Dick Harmon: Dick Harmon: BYU deserves a spot in the Tournament

Published: Saturday, March 10 2012 7:45 p.m. MST

PROVO — Are the Cougars in or out?

The week's agenda for BYU basketball will be fully revealed today when CBS stages its annual NCAA Tournament Selection Show starting at 4 p.m.

Head coach Dave Rose will take his team behind closed doors with family members at the BYU Broadcast Building to view the selection announcement and then meet with reporters for comment.

If you go by most experts, the Cougars are in. Many believe the Cougars will receive an at-large bid and will not be involved in a four-team play-in game in Dayton, Ohio, on Tuesday.

One who does believe BYU is one of the last four in is Sports Illustrated's Andy Glockner, who has the Cougars squeezing in with Drexel, Iona and Marshall.

The four brackets that do not feed into Sunday play, a factor BYU needs as an accommodation to no Sunday play, are first-round sites at Portland, Albuquerque, Louisville or Pittsburgh.

It has helped that this week has taken its toll on would-be invitees who looked to shore up NCAA bids but failed.

According to Sports Illustrated's Andy Glockner, "The Cougars, amazingly, may benefit from this week's carnage. Once left for bracket dead, the Cougars may scrape into the dance despite a fairly unimpressive profile."

BYU's resume certainly could have been better if they'd beaten Gonzaga one more time, split with St. Mary's, held on against Baylor at home or had never lost at Utah State. It did hurt the Cougars when teams they'd defeated (Oregon and WAC champion Nevada) lost in their respective tournaments.

But I didn't think BYU was out of the tournament last Saturday in a loss to Gonzaga, who was favored to beat them by seven points at the Orleans. My thinking was the Cougars had to beat San Diego in the first round of the WCC to get in the NCAAs.

Said Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Eisenberg this weekend, "When Gonzaga trounced BYU in the WCC semifinals on Saturday night, it seemed as though the Cougars' at-large resume would inevitably get eclipsed by too many fellow bubble teams in the next eight days. Well, six days later, the Cougars seem to still be holding on to a tenuous spot in the field because so many other bubble teams have squandered opportunities too. BYU may yet rue going 1-4 against Saint Mary's and Gonzaga this season, but a solid RPI and wins over the 'Zags, Nevada and Oregon give the Cougars a decent shot at landing one of the final bids."

BYU needs an NCAA bid to keep a tradition rolling. Failure to make the Big Dance would send BYU to the NIT.

When Jackson Emery departed last year, with him went all institutional knowledge by a player of what it means to be a BYU player and compete in the NIT. No current BYU player knows anything but NCAA Tournament experience since they came on campus under Rose.

That NIT team in 2005-06 was the first Division I team Dave Rose ever coached after taking over from Steve Cleveland. The starters were Trent Plaisted, Keena Young, Brock Reichner, Rashaun Brodus and Lee Cummard.

That squad finished 20-9 overall and 12-4 in the MWC behind San Diego and Air Force and lost its first MWC tournament game to Utah. The NIT took BYU to Houston, Rose's alma mater, and the Cougars promptly lost 77-67 to Houston.

Since that season, Rose has taken BYU to five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. This is important because the selection committee credits programs that are regular invitees. Call it institutional credit.

In those five seasons, the Cougars have finished 25-9, 27-8, 25-8, 30-6 and 32-5.

"This team deserves to be in the NCAA Tournament," Rose told reporters at the WCC tournament at the Orleans Arena last Saturday in Las Vegas.

At 25-8, with a Saturday morning RPI of 42 and 12 wins away or on neutral courts, a majority of prognosticators agree with Rose.

If you inspect the Bracketproject.50web.com, a compilation of so-called experts in predicting the NCAA field, 93 of those 98 bracketologists had the Cougars invited to the Big Dance when assignments are official this afternoon.

The average seed given to the Cougars by these bracketologists is 11.

BYU'S TOURNAMENT RESUME

Record: 25-8

Record at home: 13-3

Record on away from home: 12-5

RPI: 42

Strength of schedule: 93

Record vs. RPI top 50: 1-5

Record vs. RPI top 100: 7-6

Record in last 10 games: 7-3

email: dharmon@desnews.com

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