If this were Selection Monday, the BYU Cougars undoubtedly would receive an NCAA Tournament bid.
So all they have do this week is play some defense.
There’s nothing the Cougars (25-7) can do to enhance their own credentials, having lost to Gonzaga in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference tournament. But this will be an agonizing week for BYU fans, who have to cheer for the favorites in various conference tournaments. Only a flurry of upsets could add unexpected teams to the NCAA field and dislodge BYU.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has credibility in forecasting the 68-team field. So when BYU is not among his “last four in,” that’s a healthy sign for the Cougars. The only variable is having upset winners of conference tournaments grab automatic bids, while other members of those leagues take at-large selections.
There’s no need to worry about the one-bid leagues, such as the Western Athletic Conference, the Big Sky or the Summit League. If Utah State, Weber State and Southern Utah won their tournaments, they would merely replace the teams they beat.
It’s different elsewhere.
These are the main tournaments BYU fans need to monitor this week, cheering against the following teams that are capable of stealing bids:
• Atlantic 10: Dayton or St. Joseph’s.
• ACC: Miami or North Carolina State.
• Pac-12: Arizona or Oregon.
• SEC: Tennessee.
Obviously, other teams could come out of nowhere (Utah, anyone?) to qualify, but those seven appear to have genuine chances of winning or potentially getting the committee’s attention by reaching a championship game.
BYU is in very good shape, by all accounts, but the Cougars are not quite positioned where they have nothing to worry about this week.
As I wrote last week, this team has responded well to the loss of Jimmer Fredette and deserves an NCAA bid. Dave Rose has done another nice coaching job, particularly after losing associate head coach Dave Rice to UNLV, where Rice also has thrived.
Rice’s Rebels certainly are in the NCAA field, regardless of what happens in the Mountain West tournament — so Cougar fans can cheer for UNLV, even as a No. 3 seed.