After Saturday night’s win over #2 Gonzaga, BYU went from a team in the 7-11 seed range to a team that could realistically get a 5 seed. Gonzaga came into the game Top 3 in both the KenPom and NET rankings, and the double digit win showed that BYU is a threat to do serious damage come March.
Below we breakdown what BYU’s resume currently looks like and what still needs to be done. All rankings metrics are what will show up on BYU’s “team sheet.” Attached is a screenshot of what the team sheet the NCAA selection committee looks at, but we’ll break it down since it’s not the most aesthetically chart to look at.
NET ranking (NCAA committee’s primary sorting tool): 14
ESPN BPI: 19
Strength of Schedule: 31
Non-Conference Strength of Schedule: 9
Average NET Win: 144
Average NET Loss: 45
All of BYU’s primary numbers have the Cougars in the 5-6 seed range. However, the NCAA selection committee doesn’t necessarily use the NET as a seeding tool — they use it more as a “sorting” tool; i.e., a way to place teams into Quad one, two, three, and four tiers when determining quality wins and losses.
After the Gonzaga game, BYU’s record is 3-4 in Quad One games. The three wins are over Gonzaga, @ Houston, and Utah State on a neutral floor. Quad one wins are considered top 30 wins at home, top 50 wins on a neutral floor, and top 75 wins on the road. Saint Mary’s is currently #31 in NET, so the Gaels moving up just one more spot will qualify the win in Provo as a Quad one win.
BYU is also 4-3 in Quad two games. Those four wins are versus St Mary’s, @ Pacific, and UCLA and Virginia Tech in the Maui Invitational. The UCLA win is becoming more impressive as the Bruins are in the midst of a 5-game winning streak — which includes top 25 road wins over Arizona and Colorado — and are right at the top of the Pac 12 standings with two weeks to go.
BYU has seven losses, but none of those losses are considered bad. BYU is 15-0 in Quadrant three and four games. Three of BYU’s seven losses are to teams the top 5 of the NET, which has boosted BYU’s SOS. Utah, ranked 90 in the NET, is BYU’s worst loss of the year. As long as BYU doesn’t lose to Pepperdine next week — and the Waves are currently a Quadrant two game — BYU will end the season with zero bad losses.
What BYU Needs to Have Happen Down the Stretch
The Cougars are riding high, but the next couple weeks are very important if BYU wants to grab a high seed. First, BYU needs to take business next Saturday at Pepperdine in what would be a Quadrant two win. If BYU wins that, they clinch the two seed in the WCC tournament and a triple bye to the semifinals.
The triple bye is not only important if BYU wants to win the WCC tournament, it also allows the roster more time to heal. Dalton Nixon is hoping to back for the WCC tournament from his ankle injury, and guys like Yoeli Childs (finger), Jake Toolson (ankle), Connor Harding (knee), Gavin Baxter (shoulder), and Kolby Lee (knee) can get closer to 100%.
St Mary’s likely awaits in the WCC tournament semifinals, meaning BYU has another chance to get a Quadrant One win and another victory over a team projected to be in the NCAA field. Even if BYU were to lose to Gonzaga in the finals, BYU could be looking at a five or six seed in the NCAA Tournament. Win the finals over Gonzaga, and well, a 5 or even a 4 seed could be on the table.
Help from other teams
In addition to winning games on its schedule, BYU could use help from teams it already beat. UCLA (17-11) is the first team that comes to mind, as the Bruins have turned things around after a poor start. If the Bruins are able to win the Pac 12 regular season title and/or conference tournament and get to the NCAA Tournament, that would be a really nice win on the resume.
Utah State has quietly won five in a row after a rough stretch in January and are looking more like the team they were projected to be in the preseason. The Aggies are currently already a Quad One win, but a run by them in the MWC tournament would add more juice to that win.
Other teams to watch are Virginia Tech and Nevada — the Wolfpack end the season at home versus San Diego State.
In the end, BYU needs to stay healthy and take care of the teams on the schedule. A good tournament seed doesn’t equal wins, but it improves the chances of BYU doing damage and making a memorable March Madness run. The Cinderella stories are fun, but teams that are six seeds or better are often the ones that are around in the second weekend of the tournament.