With two exhibition victories already in the books, including a six-point win on New Mexico’s homecourt, BYU is getting close to tipping off its regular season in just over a week.
Despite losing Eric Mika early to Italy, some are projecting BYU to be better than last season’s team that lost in the first round of NIT. If Elijah Bryant’s knee holds up and Yoeli Childs turns into a top-5 caliber WCC player, BYU may find itself fighting for a NCAA tournament bid come February and March.
Fans and media members can sometimes bring biases into projections, but computers have no biases and no soul. The best of the bunch is Ken Pomeroy’s KemPom site, which is widely regarded as the Holy Grail of basketball analytics. KenPom has a plethora of college basketball stats and analytics, including rankings of all 351 teams, win projections, strength of schedules, and a myriad of others.
The site is subscription based, so we’ll give a you a few telling numbers that forecasts BYU’s 2017-2018 season.
- Preseason Ranking: 72
Considering BYU lost Eric Mika and had a first round NIT exit, 72 seems like a reasonable place to peg the Cougars at preseason. BYU will play only four teams on the year that are ranked ahead of them in the preseason.
- Opponents rankings
Here are the preseason top 100 teams that BYU plays this season:
- Gonzaga (20)
- Alabama (23) — neutral site in Brooklyn
- St Mary’s (30)
- Utah (58) — Home
- Illinois State (87) — Home
- Princeton (88) — at Princeton
- Projected Regular Season Record: 21-10, 12-6 in WCC
- Chance of Unbeaten Record: 0.01%
THERE’S A CHANCE, Y’ALL
If BYU is to make the NCAA tournament this year, it will have to take advantage of limited opportunities to pick up quality wins. Gonzaga and St Mary’s provide four big chances in conference play, as most preseason rankings have both teams in the 25. Alabama hauled in a highly rated recruiting class, and headlines the non-conference slate.
One other team to watch out for is UT-Arlington. UTA knocked off BYU in the NIT this past season, and has already won at Oklahoma in one of their exhibition games this year. UTA returns many of its top players from last year, so they could prove to be a solid resume-building win if BYU can get them back this year.
The loss of Eric Mika will be tough to overcome, but additions of Zac Seljaas, Jahshire Hardnett, Assistant Coach Heath Schroyer, and the development of budding star Yoeli Childs could lead to a NCAA tournament berth for BYU.