Will BYU still get an invite to the Big Dance?

While beating Gonzaga in Spokane would have been nice, it was always a longshot. BYU beating Gonzaga in Spokane without the Cougars' best player would have been a minor miracle. That miracle did not happen tonight and The Zags handed BYU an 11 point loss while an injured Noah Hartsock watched from the bench. With the game over, on to the question of BYU's future.

First, let's talk about the likely wins coming up. BYU won't need Hartsock to beat Portland at home on Saturday. BYU probably won't even need Hartsock to beat USD or Pepperdine in the WCC quarterfinals a week from Friday. That means that Noah's sprained knee should get an additional 8-9 days of rest before a likely third meeting with the Zags a week from Saturday. Will that be enough time? Hard to say. I am frankly shocked that Noah is not on crutches after the gruesome way he twisted that knee last weekend. But the MRI reportedly showed no structural damage so Noah very well could be back. Hartsock at 80% is a lot better than no Hartsock at all for BYU.

One possible wildcard for BYU is Stephen Rogers. The junior wing player got some minutes tonight in Spokane and seems to be ready to contribute again after his knee surgery. I hope Rogers sees big minutes on Saturday in Provo and next Friday in Vegas. If Rogers can get back into rhythm before the the semi-finals of the WCC tourney that could make a huge difference for BYU and perhaps help compensate for a less than healthy Hartsock. Rogers came to BYU touted as a sharpshooter and if there is one thing this BYU team could use lately it is a consistent outside shooter.

It's my opinion that a win over Gonzaga in the WCC semis would be enough to get BYU an at-large bid to the NCAA tourney even if the Cougs don't win the WCC tourney. The Zags have a solid RPI and a win over them on a neutral court next Saturday would give BYU its 26th win and a bump in RPI. That should do the trick this year. But if BYU were to lose that game it could make for a nerve racking and possibly disappointing Selection Sunday (even though the Cougs should have 25 wins by then).

So a lot is still up in the air for BYU hoops. Health questions linger as BYU comes down the stretch. Four more wins means an auto bid for BYU; three more wins give BYU a solid shot at an at-large bid; two more wins possibly won't get the job done. So get healthy Noah and Stephen and go get those 3+ wins Cougs!

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