could lock up the double-bye (in the WCC Tournament)."

The WCC Tournament tips off on Feb. 29 in Las Vegas.

ESPN.com's Joe Lundardi has BYU back in the NCAA Tournament in his weekly "Bracketology." He is projecting the Cougars as a No. 11 seed, facing No. 6 seed Louisville in Albuquerque, with the winner meeting either No. 3 UNLV or No. 14 Davidson.

In his latest projections, CBSSports.com contributor Jerry Palm has BYU as a No. 12 seed, playing a first-round game against Seton Hall.

THE SLUMP CONTINUES: On Jan. 16, BYU drilled 11-of-24 3-pointers, including 5-of-7 by Brock Zylstra, in an 82-63 victory at San Diego.

Since then, it's been all downhill in the 3-point shooting department.

In their last six games, the Cougars have made just 17-of-101 from 3-point territory — 16.8 percent.

Breaking it down individually, during this slump, Zylstra is 2-of-21, Matt Carlino is 3-of-27, Charles Abouo is 4-of-20, Anson Winder is 2-of-13, Craig Cusick is 3-of-9 and Damarcus Harrison is 2-of-3.

FOUL TROUBLE: In recent games, Abouo has picked up fouls early, limiting his playing time. Rose said that's something Abouo must improve on.

"He's kind of forcing the game. He needs to let it come to him a little bit," Rose said. "There's opportunities where he gets a little bit frustrated and tries to make up for it and ends up fouling. We'll take some time this week to show him some film."

Email: jeffc@desnews.com

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