BYU nearly handed Gonzaga its first loss of the season in the West Coast Conference championship game, but fell short of the upset and conference title.
However, that loss could still be seen as a positive.
The Cougars gave the Zags their biggest challenge of the last couple of months and even handed them their largest deficit of the season (14).
So, come Selection Sunday, BYU is still expected to be a single-digit seed. But where exactly could the Cougars land?
Following Tuesday’s loss, most bracketologists have BYU as either a No. 7 or No. 8 seed. The Zags are, unanimously, the No. 1 seed.
Here’s a quick breakdown of bracket projections for BYU:
• ESPN has BYU as a No. 7 seed vs No. 10 Rutgers in the first round.
• CBS Sports has BYU as a No. 8 seed vs. No. 9 Wichita State in the first round.
• USA Today has BYU as a No. 7 seed vs. No. 10 Rutgers in the first round.
• NCAA.com has BYU as a No. 8 seed vs. No. 9 North Carolina in the first round.
Another bracketologist, from The Washington Post, believes the Cougars can be selected as high as a No. 6 seed.
“BYU looked fabulous for 20 minutes against Gonzaga in the WCC final, but the scoreboard grades on a 40-minute curve,” Patrick Stevens of the Washington Post said. “Expect the Cougars to end up as a No. 6 or No. 7 seed come Sunday.”
Stevens wasn’t the only one impressed by BYU’s performance in the WCC final; Gonzaga coach Mark Few made it a point to highlight the Cougars’ efficiency against his team in the post-game interview.
“I hope everybody took notice of how good this BYU team is,” Few said. “They have rim protection in Haarms, they have shooters on the perimeter that are really starting to shoot the ball well and play better, they’ve got excellent ball screen readers and decision makers in [Alex] Barcello and [Brandon] Averette. That’s a very, very, very good basketball team. They pushed us to the brink tonight and I give them a lot of credit.”
With the way BYU has played this season, particularly over the last month, the Cougars could be primed for an attention-getting run at the NCAA Tournament, possibly getting to the Sweet Sixteen.
The Cougars haven’t made it into the Round of 32 or the Sweet Sixteen since 2011, and last went as far as the Elite Eight in 1981. They also haven’t been ranked in the top 25 this season, but have been just outside of the Associated Press poll in recent weeks.
In the most recent rankings, released March 8, BYU earned 93 votes.
Although the Cougars are entering the NCAA tourney off of a loss, Barcello believes the team will have no shortage of confidence moving forward, based on how the Cougars played against Gonzaga.
“It’s hard to beat a team three times and we knew that if any team was going to beat them, we were the team,” Barcello said.