Where ESPN’s bracketologist places Utah schools in the NCAA Tournament conversation

As the 2022-23 season approaches, the Cougars are already in the Big Dance conversation.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars forward Gideon George (5) guards Loyola Marymount Lions forward Alex Merkviladze (24), in WCC basketball action at the Marriott Center in Provo, on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.

The BYU men’s basketball team was on its way to making the NCAA tournament before injuries caught up to it last year and the team dropped four straight games. The Cougars had to settle for the National Invitation Tournament, where they lost in the quarterfinals.

As the 2022-23 season looms and practices have officially begun, there hasn’t been much conversation about where BYU might land in the Big Dance. But that changed Tuesday when ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi released his latest projections.

Lunardi has the Cougars on the NCAA Tournament bubble in the Next Four Out group. It’s a welcome preseason projection for a team that lost a slew of players and is thus operating with an almost new roster. (Not to mention that veteran Trevin Knell will be out for several months as he recovers from shoulder surgery.)

Nonetheless, the Cougars are in the conversation, and that’s not a bad place to be before they have played any games.

Gonzaga is currently projected as the top overall seed by ESPN, which is also predicting that four Pac-12 schools will make the NCAA Tournament.

On the women’s side, Lunardi currently has the Utah Utes as a No. 6 seed.

No other schools in Utah made ESPN’s latest projections in either men’s or women’s basketball.