Provo • Cosmo the Cougar may have made national highlight reels after dunking a 3-pointer last weekend, but the Cougars aren’t doing too bad themselves.
Actually, this is shaping up as potentially the best BYU squad since the Jimmer Fredette days.
The Cougars have already matched last year's win total with a 19-7 record and still have five regular season games remaining, starting at Loyola Marymount on Thursday.
As of Wednesday, BYU is ranked No. 23 in the NCAA’s Net Rankings, No. 16 by KenPom.com and received 43 votes in Monday’s Associated Press rankings to put the Cougars at No. 29.
And according to the Bracket Matrix, BYU is a projected eight seed in the NCAA Tournament, with an average seed of 7.91.
“We have big goals and big aspirations,” BYU coach Mark Pope said. “We're chasing things that we don't even like to say out loud because they're so scary and we can't afford to breathe. We just don't get the luxury of breathing. We will continue to get better.”
Of BYU's five remaining regular-season games, the Cougars are heavy favorites in four of the five, with only Gonzaga expected to beat the Cougars.
With an 8-3 West Coast Conference record, the Cougars are currently second in standings. Gonzaga leads the pack with an undefeated 11-0 record in WCC play, while Saint Mary’s and Pacific tied for third with 7-4 records.
The Cougars are currently on a four-game winning streak, but, possibly more importantly, have yet to lose consecutive games.
Of the seven losses, the first came against the lone undefeated team in the nation, San Diego State. The Cougars also have losses to two other teams that are projected No. 1 NCAA Tournament seeds — Gonzaga and Kansas.
Three other losses, against Boise State, Utah and Saint Mary’s, came in overtime — and all on the road. The final loss was at San Francisco, when the Cougars surrendered a 14-point lead and the Dons went on a 21-0 second-half run to win 83-82.
As far as any goals the team may have, Pope said his Cougars would like to win. A lot.
“These guys, the one thing that I think pushes us forward is these guys have invested so much,” Pope said. “They've invested so much physically, starting with two-a-days, starting with this past summer. They put in so much time and so much effort, being with a short-handed roster and having guys in and out of the lineup. This Gavin Baxter, he's sacrificed a whole season to try to come back into this team. These guys have a lot invested and they have had unbelievable, remarkable success so far this season. And they've gotten better.”
With where BYU stands right now, the Cougars are looking to make their first trip back to the NCAA Tournament since 2015.
The Cougars' success has come mostly from their offensive success. BYU currently leads the nation in 3-point percentage (42.6%) and ranks third in overall shooting (50.7% from the field).
And Pope believes his Cougars still have plenty to give this season.
“This team, we’re a freaking dangerous team right now,” Pope said.”We’re dangerous. We can’t be satisfied. Every team is going to make a decision in February and will probably have to keep making that decision every day in February whether they’re done, like it’s just been too hard or much, or whether they’re going to kind of fight, fight one day and not fight the next day … this team actually can do it.”
BYU AT LOYOLA MARYMOUNT
At Gersten Pavilion, Los Angeles
Tipoff » Thursday, 9 p.m. MST
TV » ESPNU
Radio » KSL-AM 1160, KSL FM 102.7, Sirius XM 143
Records » BYU 19-7; LMU 8-16
Series » BYU leads 17-5
Last meeting » BYU 63, LMU 63 (Jan. 4, 2020)
About BYU » The Cougars have won their last four games. … BYU has made double-digit 3-pointers the last five games – the second-longest streak of consecutive games with 10-plus 3s in team history. … BYU has also shot 50% or better from the field in nine-straight games, tied for the longest single-season streak in team history. … Senior forward Yoeli Childs scored a season-best 32 points on 14 of 23 shooting from the field vs. San Francisco.
About LMU » LMU is on a four-game losing streak, with the last win coming at home against Portland on January 23. … In last Thursday’s game at Gonzaga, Eli Scott became LMU’s 17th player all-time to hit the 250-career assist milestone. … Up next for Scott is to surpass the 1,000-point mark. Scott has 983 career points in his three seasons.