LAS VEGAS — It’s a question BYU women’s basketball coach Jeff Judkins has been fielding all season long.
Is this the best team in his 21-year tenure with the Cougars?
After BYU captured the outright West Coast Conference regular-season championship last Saturday, the question came again.
“There’s no question that this was probably the best conference season that I’ve had, going 15-1 and being able to win the conference and be able to beat Gonzaga twice. That’s pretty hard to do,” Judkins said. “I’m hoping that we go farther. My good teams that I’ve had have done well in the NCAA Tournament and done well in the conference tournament. If this team wants to be the best, it will have to do well in those. I can’t be more happy for what they’ve accomplished.”
Of course, BYU (25-2) has plenty of unfinished business ahead. The Cougars want to not only capture a WCC Tournament title, but advance deep in the NCAA Tournament.
BYU reached the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament twice — in 2002 and 2014. The expectations are high for this year’s squad about going even deeper in the tournament.
The Cougars’ postseason play starts Monday afternoon, when they compete in the WCC Tournament semifinals at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
Judkins knows that how this team will be remembered will depend on what happens in the coming weeks.
“All of the players, except for the freshmen, have had a taste of the NCAA Tournament. Last year, we knew that we could have gone farther. We had a bad break with Paisley (Harding) breaking her hand and not being able to play her game against Arizona,” he said. “A lot of them came back for this moment — to play in the NCAA Tournament. They came back to do some damage.
“Would it be sad if it falls short for us? Yes. But I know right now there are very few people that can say they had a chance. We talk about it all the time as a team, we talk about opportunities. When opportunities come, you need to take advantage of them.
“I think this team has done that so far. I know that we’ll be ready to go. Hopefully, we’ll be playing our best basketball. I think we are right now. If we can stay healthy and get better and get focused this week, it will really help us.”
No doubt, Judkins loves this time of year.
“I love March. My birthday’s in March. It’s kite-flying in March. And it’s NCAA basketball in March. It’s the most exciting time of the year,” he said. “So many teams that have worked so hard to get to this point come together. It’s all or none. You win or you’re out. It’s a fun, exciting tournament. We’re hoping we can cause some damage and go as far as we can. I think this team can.”