A week after a loss to San Francisco in the West Coast Conference quarterfinals in Las Vegas, BYU continues to teeter unsteadily on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
Going into Selection Sunday, most prognosticators are projecting the Cougars to miss out on the Big Dance and instead receive a bid to the National Invitation Tournament.
As of Saturday, CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm was the only notable bracketologist with BYU in the field of 68. Palm has the Cougars as a No. 12 seed, participating in the play-in game in Dayton, Ohio, against No. 12 Notre Dame.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi projects BYU as part of the “Next Four Out.”
According to bracketmatrix.com, the Cougars are included in the NCAA Tournament in only 7 of 138 projected brackets.
Saturday’s NCAA NET rankings had BYU at No. 53. The Cougars have a 4-6 record in Quad 1 games, and a 3-3 mark in Quad 2 games.
In other words, BYU’s NCAA Tournament hopes are still dangling by a thread.
A much more likely scenario is for the Cougars to end up in the NIT for the first time since 2018.
BYU (22-10) is projected as a No. 2 seed in the NIT’s 32-team field, according to dratings.com. The Cougars are also listed as a No. 2 seed by thebarkingcrow.com.
The higher rated seeds host NIT games up until the semifinals and championship game, which are played at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The NIT tips off March 15 and concludes March 31.
“We’re excited to keep playing. It’s a special group. The guys are really together. These guys still have really good basketball in front of them. We’ll be hopeful,” coach Mark Pope said after the loss to San Francisco.
“Our goal all season long is to find a way to get into the NCAA Tournament. It will be fun when people start breaking down the numbers to see where we fit. … We’re squarely on the bubble. All we can do right now is hope.”
“We’ve got some competitive guys,” said guard Spencer Johnson. “We’ll go play anybody, anytime, anywhere. Obviously, we’d love to play in March Madness. We hope that happens. We’re going to be excited for it if it does.”
If BYU is left out of the Big Dance, as expected, what happened?
The Cougars’ lackluster performance over a weekend in late January in Northern California proved costly.
Heading into that weekend, BYU had a 17-4 record and was comfortably in the NCAA Tournament. The Cougars were No. 26 in the NCAA’s NET rankings and had a projected seed as high as No. 7.
But against Santa Clara on Jan. 27, BYU had a four-point lead, and the ball, with 45 seconds remaining before collapsing down the stretch and falling 77-76 on a last-second shot.
Two days later, still reeling from that heartbreaking loss, the Cougars inexplicably lost at Pacific 76-73. At the time, the Tigers had an NCAA NET ranking above 300. It was a dreaded Quad 4 setback.
BYU posted a 5-6 record in its final 11 games, which included three wins over Loyola Marymount and two victories over Pepperdine.
Still, last Saturday, the Cougars had an opportunity to get on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble when they played San Francisco in a Quad 1 showdown in the WCC Tournament quarterfinals, but the Dons prevailed.
Since then, a number of other bubble teams around the country have performed well in their conference tournaments, seemingly squeezing BYU out of the NCAA Tournament.
So now, after a week of watching and waiting and hoping, the Cougars will find out their postseason fate Sunday.
NCAA Selection Show
4 p.m. MST
NIT Selection Show
7 p.m. MST