PROVO — Now that No. 7 BYU has vanquished No. 6 San Diego State on the road, and with less than two weeks until Selection Sunday, one of the most intriguing debates around college basketball involves the Cougars.
Does BYU (27-2, 13-1) deserve a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament?
That it's even being debated is remarkable in the sense that the best seed the Cougars have ever had, since the Big Dance expanded to at least 64 teams, in 1985, is a No. 4. And that was in 1988.
Some believe the Cougars, led by national player of the year candidate Jimmer Fredette, deserve a top seed because of their impressive 80-67 victory over the Aztecs on Saturday, and because of losses Saturday by two other teams ahead of them in the national rankings in No. 1 Duke and No. 5 Texas, and No. 4 Pitt fell on Sunday.
ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has penciled in BYU at a No. 1 seed in the West Regional.
"BYU has had a No. 1 profile all season. The problem is, there weren't enough No. 1 seed spots open," Lunardi explained Saturday night. "Well, Duke's loss and the loss by Texas have given that crack to the Cougars. It's really BYU against Duke for the fourth No. 1 seed. BYU has a better RPI, a better strength of schedule and more top 50 wins. They also have 10 true road wins, most in the country. So it's Brigham Young, No. 1 in the West."
The Cougars have, in fact, regained the No. 1 spot in the latest RPI rankings. And CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish wrote an article titled, "BYU building debate-proof case to be No. 1 NCAA seed."
Said San Diego State coach Steve Fisher: "BYU is Final Four good." He should know, since he took three Michigan teams there a couple of decades ago.
Some pundits argue that the Cougars shouldn't be a No. 1 seed and cite BYU's recent history of tournament futility — only one tournament victory in 18 years.
For their part, the Cougars know that seeding decisions are controlled by the NCAA Tournament selection committee. It's out of their hands. All they can do is keep winning.
BYU wraps up the regular season this week with a pair of home games, on Wednesday against New Mexico — which handed the Cougars' their only conference loss — and Wyoming on Saturday.
When asked about the possibility of his team receiving a No. 1 seed, coach Dave Rose refused to take the bait. It's not something he's concerned about right now.
"I just really worry about the next game," Rose said. "This is a really good basketball team. I hope people across the country got to see that this is a very good team with a couple of really special players on it. But you know by our RPI and by this conference's RPI and our record in the league, we should get some pretty good consideration. We have got lots of game to play, though. Seriously, I don't really think about it. The only time I actually think about seeding is when guys ask me. I'll enjoy this for a few hours and then we'll get ready for New Mexico."
The Cougars are focused on finishing strong and continuing to build momentum heading into March Madness.
"We still have a lot of basketball to be played," said guard Jackson Emery. "We have two big home games coming up and the (MWC) Tournament, where we could see these guys (San Diego State) again. They could try to make their case."
Based on BYU's impressive performance on Saturday, many pundits think it is No. 1-seed worthy.
ESPN.com's Eamonn Brennan wrote that BYU is deserving of No. 1 seed consideration: "The Mountain West has been solid all season, and at some point, you have to give a team credit for winning the games it has won. It's not easy to get to 26 wins — or 30 wins, or whatever BYU will end up with this season — no matter who you play. And BYU has played plenty of tough teams. As we've learned multiple times this season, it's never a good idea to doubt The Jimmer. Nor is it wise to sleep on Jimmer's supporting cast."
It appears the Cougars could start the NCAA Tournament in Denver. If they can win two games to advance to the Sweet 16, they likely would play in Anaheim, Calif.
When this possible scenario was presented to Emery on Saturday at Viejas Arena, he said, "It would be nice because we have a great fan base out here (in southern California). You definitely shoot for the stars, right?"
BYU as a No. 1 seed? For the Cougars, yes, that's shooting for the stars.
A rundown on BYU's NCAA Tournament seeding, going back to 1988:
1988 — No. 8 (lost in second round)
1990 — No. 12 (lost in first round)
1991 — No. 10 (lost in second round)
1992 — No. 10 (lost in first round)
1993 — No. 7 (lost in second round)
1995 — No. 8 (lost in first round)
2001 — No. 12 (lost in first round)
2003 — No. 12 (lost in first round)
2004 — No. 12 (lost in first round)
2007 — No. 8 (lost in first round)
2008 — No. 8 (lost in first round)
2009 — No. 8 (lost in first round)
2010 — No. 7 (lost in second round)