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BYU squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble, for now
Opinons vary as to whether the BYU basketball team would make the NCAA Tournament as an at-large selection if the season ended today.
What is clear is that the Cougars (9-4 WCC, 17-9 overall) are on the bubble. They are as "on the bubble" as any team in the country right now, it appears.
It is also pretty clear that if the Cougars don't win both their road games this week — at Pacific on Thursday and at Saint Mary's on Saturday — they will be off the bubble, and on the outside looking in.
The only margin for error in these last five games for BYU is probably the home game on Feb. 20 against Gonzaga. Seemingly, the Cougars can afford to lose that one if they win the four others.
It's a big 'if.' Pacific showed that it can hang with BYU on Jan. 30 in that 88-78 loss at the Marriott Center, and the Cougars have never won at Saint Mary's. The Gaels will be favored in that showdown and will be retiring the number of former SMC great Matthew Dellavedova.
Yeah, that soon. They don't waste time in Moraga.
Checking some of the latest NCAA Tournament projections, the Cougars are among the "Last Four In" in ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi's latest installment. He has BYU as a No. 11 seed, playing LSU in Dayton, Ohio in a first-round game. The winner would move on to face UCLA in Milwaukee.
BYU's RPI remains in the 40s right now. The Cougars are No. 43 in Sagarin's ratings, No. 41 in RealTimeRPI.com, No. 45 in ESPN's RPI tabulations and No. 52 in Ken Pomeroy's rankings.
The Cougars are 7-5 against top-100 RPI teams, but have those three "bad" losses in WCC road games: LMU, Pepperdine and Portland.
Jeff Sagarin says Cougars have played 38th most difficult schedule in the country.
In his popular Tuesday Truths column out this morning, John Gasaway summed up BYU's situation this way:
"Currently projected as a No. 12 seed, Dave Rose's Cougars are holding on for dear life in the mock brackets. Here's hoping BYU gets that job done. This is a highly entertaining group, one that both scores and allows a fair number of points and does so at a relatively high velocity.
Eric Mika and Nate Austin are remorseless offensive rebounding man-weapons, and Tyler Haws is still doing his best Julius Randle impression and drawing three fouls before the opening tip. BYU has to take care of business this week on a NorCal swing against Pacific and Saint Mary's, and then it's home for a showdown next week against Gonzaga. The Cougs' season may ride in the balance in this three-game stretch. It promises to be entertaining to watch.