BYU closed out the 2020-21 regular season last Saturday with a resounding 65-51 victory over Saint Mary’s on Senior Night — and now the postseason officially begins.
But the Cougars must wait more than a week before playing again.
BYU (19-5, 10-3), which is riding a four-game winning streak and earned the No. 2 seed in the West Coast Conference Tournament at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas — no fans will be allowed to attend due to the pandemic — won’t take the court until the tournament semifinals next Monday night.
Meanwhile, the Cougars sit at No. 20 in the NCAA’s NET rankings and they checked in just one spot outside of The Associated Press Top-25 released Monday.
BYU is projected as a No. 7 seed in ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s latest projections.
“What this team has done, nobody thought they could do this,” said coach Mark Pope. “It’s pretty awesome.’
While the Cougars are happy about what they’ve accomplished, they still have a lot yet to prove.
“A lot of people counted us out this season. That didn’t stop us. We knew it was going to be hard. We knew it was going to be tough,” said senior guard Alex Barcello. “But we put our head down and went to work. Every game we had, we were only focused on that game. We were present in the moment. This whole group has grown so much over this season. Business isn’t done. We have a lot of games left to play and I’m so excited. … I’m excited for postseason now. It’s on.”
Gonzaga, the No. 1 team in the country, is the top seed in the WCC Tournament. The Zags recorded an undefeated conference season for the second time in three years.
The WCC championship game is set for March 9 and will be broadcast on ESPN.
BYU’s side of the bracket features No. 7 Santa Clara taking on No. 10 Portland Thursday, with the winner facing No. 6 Pacific Friday.
The team that emerges from those games will meet No. 3 Pepperdine Saturday in the quarterfinals.
So the Cougars could take on the Waves in Monday’s semifinals. Pepperdine handed BYU one of its three league losses with a 76-73 decision in Malibu on Jan. 27.
Because of the unbalanced schedules due to pandemic-related postponements and cancellations, the league employed the services of Ken Pomeroy, known for his college basketball database website kenpom.com. He created an adjusted conference winning percentage, which is the determinant for this season’s tournament seeding.
Pomeroy used a proprietary algorithm that factored in the team’s record, schedule strength and game location.
As a result, Gonzaga (15-0) finished first with an AWP of .962, followed by BYU (10-3, .810), Pepperdine (7-6, .590), Saint Mary’s (4-6, .580), Loyola Marymount (7-5, .557), Pacific (6-7, .504), Santa Clara (4-5, .453), San Francisco (4-9, .306), San Diego (2-7, .228) and Portland (0-11, .008).
At the conclusion of the WCC Tournament, the Cougars will set their sights on the NCAA Tournament.
It’s been six years since BYU has played in the Big Dance, a streak the Cougars are hoping to break when Selection Sunday arrives March 14.
“At the beginning of the year,” Barcello said, “we set out and we had one goal, and that was to win as many games as possible, to go win a conference championship, and make a run in the NCAA Tournament and see how far we can get.”