A year ago at this time, the BYU men’s basketball team was finishing fifth in the West Coast Conference, getting bounced from the league tournament in the semifinals and wondering just how bad it could get in its first season in the powerful Big 12.

The answer was quite remarkable. It wasn’t bad at all. In fact, it was borderline unbelievable.

This tie-for-fifth-place finish, accomplished with Saturday night’s solid 85-71 victory over Oklahoma State in front of a sellout crowd of 17,978 at the Marriott Center on Senior Night, certainly feels a whole lot better for coach Mark Pope’s squad.

“These guys are so special, man,” Pope said after BYU improved to 10-8 in Big 12 play, 22-9 overall, and clinched the No. 5 seed for next week’s conference tournament in Kansas City.

“We are just desperate to play as many, many games as we can because we don’t want it to end.”

Kansas also finished 10-8 after getting crushed by No. 1 Houston on Saturday, but the Cougars will get the better seed based on head-to-head competition. That huge BYU win at then-No. 7 Kansas continues to pay dividends.

BYU could be seeing Oklahoma State — which kept the game reasonably close with Javon Small’s 34-point outburst, including an eye-popping 29 in the second half — again on Wednesday at T-Mobile Center.

The Cougars will face the winner of Tuesday’s UCF-Oklahoma State first-round game at 10:30 a.m. MST Wednesday.

Breakfast and then some basketball — maybe not good news for a team that, much like BYU’s football team, seems to play better at night than during the day.

But that can wait.

Saturday night was about celebrating a season that few saw coming when BYU was picked to finish 13th in the 14-team Big 12 in preseason polls.

“It was pretty cool. Definitely a lot of hard work paid off right there in that moment. That was pretty special,” senior guard Spencer Johnson said.

He was talking about being able to walk on the court before the game with his wife, Issy, and two-week old son, Joey, to be honored on Senior Night, but he could have easily been describing the season, which he was quick to say is far from over.

“We aren’t finished yet,” Johnson said after a double-double: 14 points and 10 rebounds in his final game in the Marriott Center.

It was probably the last game for Robinson, too, although the senior has another year remaining if he wants it. A lot depends on his NBA draft prospects.

“It was a great win. Obviously a lot of emotion going into the game with it being Senior Night for me and Spence (and Tredyn Christensen),” Robinson said.

“I think we did a really great job of just staying focused on the task at hand. It was a game of runs. They went on a couple runs, but we slowed them down and we came out with a win.”

BYU led 32-29 at halftime after never having the lead in last month’s 93-83 loss in Stillwater, then opened the second half on a 16-2 run to take control.

The Cougars led 62-37 after a Robinson jumper with 10:10 remaining.

Then Small got hot. Unbelievably hot. Justin McBride’s 3-point play pulled OSU to within 10, 67-57, with 6:12 remaining, causing many to remember Kansas State coach Jerome Tang’s statement that BYU’s style of offensive play always lets teams back into games.

Not this time.

Fouss Traore (team-high 19 points on 8 of 11 shooting) took over, along with Johnson and Richie Saunders, who hit a 3-pointer with 2:10 left to seal it.

“It was great. Small got going. He was hitting shots from everywhere, but I felt like we responded well. We didn’t get on our heels,” Johnson said. “We stayed on our toes and attacked their press and we kept shooting and we were rebounding. Yeah, it was fun.”

BYU finished shooting a respectable 12 of 31 from 3-point range (38%), but it was Traore’s dominance inside that OSU coach Mike Boynton said proved too tough for the Cowboys (4-14, 12-19) to overcome.

Aly Khalifa’s three 3-pointers were also big; The 6-11 Muslim will begin his Ramadan observance Sunday night as the Islamic holy month begins with a smile on his face knowing he posted another sensational game with nine points, three assists and four rebounds in 15 minutes.

“In the first half we almost were a little too much energy and intensity. We were almost too much ahead of ourselves, and in the second half, the guys’ penetration was super forceful,” Pope said.

“When we get penetration off the bounce, or working it into Fouss or Aly off the roll, that is when teams are forced to do things, and our guys’ aggressiveness and patience is a real nice cocktail.”

BYU’s bench — with Robinson not getting the start on Senior Night, as some suspected he might — was again a major factor. BYU’s reserves outscored OSU’s reserves 44-13, with Saunders adding eight to Traore and Robinson’s combined 36.

At the Big 12 media days last October in Kansas City, Pope took BYU’s predicted 13th-place finish in stride, joking that they loved it because it is Taylor Swift’s favorite number.

He hearkened back to that statement on Saturday night.

“As soon as the game was over and we locked up fifth, I was just trying to find some Taylor Swift (connection to) five. She doesn’t have any five. There’s no five. … I thought this would be tied together in a neater little bow.”

Then Pope said he wishes the other coaches had picked BYU even lower.

“I wish they had picked us 14th or 15th, because I think it actually helps our guys focus in towards each other,” he said, “and it kind of helps consolidate our group.

“I think we have a bunch of guys that are hungry on the chase right now and have really enjoyed it so far through the regular season, and then we are not going to change anything for the postseason. We are still on a heavy, heavy chase and we are going to continue.”

Because fifth place might be just the beginning.