No. 6 seed BYU will take on No. 11 Duquesne Thursday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Omaha, Nebraska, and it will be a challenge for the Cougars. Duquesne’s defense is rated 30th in efficiency, which would put it in the middle of the pack in the Big 12. Duquesne’s guards will be a handful for Mark Pope’s team, which has allowed big games from several guards this season.

On the other hand, Duquesne has not faced an offense like BYU, a five-out attack complemented by a strong two-man game with Dallin Hall and Fousseyni Traore. The Cougars average 81.8 points per game and Duquesne has not allowed more than 80 points in 22 games. The Cougars will try to overwhelm this opponent with volume 3-pointers and early offense. The winner will likely take on Big Ten champion Illinois. Fellow Big 12 member Iowa State is also in this bracket.

Cougar Insiders predictions

Question of the week: What are your key points in BYU’s matchup against Duquesne in the NCAA first round in Omaha? Predict a score.

Jay Drew: The first thing that jumps out at me is this is a totally winnable game for the Cougars. Duquesne went on a nice run to win the Atlantic 10 tournament, or the Dukes would not be in the field. Then again, the Dukes did rout a very good Dayton team en route to the title, so maybe they have figured out the secret sauce in March. We will see.

This looks like a classic matchup between BYU’s high-scoring offense and Duquesne’s stingy defense. The Dukes like to play grinders, the Cougars want to hoist up 35 3s a game, if they can. To win, BYU must hit at least 10 3-pointers, and shoot better than 32% from deep. That’s been the formula for success all season.

Duquesne has some really good guards but is not as good inside. Dae Dae Grant and Jimmy Clark III combine to average more than 32 points per game and will be a handful for the Cougars, who have struggled to stop good guards this season such as Texas Tech’s Pop Isaacs and UCF’s Darius Johnson.

Conversely, BYU’s bigs — especially Traore — should be able to have a big games because Duquesne does not have a lot of size inside. The Dukes’ leading rebounder is just 6-foot-7: Fousseyni Drame. He not only shares the same first name as BYU’s big man, he is also from the same town in Mali, Bamako.

Prediction: BYU 72, Duquesne 66.

Dick Harmon: We’ve seen how BYU wins and loses and the Cougars have been vulnerable to guards like Duquesne’s Dae Dae Grant and Jimmy Clark III because Trevin Knell and Jaxson Robinson struggle to defend great penetrators who can also hit the 3. What BYU needs to do in Omaha Round 1 is fix the rebounding problem we saw against Texas Tech, where Red Raider guards took away the “wedge” efforts led by Spencer Johnson and others — they punked BYU on the glass.

The second thing BYU must do is pound the ball inside with Traore when he gets in the game, and he’s got to limit his dribble and see the open shooters when Duquesne collapses its defense on him. The worst case for BYU is Duquesne guards stealing the ball, disrupting BYU’s screens, and wrestle BYU’s post players with ultra-physical play.

Finally, if this is the swan song for Knell, Robinson and Johnson, at least two of these guys must hit at least three 3-pointers each and the other must make two. They are capable, they are proven shooters, but they cannot afford to just fade away and be nonoffensive factors against Duquesne’s top-30 efficiency defense. BYU will play with superior depth, a productive bench and have Richie Saunders as a lifeline. Who knows how effective Aly Khalifa will be in this game but Duquesne’s defense will be spread out and tested by his passing.

Prediction: BYU 71, Duquesne 66.

BYU guard Dallin Hall celebrates win over UCF during the Big 12 conference tournament in Kansas City, Mo., on Wednesday, March 13, 2024. BYU won 87-73. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Cougar tales

Should Mark Pope shake up his starting lineup after falling behind Texas Tech and losing in the Big 12 Tournament? Jay Drew examines that question here.

BYU football got a commitment from legacy tight end Blake Bryce from California.

Noah Waterman reportedly received a medical waiver for another year of eligibility.

Here’s our report on BYU’s loss to Texas Tech in Kansas City:

  • Cougars lose their touch against Red Raiders (Dick Harmon)
  • How TT used pregame words to fire themselves up (Jay Drew)

From the Archives

Why no takers — at least yet — for Zach Wilson?
Midway through spring practices, Kalani Sitake provides an update on BYU’s starting quarterback competition

From the X-verse

Extra points


Comments from Deseret News readers:

The committee should confirm the Y 6th seed is due to no Sunday Play. Enough of a guessing game. No Sunday Play should not be considered. The Y beat every Big 12 team in the tournament except Houston. Beat the ACC champ, runner-up to the MWC champ. Beat Kansas at Kansas. Beat Big 12 champ. Ranked most of the season. The committee is blind to what is happening. The Y is the top rated 5th seed and should be playing the lowest rated 12 seed in SLC.

Blue and white

“Wondering if school’s no-Sunday-play policy caused a drop in seeding”

There is no doubt it reduced BYU’s seeding. The Committee seeded BYU #17 (first-#5), and by its own guidelines, no team can receive a seeding benefit by any school’s decision. BYU made a decision based on its honorable-beliefs, and any complaints should be directed to them to make a less-honorable decision for the sake of a seed-or-two.

There are a couple things the conference considers when the Selection Committee remediates BYU’s decision:

- No Sunday play reduces the opportunities to place BYU in the tournament.

- At every level 1/2 of the brackets play on Sunday, and some may play Sat. on the first week, and Sunday the next.

- The playing dates at each location are scheduled and fixed with their associated logistics well before the Selection-Sunday.

- Worst case scenario there may be only 8 playoff spots which fulfills BYU’s decision.

The next consideration is a little overlooked:

- The committee rules state - Teams from the same conference shall not meet prior to the regional semifinals if they played each other twice during the regular season and conference tournament, and regional championships if the teams met a 3rd time.

- 8 teams from the Big-12 made the tournament, so BYU couldn’t be in the same sub-bracket as higher seeded Big-12 team

Considering BYU’s decision and the above, the school is lucky it wasn’t worse.


Up next

  • March 21 | 10:40 a.m. | Men’s basketball | Duquesne | @ Omaha, Nebraska
  • March 21-23 | Track and field | San Diego State | Aztec Invitational | @ San Diego
  • March 21 | 5 p.m. | Men’s tennis | Oklahoma State | @ Provo
  • March 21 | 5 p.m. | Softball | Oklahoma State | @ Provo
  • March 21 | 5:30 p.m. | Baseball | Texas Tech | @ Lubbock, Texas
  • March 22-23 | Track and field | USC | Ron & Sharlene Allice Trojan Invitational | @ Los Angeles
  • March 22 | 5 p.m. | Softball | Oklahoma State | @ Provo
  • March 23 | 10 a.m. | Women’s tennis | Texas Tech | @ Lubbock, Texas
  • March 23 | 11 am | Men’s tennis | Oklahoma | @ Provo
  • March 23 | 12 p.m. | Softball | Oklahoma State
  • March 23 | 1 p.m. | Baseball | Texas Tech | @ Lubbock, Texas
  • March 23| 5:35 p.m. | Gymnastics | Big 12 championships | @ Norman, Oklahoma
  • March 23 | 6 p.m. | Men’s volleyball | Pepperdine | @ Malibu, California