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Ben Margot, AP
BYU coach Dave Rose watches from the sideline during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Saint Mary's Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017, in Moraga, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

PROVO — With an 18-9 overall record and an RPI of 89, BYU’s only hope for an NCAA tournament berth is earning the West Coast Conference's automatic bid by winning the league tournament in Las Vegas in early March.

It’s looking like the Cougars could end up in the National Invitation Tournament for the second consecutive season.

BYU hosts San Diego and No. 22 Saint Mary’s this week before concluding the regular season next week at Portland and at No. 1 Gonzaga.

And, yes, NIT bracketology is alive and well.

According to nycbuckets.com, which projects NIT bids, the Cougars are a No. 5 seed, playing at No. 4 Boise State in the first round. By the way, Utah is projected as a No. 3 seed in the same region.

“The other intriguing teams to me? BYU is the West Coast Conference’s third best team,” wrote John Templon of nycbuckets.com. “But the Cougars also have losses to Utah Valley, San Diego and Pepperdine, and their best win is either at the very beginning of the season versus Princeton or in December versus Colorado. BYU could really use knocking off Saint Mary’s or Gonzaga down the stretch.”

The Cougars advanced to the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York City last season.

In last year's NIT, BYU defeated UAB, Virginia Tech and Creighton at home before falling to Valparaiso in the semifinals in the Big Apple. The Cougars also advanced to, and lost in, the semifinals the previous time they went to the NIT in 2013.

MAN-CHILDS: BYU freshman Yoeli Childs scored a career-high 23 points and had a career-high 17 rebounds last Saturday in the Cougars’ 68-52 victory over San Francisco at War Memorial Gym.

Childs' five double-doubles this season are tied with Eric Mika for fourth most by a Cougar freshman. His 17 boards are tied for second-most by a BYU freshman with Mark Handy, who grabbed 17 rebounds against Army in 1973.

Childs (43) has passed Russell Larson (41) for second-most blocks by a Cougar freshman. Atop that list is Shawn Bradley, who had 177 blocks.

Also, Childs has recorded three-plus blocks in a game seven times, third-most by a BYU freshman (Bradley had 28 and Larson eight). Childs has had multiple blocks 13 times.

How would Childs assess his freshman season?

“It’s going pretty good, he said. “There have been some ups and downs but I have really good teammates and guys that help me get through those downs and make sure the ups stay longer. It’s been a good process. I feel like I’m maturing as a player and just getting better every day.”

WCC TOURNAMENT: The Cougars sit in third place in the WCC standings with a 9-5 record.

BYU holds a one-game lead over fourth-place San Francisco and Santa Clara, which are both 8-6.

If the WCC tournament started today, BYU would receive the No. 3 seed and would play the No. 6 seed, which would be either Loyola Marymount or Pepperdine, in the WCC quarterfinals.

The Cougars haven’t won a conference tournament championship since 2001.

SENIOR NIGHT: BYU will honor its two seniors on Senior Night next Saturday.

Senior forward Kyle Davis hasn’t played since suffering a season-ending knee injury in mid-December.

Senior guard L.J. Rose, who missed both of the Cougars’ games last weekend, underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee last Friday.