Associated Press
BYU's Charles Abouo shoots above four San Diego players during the Cougars' WCC win on Monday night in San Diego.

PROVO —

So, how firm a roost does BYU have as a bubble squatter for an NCAA Tournament berth?

Will the West Coast Conference get three invites to the Big Dance?

Is the only sure way for the Cougars to make it to the NCAAs again to win the WCC tournament at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas the first week of March?

Firm.

Likely.

Yes.

The Cougars can get to 21 wins today when they host Pepperdine, but an NCAA Tournament berth is not in the bag unless the Cougars can win the rest of their games. It would help if they deliver a repeat victory over Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash., later this month.

Things did get a little better for BYU coach Dave Rose when Gonzaga upset St. Mary's on Thursday. That added weight to BYU's win over the Zags in Provo.

In the latest Bracket Matrix, a compilation of 60 different prognosticators, BYU is included in 57 projected brackets with an average seed of 11. The guessers put the Cougars anywhere from a No. 9 to 12 seed. Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com places the Cougars as a No. 13 seed.

Such speculation hikes the hope meter for the Cougars.

Many so-called experts project the WCC will get three teams in the tournament (St. Mary's, Gonzaga, BYU), the MWC will get four (San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico, Wyoming) and the Pac-12 one (Cal).

The Cougars will be lucky to get in, but things are not as dire as a week ago and better than things were looking earlier this week when some pondered the dilemma of whether any Utah schools would make it in the NCAA tourney.

It would help if BYU sharpshooters found a remedy for their ailing 3-point producing elbows and wrists in wake of 17 of 101 from distance the last six games.

This might be a more important fix than any other issue. Because of BYU's inside attack with Brandon Davies and Noah Hartsock, the offense is flowing through them right now, and as teams throw double or triple teams at them, the kick-out pass to a shooter becomes crucial.

It is a bigger factor than the nagging injury to Stephen Rogers and Chris Collinsworth and even the setback Brock Zylstra had this week with an ankle injury. Zylstra is questionable for today's game.

Jimmer Fredette once said shooters have to have short memories, they just have to keep shooting.

This week Rose told reporters any shooter in a slump needs to keep repetitions high in practice and work out of it.

"You may believe the next one is going in," he said. "What we really dwell on is the ones we've made. It's the way we play. We'll make a lot more."

BYU could have strengthened things mightily if it had kept a lead and defeated Utah State in Logan, held on for a home win over Top 5-ranked Baylor or defeated St. Mary's in Provo.

On the other hand, BYU does own victories over WAC leader Nevada (20-4), Big Sky potential champion Weber State (19-4) and Oregon (17-7), which is one game out of first place in the Pac-12.

If Rose's team takes care of business from here on out, it could use help from the Nevada and Weber State wins to boost its RPI.

In Jeff Sagarin's latest USA Today college basketball ratings, there is a small gap between WCC leaders. St. Mary's is No. 25, Gonzaga 30 and BYU 31.

In ESPN's RPI, a component considered by the NCAA Selection Committee, the Cougars are significantly behind their WCC brothers. Gonzaga is 18th, St. Mary's No. 28 and BYU 44th — one place ahead of Pac-12 leader Cal.

The NCAA bid question is a matter of a remarkable streak for Rose. No other BYU coach has taken a Cougar program to five consecutive NCAA tournaments like Rose has since 2007.

To get BYU to a sixth straight this March would be a big stamp on his legacy.

Will it happen?

The 3-point issue will answer that.

email: dharmon@desnews.com

twitter: harmonwrites