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BYU's NCAA tournament fate: 'Anything could happen'

Published: Saturday, March 15 2014 11:45 p.m. MDT

The Cougars (23-11) hope to be among the NCAA tournament’s field of 68, as an at-large team, when pairings are announced Sunday (4 p.m. MDT, CBS). (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) The Cougars (23-11) hope to be among the NCAA tournament’s field of 68, as an at-large team, when pairings are announced Sunday (4 p.m. MDT, CBS). (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

PROVO — There are bound to be plenty of anxious moments on Selection Sunday for the BYU basketball program.

The Cougars (23-11) hope to be among the NCAA tournament’s field of 68, as an at-large team, when pairings are announced Sunday (4 p.m. MDT, CBS).

BYU fell to Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference championship game last Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Cougars learned they will be without guard Kyle Collinsworth for the rest of the season due to a knee injury.

Where does that leave BYU, which is squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble?

According to many experts, the outlook is nebulous.

“Earlier in the week, we wrote that BYU ‘had some sweating to do’ after its WCC final loss to Gonzaga, but we assumed the Cougars would probably be OK. We're far less sure now,” Eammon Brennan of ESPN.com wrote Saturday. “On Wednesday, BYU learned that guard Kyle Collinsworth tore his ACL in the WCC finale, and will (obviously) be unavailable for the tournament. There are plenty of examples of the selection committee considering key injuries and seeding accordingly. But what about the actual selection? Does Collinsworth's injury invalidate the things the committee would have favored about its resume (wins at Stanford and vs. Texas on a neutral court, mainly). Does it downgrade BYU from one side of the bubble to the other? We weren't totally sure the Cougars were going to get in in the first place, which makes isolating any given selection variable even trickier. There's no good template here. Anything could happen.”

As of Saturday, ESPN.com bracketologist Joe Lunardi had BYU as a No. 11 seed in the NCAA tournament, facing No. 11 Dayton in the First Four in Dayton — on the Flyers’ home floor.

The winner of the BYU-Dayton game would face No. 6 Kentucky, according to Lunardi.

Most prognosticators agree that if the Cougars get in, they will be among the last four at-large teams to receive a bid.

BYU will grant media access Sunday to coaches and players one hour after the Selection Show ends — but only if the Cougars are invited to the Big Dance.

Two years ago, BYU was dispatched to Dayton for the First Four and rallied from a 25-point first-half deficit to record the biggest comeback in NCAA tournament history in a win over Iona.

The Cougars missed out on the NCAA tournament last season for the first time in six years. They ended up winning three games and advancing to the National Invitation Tournament Final Four in New York City.

The sites of second-round Thursday-Saturday games that BYU could go to if it receives an NCAA tournament bid are the First Niagara Center (Buffalo, N.Y.), BMO Harris Bradley Center (Milwaukee), Amway Center (Orlando, Fla.), and Veterans Memorial Arena (Spokane, Wash.).

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