Heading into the West Coast Conference basketball tournament last year, BYU was a bubble-dweller, one of those teams that had to worry about other teams making unexpected tourney runs and stealing NCAA Tournament spots from teams that had superior regular seasons.
It didn't happen a lot, though, and the Cougars were literally the last or second-to-last team in the tournament with an at-large berth.
This year, the Cougars are a potential "bid thief," according to Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports.
In his The Dagger blog, Eisenberg lists BYU as one of five teams with the potential to do what Colorado State and Saint Bonaventure did last year -- win conference tournaments after mediocre regular seasons.
The Cougars will open WCC tourney play late Friday night (9:30 p.m. MST) against the winner of Thursday's San Diego-Pepperdine game. If the Cougars win, they will face a team that swept them, Saint Mary's, on Saturday. The Gaels are probably in the NCAA Tournament right now, and can likely cement the spot with a win over the Cougars.
Here's what Eisenberg writes regarding BYU as a potential bid thief:
"Gonzaga is a prohibitive favorite to win the WCC tournament and boost its case for a No. 1 seed, but there are two teams capable of at least posing a threat for a title game upset. One is second-seeded Saint Mary's, which has a chance to earn an at-large bid even if loses in the WCC tournament. The other is third-seeded BYU, which can only make the NCAA tournament by winning three games in Las Vegas. This isn't one of BYU's strongest teams, but the Cougars do have two of the league's better players in Tyler Haws and Brandon Davies and a streaky guard in Matt Carlino who makes the team dangerous when he plays well. BYU had Saint Mary's beat in Provo and pushed Gonzaga into the final minutes there as well. Wins on neutral courts will be tougher to come by but the Cougars shouldn't be counted out."
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