LAS VEGAS — With an early exit from the West Coast Conference tournament, the waiting game has begun for the BYU basketball team.
The No. 3 seed Cougars (21-11) fell to No. 6 San Diego, 72-69, Friday night in the quarterfinals at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. The loss ended BYU's hopes of winning the conference tournament and earning an automatic NCAA tournament bid.
Reality is, the Cougars' streak of six consecutive NCAA tournament appearances has been snapped.
Outside the locker room at the Orleans Arena late Friday night, senior guard Brock Zylstra described the mood of his team.
"It's pretty somber," he said. "We came out not playing the way we should. We weren't as aggressive as we should have been. We found ourselves in the second half, but it was too late. Everybody is disappointed in themselves and in their effort."
The National Invitation Tournament appears to be the next stop for the Cougars, who have lost three of their last four games and five of their last eight.
"We need to refocus, prepare and really know that this could be our last game coming up," Zylstra said. "We've got to leave it all out there."
NIT bids will be extended March 17.
Will the Cougars receive a favorable seed in the NIT? Will they host a first-round game? Those are questions that will be answered next Sunday.
The last time BYU went to the NIT was in 2006, which was Dave Rose's first season as head coach. The Cougars traveled to Houston for a first-round game and lost.
After that, BYU went to the NCAA tournament every year from 2007-2012.
The NIT selection committee will convene March 15-17 to put together the field of 32.
Any regular-season champion of a Division I conference (as determined by the conference’s tie-break protocol) not otherwise selected to the NCAA tournament will earn an automatic qualification into the NIT.
The committee then chooses the best available teams to fill the 32-team NIT field. Once selected, teams are seeded and placed into one of four eight-team regions.
The first three rounds are hosted at campus sites of participating teams. First-round games will be held March 19-20. Second-round games will be staged from March 21-25, while quarterfinal games will be played March 26-27.
The NIT Final Four will be staged at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The semifinals are April 2, with the championship scheduled for April 4.
While the Cougars are looking forward to continue playing basketball, things certainly didn't go the way they wanted them to, particularly in recent weeks.
BYU arrived in Las Vegas last Thursday hoping to get another opportunity to play Saint Mary's, and, possibly, Gonzaga — the No. 1 team in the nation.
"It's extremely disappointing," Zylstra said. "We wish we would still be here Saturday playing and carry on to Monday. But we find ourselves going home."