The BYU men’s basketball team had high hopes entering the 2022-23 season — its last in the West Coast Conference before transitioning to the Big 12. The Cougars wanted to win the conference title for the first time.
Were they high, apple pie-in-the-sky hopes? Not necessarily. At least, not at the time.
Now, BYU is 4-5 in the WCC after losing three straight games. Two of those games were to Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s, both of which are in the AP Top 25. And both of those losses came on game-winners. The third loss in there was to a talented San Francisco squad.
The Cougars have seven games left in the regular season. Four of them are at the Marriott Center. KenPom, which has successfully predicted the last five BYU outcomes, projects they’ll win these five:
• Home against Loyola Marymount and Pacific
• Road at Pepperdine
• Home against Santa Clara and San Francisco
The four teams just above BYU in the WCC standings right now are LMU (6-3), Santa Clara (4-4), Pacific (4-4) and San Francisco (4-5). BYU sits seventh in the conference right now. KenPom projects BYU’s overall record to be 8-8, regardless of individual game projections, which we’ll get into in a bit. KenPom also says the Cougars have the third toughest remaining schedule among WCC teams.
Let’s say those seven BYU games go exactly how KenPom says. That means BYU would be 9-7 in the conference, and would have pulled upsets against Santa Clara and San Francisco, which have already beaten the Cougars once this season.
And with the way BYU has been playing, it’s difficult to bank on home cooking making that much of a difference in those two games in particular.
So where does that leave the Cougars?
It’s become increasingly unlikely that they’ll even quality for the National Invitation Tournament. For a team that touted all preseason that it had something to play for before the Big 12, it doesn’t look like there’s much to play for anymore.
Except for this: At all costs, finish the season with a winning record in WCC. It has to be 9-7 or bust for this group. Anything less and the fan base might call for major changes to the team.
Despite some losses, both programs are higher in these metrics compared to last week.
Most Eye-Popping Stat
Dallin Hall’s career night. He scored 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting in 35 minutes. BYU was plus-nine with him on the court. He was the only starter with a positive plus-minus.
Hall continues to prove that he is the future of the Cougars. Yes, Colin Chandler’s return is looming. But Hall is here now and playing, for the most part, like anything other than a true freshman who just came back from a two-year mission.
“His resolve, his commitment and his obsession with getting better is pretty spectacular,” coach Mark Pope said.
Most Telling Quote
“Guys, I’m super emotional. We just had eight dudes battle like crazy in heroic fashion. What are we talking about here? We just had some special guys put up special performances. Let’s talk about that.” — Pope, when asked why Jaxson Robinson, Atiki Ally Atiki and Noah Waterman were suspended for Saturday night’s game against Saint Mary’s.
A starter and two rotation players were unavailable to play against a top-25 team because they broke a team rule. That’s important.
Pope loves to make people available to press when things are going well. He’s brought Tanner Hayhurst in postgame to talk about pregame speeches. He’s brought assistant Cody Fueger more than once to talk about scouting opponents the Cougars beat.
It’s certainly part of Pope’s job to protect his players. But after Saturday’s loss, no players spoke to the media — just the coach.
Thursday vs. Loyola Marymount.
Saturday vs. Pacific.
Saturday at San Diego.