BYU basketball: Cougars playing waiting game, hoping for NCAA tournament at-large berth
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
PROVO — Now that the West Coast Conference tournament is over, the waiting game has begun for BYU.
The Cougars lost in the WCC championship game to Gonzaga, 75-64, Tuesday night at Orleans Arena. They also lost one of their top players, versatile guard Kyle Collinsworth, who injured his knee in the second half against the Bulldogs and is done for the year.
The Cougars are hoping to receive an at-large berth when pairings are announced on Selection Sunday.
Asked about his team’s NCAA hopes Tuesday night, coach Dave Rose said: “I’m just really proud of our team. We battled through a very difficult nonconference schedule. There were a couple of games that we had a chance to win and we didn’t get them and we had to respond to it and come back. We didn’t get off to the best start in league, but we finished really strong in the last three or four weeks, as good as any team around as far as being up for the challenge. That’s how I personally feel about our team. We’ll see what happens.”
BYU (23-11) has an RPI of 31 and strength of schedule of 39, according to Sports Illustrated.
“We should find ourselves in that tournament,” said guard Tyler Haws. This has been a challenging season, but I feel like our guys have come together. I feel like we’ve done enough to get in.”
ESPN.com bracketologist Joe Lunardi projects BYU as a No. 12 seed, going to Dayton in a “First Four” match against the Dayton Flyers. If that were to happen, it would amount to a road game for the Cougars.
According to Wednesday’s Bracket Matrix at bracketmatrix.com, BYU is included in 86 of 97 NCAA tournament projections, with an average seed of 10.85.
“The Cougars now find themselves firmly on the bubble after losing to Gonzaga in the WCC finals,” according to Sports Illustrated. “They went 3-6 against the top 50 — with the wins coming over Gonzaga, at Stanford and on a neutral court against Texas — and 8-7 against the top 100. In Wednesday’s updated Bracket Watch, they’re one of the first four out, with Tennessee sliding ahead.”
Gonzaga coach Mark Few told reporters that BYU deserves a spot in the NCAA tournament.
“Without a doubt. It’s how hard they play, how skilled they are. Nobody attacks offensively the way BYU does,” Few said. “They come at you and if you’re not ready, they can run at you.
“You’ve got to look at the schedule they played,” Few continued. “I thought they played the toughest nonconference schedule in the country when you take into account where they played those games at. I watched a lot of those games and they came down to a possession or two — the Iowa State game, the UMass game, Oregon. They’re even with those teams. I watched them play even and they should have won. So there’s not a question in my mind they’re an NCAA tournament team.”
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