For the first time under head coach Mark Pope, BYU lost back-to-back regular season games last week.
The Cougars took a road trip to northern California to face Santa Clara and Pacific. BYU dropped their first game on Thursday, after having a 74-70 lead on Santa Clara with just over one minute left. With a collection of turnovers and errors, the Cougars allowed Santa Clara to make a game-winning shot as time expired.
To make matters worse, BYU went into Pacific on Saturday, confident that they could turn things around against a team worse than 260th in the KenPom rankings and near last place in the WCC. They left with their tails squarely between their legs, as the Tigers stunned Mark Pope’s squad with a 76-73 win that frankly was not as close as the score would suggest, with Pacific leading by as much as 13.
BYU has little time to mope and lick their wounds, as they have perhaps the toughest two matchups at home of the entire season occurring in one week, with San Francisco and Gonzaga coming to the Marriott Center 48 hours apart.
Most expected BYU to plummet in the tournament projections following the underwhelming week. However, looking at the recent bracket projections, BYU took only a small hit to their tournament hopes for the most part.
For most of the season, ESPN Bracketology guru Joe Lunardi had tabbed BYU as a No. 8 seed. As of Tuesday morning, with some time to think on the head-scratching losses BYU suffered, he only has the Cougars slipping one seed line to No. 9. As of now, Lunardi slates the Cougars to play his No. 8 seeded Wake Forest squad in the South Region.
Stadium.com slates BYU as a No. 9 seed as of Monday. Sporting News regards BYU as a 10-seed.
TeamRankings.com hit BYU a little harder, but they are still very much in the picture. After ranking the Cougars in the 8-9 seed range as well, they now have the Cougars as an 11-seed. They also give Pope’s team a 53 percent chance to make the tournament, despite their brutal week.
One expert who has turned sour on BYU is CBS’ Jerry Palm. He now has BYU as his first team “out” of the tournament. Certainly, this is a significant drop from the No. 9 seed, where he previously slotted the Cougars. However, there are still seven regular season games and the WCC Tournament left to play. BYU can still add to the resume.
The Cougars remain in good position in the rankings, at 34th in NET and 28th in KenPom. For reference, BYU came in at 38th in NET during this time last year and ended up with a 6-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Obviously, the Cougars desperately need to avoid further pitfalls. Any goodwill they earned at the early stages of the year is now gone. A loss to Gonzaga and perhaps Saint Mary’s on the road is forgivable, but that is it. The Cougars will likely need to win every other game not against the Bulldogs or Gaels to assure their place in the tournament.
They also likely cannot afford another one-and-done trip to Las Vegas in the West Coast Conference Tournament.
Either way, despite taking a hit, BYU’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team are still alive and well.