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Unable to land an opponent for the weekend, Cougars turn their focus on Pacific

For now, BYU has three games left on the regular-season schedule — Thursday at Pacific, Feb. 20 at Loyola Marymount and Feb. 25 at home against Santa Clara

The BYU Cougars and Utes battle at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah on Dec. 12, 2020. The Cougars, who had two games cancelled this week, were hoping to land an opponent for the weekend but came up empty. They now are turning their attention to their next scheduled opponent, Pacific, on Feb. 20.
Nate Edawrds, BYU photo

Following BYU’s 82-71 loss to No. 1 Gonzaga last Monday, the Cougar coaching staff worked exhaustively this week to try to schedule a game for the weekend.

BYU’s scheduled home games with Saint Mary’s on Thursday and San Diego on Saturday were either postponed or canceled and the Cougars were looking to fill those voids on the schedule.

Despite the coaching staff’s efforts, no new games materialized so BYU is now preparing for its game scheduled game next Thursday at Pacific.

Assistant coach Chris Burgess told BYU Sports Nation Friday that if additional games could be scheduled, the Cougars might be interested.

For now, BYU has three games left on the regular-season schedule — Thursday at Pacific, Feb. 20 at Loyola Marymount, and Feb. 25 at home against Santa Clara.

“It’s one of those years where it’s like, all right, we have these three on the schedule, let’s just hope we can play those three,” Burgess said. “Hopefully, those don’t get postponed or canceled. If you can get a fourth one that makes sense, we’d love to do it. It’s about who the game is and does it make sense for our team. The WCC is looking to make up some games here and there. It’s a really unique situation. Everybody in the country has dealt with cancellations and postponements.”

BYU has four games that have been called off that haven’t been made up — two contests against San Diego; a home game against San Francisco and a home game against Saint Mary’s.

Burgess said a game that would “make sense” for BYU at this point is a Quad 1 matchup, meaning the Cougars would likely have to go on the road and play against a nonconference opponent. However, some conferences won’t allow their teams to play nonconference games at this stage of the season.

“We’re running out of time,” Burgess said. “And we’re running out of teams.”

It appears BYU has done enough, at this point, to qualify for the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team. The Cougars rank No. 27 in the NCAA’s NET and they are listed as a No. 9 seed by ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi in his latest NCAA Tournament projections.

But BYU (15-5, 6-3) can’t afford any more conference losses to teams not named Gonzaga.

The Cougars outlasted Pacific on Jan. 30 in Provo in double overtime, 95-87.

“We’re focused on us and getting better and locking in on Pacific and if we can do that, everything will take care of itself,” Burgess said. “It’s exciting to be in that (NCAA Tournament) conversation but there’s still so much work to do even though there’s only three games remaining on our regular-season schedule.”

The West Coast Conference is planning to move forward with the tournament, scheduled for March 4-9 at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.

There’s speculation that Gonzaga could opt out of the conference tournament and instead focus on preparing for the NCAA Tournament, which is set to tip off March 18.

“You’ve got to understand where Gonzaga’s coming from. They have so much to lose. The WCC Tournament is earlier so there’s time to recover,” Burgess said. “But who wants to stop practicing or lose that rhythm of doing things because you’re on pause? I can understand that, too. They have a lot to lose. They’re most likely going to be the No. 1 or No. 2 overall seed (in the NCAA Tournament).”

Conferences must decide by Feb. 26 whether their automatic qualifier for the NCAA Tournament will be based on the regular season or the conference tournament, according to the NCAA.

“As far as we know,” Burgess said, “the ADs and presidents from the WCC schools will get together and figure this out.”