Most BYU fans won't want to admit it, but the 2012-13 season seems to have produced a thoroughly mediocre basketball team.
That's not to say the Cougars are a bad team. They play great against substandard competition, good against solid competition, and poor against great teams. Which is why the National Invitation Tournament is probably the right landing spot for them. It's not a knock on BYU; realistic fans have just learned to temper their expectations for this year's team.
Over at The NIT Bracket Project, one mock selection for the "Not Invited Tourney" has a nice outlook for BYU. Because of travel considerations (the first two rounds are played at host sites), the NIT tends to follow a much better geographic footprint than the NCAA Tournament (where the top seed in the "West" is usually the best No. 2 team from the East). Looking at this mock bracket, we see a nice draw for the Cougars and other Intermountain teams.
BYU is a No. 3 seed, just missing the top lines of Southern Miss, Temple, Boise State, Maryland, Charlotte, St. John's, Arizona State and Indiana State. Projections have the Johnnies (and, in some cases, the Sun Devils and Sycamores) making the Big Dance — so BYU's position at the 3-seed at this point in time leaves it available for a Top 2 berth should any Selection Sunday surprises (Plus-3 for alliteration) occur.
The first round would see the Cougars host Stephen F. Austin of the Southland Conference. This is important, because not only does it provide a winnable game for BYU, but it also gives the Marriott Center at least one more game for ticket sales, concessions and other ESPN television revenue. With a win there, BYU would likely travel to ASU — unless St. Joseph's pulls off a Jacksonville-esque upset, in which case the Cougars would host a second game.
The quarterfinal matchup likely between the Boise State-Xavier winner would also be great. And then, it would be on to Madison Square Garden, where BYU has fond memories from some of the NIT's early days.