The BYU Cougars will have to wait to slip on their dancing shoes, instead remaining on the bubble for a ticket to "the big dance." The No. 7 Gonzaga Bulldogs defeated BYU in the finals of the West Coast Conference Tournament on Tuesday, 91-75, with the loss weakening BYU's chances of making the NCAA Tournament.
BYU (25-9) would have been guaranteed an automatic berth to the tournament with a victory, but now they have to wait to see how the chips fall with the selection committee. Some experts say the loss to Gonzaga means that BYU is out. That is probably too simple of an explanation considering the large field.
The Cougars have won a lot of games, which obviously doesn’t hurt their chances of earning a berth. The Northern Iowa Panthers, who play in the Missouri Valley Conference, have won 30 games this season and are ranked No. 10 in the nation, yet they are not the top team in their conference. BYU has won just five games less than the Panthers.
BYU has defeated opponents with a very efficient offense under head coach Dave Rose, scoring 83.6 points per game while spreading the ball to four legitimate scoring options in a deep-guard rotation. Senior guard Tyler Haws (21.9 points per game), junior guard Kyle Collinsworth (14 ppg), senior guard Anson Windor (13.1 ppg) and junior guard Chase Fischer (12.9) can all fill it up on a given night.
Collinsworth has been on a roll all year, registering his sixth triple-double of the season in the semifinal of the WCC tournament. His career total is six as well—which ties him with Michael Anderson (Drexel, 1985-88) and Shaquille O’Neal (LSU, 1990-92) for the most in an NCAA career. Collinsworth (8.7 rpg, 5.8 apg) owns the single-season triple-double record outright.
But solid individual efforts won't get the Cougars into March Madness. While BYU has talent and a solid offense, they have lacked quality wins and that may be enough get them snubbed. Rose's squad has just one win against a ranked team, when they defeated then-No. 3 Gonzaga on Feb. 19. But BYU would lose to Gonzaga two more times this year, and to two other ranked teams: No. 15 SDSU and No. 13 Utah. Three BYU losses came to teams ranked outside the top 100 of the Rating Percentage Index (RPI).
The WCC has proven to be a relatively weak conference this season, which won't do the Cougars any favors. It also doesn't help that BYU failed to shut out their top competition outside of Gonzaga. BYU split their season series with Saint Mary’s because of an 82-77 loss on Jan. 17. BYU did register an important non-conference win over Stanford (18-12) on Dec. 20, and the Cardinal have beaten some quality teams this year, including Texas and Washington.
But BYU was ranked somewhere around No. 29 in the latest AP poll on March 9. In a 68-team tournament, a ranking that high may influence the selection committee. It may also look bad that only one WCC team gets into the tournament. Last year, BYU finished second in the WCC and made the tournament, though as a No. 10 seed. When Saint Mary's finished No. 2 in 2013, they also reached the tournament.
In the end, BYU will be affected by other conference tournament results. The Cougars will likely be rooting for results to go “chalk,” so no surprise teams earn an automatic bid and push BYU down the at-large-ladder.
Conclusion: Expect BYU to just barely slip into the tournament with a 10 or 11 seed.