Provo » They have overcome the loss of their top player to graduation, a case of mononucleosis that sidelined their leading scorer, and an appendectomy that temporarily derailed the progress of a promising freshman center.
Somehow, the No. 16-ranked BYU basketball team has maintained its quest for that elusive NCAA Tournament win -- not realized since 1993. Barring a complete collapse, the Cougars (23-3) are a lock to make it to the big dance for the fourth straight year.
Now comes the search for a superior seed -- the factor that in all likelihood will determine whether the team suffers its eighth-straight first-round loss, or wins a tournament game for the first time since it knocked off SMU 80-71 some 17 years ago.
The Cougars' next six Mountain West Conference regular-season games, beginning Wednesday night at suddenly dangerous Colorado State, present opportunities for securing the best seed since 1988 (a No. 4), but also feature the potential for disaster.
"Obviously you look ahead to what you want to accomplish, and we want to win the conference and advance in the Mountain West Conference tournament as well as the NCAA Tournament," said BYU guard Jackson Emery. "But things can go really bad really fast if you don't take it one game at a time."
No fewer than 57 Web sites put out mock NCAA Tournament brackets, according to the 2010 Bracket Matrix on the Web site bracketproject.com. The Cougars' average seed from those 57 sites is five, the highest a three and the lowest a seven.
Among the most known and respected bracketologists, ESPN's Joe Lunardi has BYU as a No. 4, Jerry Palm of CollegeRPI.com has BYU as a No. 6 and the NCAA's own mock selection gathering last week put the Cougars as a No. 5.
Although BYU coach Dave Rose insists his team is paying no attention to the seeding talk, it is evident that if the Cougars win their remaining six conference games -- they will be favored in all six -- they will be in uncharted seeding territory.
"Never thought of that. That's not an issue for us," Rose said Monday. "Four, six, seven, whatever. I couldn't tell you.... We want our team to be playing its best basketball this week, and then next week we want to be playing better than we played this week, and so that's our challenge, and we will wait to see what happens later on down the season, for those [seeding] things."
National college basketball expert Ken Pomeroy has developed a ratings system designed to show not how good a team's season has been, but how well a team is currently playing. He has BYU at No. 6 in the country right now, behind Kansas, Duke, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Syracuse.
In an email response, Pomeroy said BYU could rise to a No. 3 seed if it wins out.
"I felt like if they beat UNLV and won out, they would have been a 3, but after looking at the situation again, I think they would have a good chance at a 3 even with that loss. Keep in mind winning out may include two wins against New Mexico and a win at UNLV [in the conference tourney]. A 32-3 MWC team with that kind of finish would be in the hunt for a 3. However, winning out is almost a long shot. Even with their lofty status in my ratings, I have their chances of running the table at only about 15 percent," Pomeroy said.
The guru said he doesn't believe BYU's poor performances in past tournaments will effect its seeding. He said he has BYU rated high because it hasn't had a bad loss.
"They have a few dominating wins over decent, but not great teams, a couple of underrated road wins (UTEP and San Diego State), and no bad performances (although the UNLV game is borderline). They've probably also benefited from cases where opponents have played poorly. Arizona and Nebraska come to mind. You don't get up 37-5 on Nebraska without them doing a few things wrong," he said.
|2009||No. 8||Texas A&M 79, BYU 66|
|2008||No. 8||Texas A&M 67, BYU 62|
|2007||No. 8||Xavier 79, BYU 77|
|2004||No. 12||Syracuse 80, BYU 75|
|2003||No. 12||Connecticut 58, BYU 53|
|2001||No. 12||Cincinnati 84, BYU 59|
|1995||No. 8||Tulane 76, BYU 70|
|1993||No. 7||BYU 80, SMU 71; No. 2 Kansas 90, BYU 76|
|1992||No. 10||LSU 94, BYU 83|
|1991||No. 10||BYU 61, Virginia 48; No. 2 Arizona 76, BYU 61|
|1990||No. 12||Clemson 49, BYU 47|