BYU’s NCAA Tournament chances could get a big boost or take a huge hit this weekend, depending on how the Cougars fare against West Coast Conference rival Saint Mary’s.

Right now, both teams are projected by many experts to make this year’s 68-team NCAA Tournament field.

BYU’s NCAA position is more tenuous, though.

The Cougars (19-8 overall, 7-5 in WCC play) snapped a four-game losing streak last week by winning a pair of road games at Loyola Marymount (a one-point thriller in overtime) and Pepperdine.

Still, the midseason swoon has damaged BYU’s profile and put the Cougars squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble.

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The Gaels, meanwhile, are a much safer bet to be an NCAA Tournament team, along with fellow WCC teams Gonzaga and, in most cases, San Francisco.

That makes BYU’s game at Saint Mary’s so vital. A win would not only extend the Cougars’ winning streak, it would give them a sweep of the Gaels — BYU beat Saint Mary’s in Provo earlier this year — and add another Quad 1 win to their NCAA Tournament resume.

Saint Mary’s is currently ranked No. 20 in the NCAA’s NET rankings. BYU is No. 51.

If BYU loses, however, it will likely need to make an impressive run at the WCC tournament next month and to improve its chances of staying on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble.

Here’s a look at the latest bracketology projections from several national experts, updated at various different times this week.


ESPN, Joe Lunardi

BYU’s projection: First team out.

The Cougars are bumped from the NCAA Tournament field in Lunardi’s latest projections as they lead the first four out.

The last team in is Creighton, who the Cougars lost to by 12 earlier this season. Also among the first four out are Oregon and San Diego State, two teams BYU beat during nonconference play.

“BYU hit a rough patch with four straight losses, but subsequent road victories over Loyola Marymount and the Waves appear to have stabilized Mark Pope’s group as a ‘last four in’ team. The Cougars can improve that position with a win in their upcoming road test at Saint Mary’s,” ESPN’s John Gasaway wrote in his latest Bubble Watch update.

Other WCC projections: Gonzaga (No. 1), Saint Mary’s (No. 8), San Francisco (No. 11).


CBS Sports, Jerry Palm

BYU’s projection: No. 10 seed vs. No. 7 USC.

The Cougars avoid being listed among the last four in on Palm’s latest bracketology projections.

Palm also handed out the most favorable seeds for WCC teams in this week’s bracketology updates.

Other WCC projections: Gonzaga (No. 1), Saint Mary’s (No. 6), San Francisco (No. 9).


The Athletic, Brian Bennett

BYU’s projection: No. 10 seed vs. No. 7 UConn.

Bennett gave some insight on BYU’s positioning in response to a commenter who asked about his projections for the Cougars and Davidson.

“I’ll let you behind the curtain on BYU. Had them on the 11 line, but it was impossible to seed them there based on the no-Sunday rule,” he wrote. 

“The Cougars can only play in the West or South and in the Thursday-Saturday pods. First Four wouldn’t have worked either with the sites I had. So they got bumped a seed line to make it work. The committee has had to do this before.”

Perhaps Bennett’s colleague, Eamonn Brennan, described the Cougars’ current NCAA predicament — coming off two close, less-than-convincing wins — better than anyone else in his latest Bubble Watch.

“BYU is still in this thing, even if the Cougars look like they could fade away any minute,” Brennan wrote.

Other WCC projections: Gonzaga (No. 1), Saint Mary’s (No. 7), San Francisco (No. 10).


Sports Illustrated, Kevin Sweeney

BYU’s projection: No. 12 seed vs. No. 12 Memphis in a play-in game.

The Cougars are among Sweeney’s last four teams in the field. The winner of BYU-Memphis would face No. 5 Michigan State in Sweeney’s bracket.

Other WCC projections: Gonzaga (No. 1), Saint Mary’s (No. 7), San Francisco (No. 10).


College Hoops Today, Jon Rothstein

BYU’s projection: First four teams out.

Florida, SMU and Kansas State join the Cougars among the first four teams out. 

Other WCC projections: Gonzaga (No. 1), Saint Mary’s, San Francisco. Unlike others, Rothstein only projects seeding for the top 16.


NCAA.com, Andy Katz

BYU’s projection: First four teams out.

Virginia, Rutgers and Florida join the Cougars among the first four teams out. 

Other WCC projections: Gonzaga (No. 1), Saint Mary’s (No. 8), San Francisco (No. 11, as a play-in).


Bracketville

BYU’s projection: No. 12 seed vs. No. 12 North Carolina in a play-in game.

Michigan and San Francisco join the Cougars and Tar Heels among the last four teams in, while San Diego State and Oregon, two teams BYU beat this year, are among the eight highest teams outside the field.

Other WCC projections: Gonzaga (No. 1), Saint Mary’s (No. 8), San Francisco (No. 11, as a play-in).