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BYU women’s basketball not included in NCAA’s initial top 16 rankings

The selection committee’s rankings reveal that the Cougars wouldn’t be a top 4 seed right now

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BYU’s Shaylee Gonzales drives against Utah’s Kennady “Lightning” McQueen at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Dec. 4, 2021. McQueen, the former Deseret News’ Ms. Basketball in 2020, leads the Utes into the 2022 Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament on March 2, 2022.

BYU Cougars guard Shaylee Gonzales (2) looks up at the hoop on a drive with Utah Utes guard Kennady McQueen (24) defending as Utah and BYU women compete in a basketball game at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. The Cougars, who have a 17-1 record on the year, were not included in the NCAA’s initial top 16 rankings released Thursday.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

If the season ended today, the BYU women’s basketball team wouldn’t host games during the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, despite owning a 17-1 record.

The NCAA selection committee released its first of three top 16 rankings on Thursday night, and the Cougars didn’t make it as a top 4 seed.

Why the NCAA’s top 16 rankings matter

The NCAA women’s tournament is moving to a 68-team field — up from 64 — this year, and that will include teams with top 4 seeds hosting first- and second-round games, and four of them hosting the play-in games.

BYU’s absence in the NCAA’s first top 16 rankings was reflected in ESPN’s latest bracketology, which saw the Cougars drop from a No. 3 seed to a No. 5. That would drop BYU from hosting the first and second round to playing on the road — in this projection, it would send them to Eugene, Oregon.

BYU beat Santa Clara 76-44 on Thursday night to improve to 17-1 on the year, including 7-0 in West Coast Conference play, and has won its conference games by an average of 26.4 points.

The Cougars also have wins over Utah (No. 18 in the NCAA’s NET rankings) and Washington State, two teams currently projected by ESPN to make the NCAA tournament field, and would benefit from teams like Arizona State, Florida State and West Virginia making a run at an NCAA berth — BYU beat all three of them during nonconference play.

For the Cougars to have a shot at a top 4 seed and hosting in the opening rounds, though, BYU will need to win out in the WCC, which traditionally doesn’t get more than one or two teams into the NCAA tournament.

What’s ahead for BYU

There are some key dates to keep in mind for the Cougars, including a pair of crucial games next week:

  • Feb. 5 at Gonzaga, Feb. 19 vs. Gonzaga. The Bulldogs, like BYU, are projected to make the NCAAs, though right now ESPN has them among the last four in. Gonzaga is also unbeaten in WCC play, 6-0 as of Thursday, and are currently No. 30 in the NCAA’s NET rankings (BYU is No. 10). The Bulldogs represent BYU’s best chance to strengthen its NCAA tournament resume, though sweeping Gonzaga is never easy.
  • Feb. 3 at Portland. BYU’s game in Provo against the Pilots earlier this year, scheduled for Jan. 1, was postponed. Portland is currently third in the WCC standings and is No. 63 in the NET rankings. The fact this game is two days before BYU’s trip to Spokane makes it a particularly difficult road swing.

The NCAA will release top 16 rankings two other times this season — on Feb. 10 and Feb. 28 — before the NCAA tournament bracket is revealed on Selection Sunday, March 13.