After missing out on opportunities to take down San Francisco and Saint Mary's earlier in conference play, the Cougars need a big week to ensure an NCAA bid.
Only a couple of weeks ago, BYU basketball appeared to be on the edge of essentially locking up a single digit seed in the NCAA Tournament. All they had to do was get a Quad One win in Moraga against Saint Mary's. If the Cougars had won that game, they would have been likely ranked and in the top 20 in most computer polls.
However, they lost. In overtime. Again. The loss didn't particularly hurt the Cougars' chances of making the tournament, but it made the margin of error much smaller. Last weekend, after leading my 14 in the second half, the Cougars fell to the San Francisco Dons, a loss that actually had very little effect on their resume as well, at least according to the computer rankings.
Now the margin of error is zero.
At some point, too many losses is going to look so bad for BYU that even computer ratings won't help the Cougars to get into the tournament. If BYU were to lose again to Saint Mary's and Gonzaga and then once in the tournament, that would leave BYU with a 23-10 record. Is that good enough to get in the tournament? The metrics say yes, but it would be a close call.
If BYU loses to anyone not named Gonzaga or Saint Mary's then BYU would have to beat Saint Mary's or Gonzaga at least once in their final three opportunities to even have an outside shot of making the tournament, especially if the loss comes against a Quad 3/4.
This week is huge. If BYU Basketball can take down Saint Mary's at home and take care of business against Pepperdine, then BYU will once again be in a position to take a deep breath and feel really good about their tournament chances, perhaps even as a single seed.
If they lose, then the Cougars are going to have to start to need help from other teams to stay afloat. In other words, every Quad 1 and 2 team BYU has played this year needs to keep winning as to not drop BYU's own resume. If Utah keeps losing or Boise State starts to struggle, then those losses could quickly become a resume killing loss for the Cougars. That is easier said than done. Although this team is different, BYU has gone 2-8 in the last ten against the Gaels. That suggests anything but a likely win for Coach Pope's squad.
This week will determine BYU's fate
Looking at all the scenarios, this week all but secures BYU's fate going forward. Here are all the possible situations: (Obviously winning the WCC tournament would make all of these scenarios mute.)
BYU loses to Pepperdine - In this situtation, BYU likely would have to win out including beating Gonzaga at home. The Cougars would also likely have to make it to the Championship game in the WCC Tournament.
BYU beats Pepperdine, loses to Saint Mary's - BYU would then have to beat everyone not named Gonzaga, make it to the WCC Championship game, and hope that Utah, Boise State and other teams continue to win to help boost the Cougars' resume. This would put BYU squarely on the bubble.
BYU beats Pepperdine and Saint Mary's - This would put the Cougars in a really good spot and barring a terrible Quad 3/4 loss, BYU would be safely in the tournament, even with losses to Gonzaga and perhaps a rematch with St. Mary's in the WCC semifinals.
Before the season started we would have gladly taken BYU in their current situation, but after seeing what this team is capable of, not making the tournament would be a huge letdown. After this week, we will very likely know their fate.