Douglas C. Pizac, Associated Press
BYU's Jonathan Tavernari (45) and his teammates are seeded between No. 5 and No. 7 in most NCAA Tournament bracket projections, the Cougs' highest seed in years.

There are still 11 days until Selection Sunday, but as college basketball addicts can attest, it's never too early to project how the NCAA Tournament's field of 65 might look.

Yes, Bracketology is alive and well.

Based on the projections by national Web sites, BYU could earn its highest NCAA Tournament seed in years, and the Mountain West Conference could get three teams into the Big Dance.

Looking at what they've accomplished to this point of the season, the Cougars and UNLV both appear to be headed to the NCAA Tournament, while New Mexico seems to be sitting squarely on the bubble.

"We're in the month of March. Our guys have done a tremendous job all season long," said first-year Lobos coach Steve Alford. "Now we've got to hope we're playing our best basketball as we enter the most important month in college basketball."

BYU is close to clinching the outright regular-season MWC championship, but UNLV is once again hosting the MWC Tournament. The winner of the tournament receives the league's automatic NCAA bid.

"Hopefully we can finish out how we'd like, go to the NCAA Tournament and have a good run," said BYU guard Sam Burgess.

Keep in mind there's still a lot of basketball yet to be played leading up to the NCAAs. One year ago, both BYU and Air Force were projected as No. 4 seeds in the tournament by some experts.

But the Cougars, who lost in the MWC Tournament title game to the Runnin' Rebels, ended up as a No. 8 seed instead. The Falcons, meanwhile, suffered a couple of late regular-season losses and fell in the first round of the MWC Tournament. With that, Air Force was left out of the NCAAs altogether.

As of this week, ESPN.com has BYU as a No. 7 seed facing No. 10 seed Arizona State at Omaha, Neb., in the West Regional. However, the Cougars were a No. 6 seed a week ago, before they beat New Mexico on the road and Air Force at home.

ESPN.com has UNLV as a No. 8 seed taking on No. 9 Oklahoma at Little Rock, Ark., in the South Regional. New Mexico is a No. 13 seed meeting No. 4 Indiana at Denver, Colo. — pitting Alford against his alma mater.

According to Sportingnews.com, BYU merits a No. 5 seed, along with Drake, Clemson and Marquette. UNLV is a No. 7 seed, while New Mexico is on the outside looking in, listed as a team, "on the cusp."

Bracketography.com rates BYU as a No. 6 seed, facing No. 11 Arizona in the West Regional at Washington, D.C. UNLV is a No. 10 seed taking on No. 7 Clemson in the Midwest Regional at Omaha, and New Mexico is a No. 12 seed squaring off against No. 5 Marquette in the East Regional at Charlotte, N.C.

Collegehoops.com, meanwhile, projects BYU as a No. 7 seed, UNLV as a No. 9 and New Mexico a No. 13.

In a check of this week's Collegiate Basketball News' Rating Percentage Index, BYU is No. 22, followed by UNLV at No. 27 and New Mexico at No. 53. In the CBSSports.com RPI listings, BYU comes in at No. 27 this week.

The RPI has been used by the NCAA since 1981 to supplement the selection of at-large teams and the seeding of all teams for the NCAA Tournament.

BYU has played three teams that are currently rated in the top 15 of the RPI — North Carolina (No. 3), Louisville (No. 11) and Michigan State (No. 14). The Cougars lost to North Carolina and Michigan State and defeated Louisville.


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