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BYU Basketball Mailbag: Tournament Hopes, Fouss, Recruiting, and More

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at Brigham Young Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

BYU picked up two much needed wins in Southern California last weekend to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive. BYU faces a huge game Saturday when they travel to Moraga to take on Saint Mary’s. BYU fortunately has the whole week to prep while the Gaels will play San Francisco just two nights before on Thursday. That in theory should help BYU, but both two are both already very familiar with each other.

Below are some of the questions you all asked me for this week’s mailbag.

Will a win against St Mary’s be enough to make BYU a lock for the NCAA tournament?

BYU is ranked 51 in the NET and 52 in KenPom and very much on the NCAA Tournament bubble. The Cougars have 3 Quad One wins and 4 Quad Two wins on its resume, which is more than most bubble teams, but BYU has fewer chances the rest of the way. Saint Mary’s is a Quad One game and the final two home games versus LMU and Pepperdine are Quad Four. Fellow bubble team Michigan, for example, has seven remaining games and six of them are Quad Ones. So other teams have more chances to trip up, but also more opportunities than BYU to beef up their resume.

I wouldn’t call Saint Mary’s a “must win” — particularly if Fouss is out (more on that below) — but BYU would have to fare will in the WCC Tournament to realistically have a shot at a bid if they lose to the Gaels. If BYU does beat Saint Mary’s, I think they’d be in a really good spot to make the tournament. It would be a top 25 Quad One road win and give BYU its fourth Quad One win of the year. If BYU beats the Gaels, they’d just have to take care of business versus LMU and Pepperdine at home and avoid a loss to one of the bottom-half WCC teams in the tournament.

If BYU loses to the Gaels, they’d probably need a Quad One or Quad Two win in the WCC Tournament to feel decent about their chances. Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and San Francisco would all be Quad One games in Vegas and Santa Clara would be Quad Two. If BYU loses to the Gaels, they’re looking at a 4-5 seed in Vegas which would set up a quarterfinal game with SMC, USF, or Santa Clara. Saint Mary’s or USF would be ideal since they are a Quad One opportunity, but a Quad Two win over Santa Clara would help too.

One thing to consider too is that the bubble isn’t particularly strong. Oklahoma State is ineligible due to NCAA violations, the ACC really only has 5 teams in contention (last year they had 7 make the tourney), and the Pac-12 is looking at 3-4 bids (last year they had 5).

BYU should have somewhere in the neighborhood of 7-9 Q1/Q2 wins which is good enough to get in, but it will depend on how other bubble teams fare down the stretch if BYU can’t beat Saint Mary’s.

One potential thing to keep an eye on: Will BYU schedule another game? Teams can schedule 31 regular season games and BYU has 30 on the docket. BYU’s WCC opener at Portland was cancelled due to Portland COVID issues and it is unlikely to get rescheduled. BYU likely won’t open up WCC Tournament play until Friday, March 4 or Saturday March 5, so could BYU theoretically elect to schedule a non-conference game on the Tuesday before to try to beef up the resume.

I don’t think it happens as many things would need to fall into place. 1) BYU coaches would need to pursue it — do they want to cut back on WCC Tournament prep and risk another loss? 2) A team would need to have an opening 3) A team would would need to have the desire to schedule BYU and 4) it would need to be a Quad One or Quad Two game.

If BYU loses to Saint Mary’s maybe they try one last hail mary to boost the resume. Something to monitor.

Will Fouss play on Saturday?

Fouss tweaked his groin at the end of the LMU win and didn’t play versus Pepperdine. Fortunately, he has a full week to get ready for Saint Mary’s. Here’s the latest of what I know.

If it was up to Fouss, he would play Saturday. One source close to Fouss and the program told me Fouss is feeling better and expects to practice later in the week before playing at Saint Mary’s. His groin isn’t particularly painful, more just nagging.

Groins are tricky, though. I believe Fouss thinks he can play, but coaches will be more cautious. The last thing they want to do is aggravate it and cause something that could cause Fouss to miss the rest of the season or even bother him the rest of his career.

I could see a situation where Fouss is feeling pretty good and they give him limited minutes. Even 10-12 minutes of Fouss would help drastically. If he can’t go, all it would take is foul trouble from Atiki or Lohner and Gideon George would be forced into minutes at the 5 — not ideal!

BYU coaches will be coy all week and I don’t think we’ll know for certain if Fouss will play until an hour before tipoff.

Do you think this year’s version of Caleb Lohner is as good as he gets? Speaking only of his offensive scoring presence... I love everything else that he brings to this team!

Caleb Lohner was preseason First Team All-WCC after a stellar freshman season. Lohner averaged 7 points and 7 boards last season, and shot 50% from three (15-30) in WCC play. Lohner still has the rebounding ability, but his offense has regressed since a season ago. BYU coaches expected Lohner to take a jump this year, but his shooting has fallen off a cliff. He’s averaging 6.5 points on 39% shooting from the floor and 16% from three. He is coming off his best game in some time at Pepperdine, scoring 14 points and 6-7 shooting from the field and 2-2 from three. Has he turned a corner? We’ll need more than one game to believe it, but some offense from Caleb would really help this team.

Caleb has the physical skills and effort to be a really good player, he just needs to find the confidence on the court.

Anyone in recruiting that we should keep an eye on?

For the 2022 class, I’m keeping an eye on big man Lual Manyang. Manyang is a 6-foot-11 3-star big man originally from Africa that was on his way to 4-stars before tearing his ACL last year. He’s recovered now and BYU has started to pursue him recently. Manyang has offers from Seton Hall, VCU, and a host of other mid-major programs. BYU hasn’t offered and I don’t know if they well, but he is on their radar. I’ve talked to Manyang and he really likes BYU.

Sean East is the top JUCO guard in the nation and BYU has recruited him for several months now, but at this point I don’t think BYU is at the top of his list.

Should we still go after transfers? Or take time to develop the 4 year guys at BYU?

Mark Pope goes after transfers, but it is really too many? BYU brought in Three D1 transfers his first season (Jake Toolson, Richard Harward, Wyatt Lowell), two last year (Matt Haarms and Brandon Averette), and two this year (Te’Jon Lucas and Seneca Knight). Many programs are bringing in more than that.

I think BYU should bring in transfers, but it has to be the right ones. Next year will be an interesting year for Mark Pope. He loses Barcello and Lucas in the backcourt and brings in three returned missionary guards — Dallin Hall, Richie Saunders, and Tanner Toolson. Pope will likely bring in at least one guard to contribute right away, but does he go after more or does he want those guys to develop? I believe 2022 needs to be a prep year before the Big 12, so I’d like to see BYU bring in younger transfers that can play multiple years rather than just getting band aids of guys that can play one season.

How many guys are they going to need to replace after this year? I know Alex and Te’Jon are done, not sure what is the case with the others especially with the covid year.

Lucas and Barcello are the two that are gone for sure since this is their last season of eligibility. Baxter, Harward and George are all listed as seniors, but they could all return one more season due to the COVID year. Sources close to Gideon have told me he’s coming back next year. I’m quite certain Baxter will hang it up after a third season-ending injury. Harward is the one I’m not sure about. If doctors say this summer that he can play, then I think there’s a real possibility that he returns. Harward has already played in college for five seasons and went on a mission for two years, so he could decide to just take his degree and move on with his life.

Outside of those guys, there likely will be a handful of players that transfer out.