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Should BYU Hoops Schedule Another Non-Conference Game?

NCAA Basketball: Brigham Young at Oregon Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

BYU’s NCAA Tournament hopes remain alive, but they took a hit when they lost to Saint Mary’s Saturday night in Moraga. That loss didn’t ding BYU as Saint Mary’s is a top 20 NET team, but it was the final regular season opportunity for BYU to get a quality win. Now, BYU will close the regular season with two Quad Four home games versus LMU and Pepperdine before the WCC Tournament in Vegas.

As it stands now, BYU is likely to get the 4 or 5 seed in Vegas. If BYU is the 5 seed — which is the most likely at the moment — they’ll open the WCC Tournament Friday, March 4 versus the winner of the 8-9 game before (hopefully) advancing to play the 4 seed the next night on Saturday. BYU’s best case scenario would be to play San Francisco in the 4-5 game. The Dons still have a game versus Gonzaga, so they are likely to be behind both Saint Mary’s and Santa Clara and be the 4 seed as a result.

The Dons are projected as a tournament team and would be a Quad One opportunity for BYU. If BYU won that game and put up a semi-respectable performance versus Gonzaga in the semifinals, I think BYU would have a shot to make the NCAA Tournament. Of course, that’s all predicated of BYU taking care of business at home this week.

Can BYU Play an additional non-conference game?

BYU does have one interesting scenario they could pursue to improve the resume. That would be to schedule one more non-conference game. A couple sources close to the program told me that BYU is mulling over this option.

Teams that play 3 MTE (multi-tournament event) games can schedule up to 31 regular season games. BYU played 3 games in the Diamond Head Classic, so they can play 31 games. BYU’s WCC opener at Portland on New Year’s Day was cancelled due to Portland COVID issues, and that came will not be re-scheduled. That means BYU could have the opportunity to play one more game.

It’s already Monday as of this writing and BYU plays LMU Thursday and Pepperdine Saturday, so BYU won’t play another game this week.

What about before the WCC Tournament, though? If BYU is the 3 or 4 seed, their first WCC Tournament game will be Saturday, March 5. If they are the 5 seed — which is the most likely now — BYU will open the tournament Friday, March 4.

So, BYU has the whole week before to schedule a game if they wanted. You can cross Monday off, because BYU would have no practice time before due to the Saturday game versus Pepperdine and BYU not practicing Sundays. The one realistic date BYU would play a game is Tuesday, March 1. That would give BYU least two days of rest/prep in between their WCC Tournament opener.

Who could BYU play?

If BYU decides they want to play another game, they have to find an opponent that could even do it. An opposing team would 1) need to be below the maximum games scheduled, 2) have an opening that lines up with BYU 3) want to play BYU and 4) be a Quad One or Two game for BYU.

That’s a lot of things that need line up, but I found a handful of teams that fit the bill. Remember, teams are allowed a max of 31 games if they played in a 3-game MTE or a 2-game MTE.

Below are the teams I believe hit all four of the points above who BYU could call.

  • Quad One: Home game versus NET Top 30 team, Neutral versus top 50, Away versus Top 75
  • Quad Two: Home versus NET 31-75, Neutral versus 51-100, Away versus 76-135

Loyola-Chicago

NET Ranking: 37

I think this is one of BYU’s most likely option. The Ramblers had nearly a month break from mid-December to January when Covid wiped out a portion of their schedule. They wanted to get back on the court, so they scheduled a last-minute game versus San Francisco on January 6 in SLCC’s gym. Loyola-Chicago already showed a willingness to schedule in-season, and their resume could use a boost. They suffered a Quad 3 loss to Drake this past weekend and are on the bubble according to Joe Lunardi. The Ramblers have a good shot to win their conference tourney, but if they drop an early game their they could be sweating.

Loyola-Chicago ends their regular season this Saturday and plays their first Missouri Valley Conference tournament game Friday, March 4. They have two available games on their schedule due to COVID cancellations.

Loyola may not want to schedule another game so they can fully prep for their conference tournament, but they should be one of the first teams BYU calls.

Virginia

NET Ranking: 80

Virginia is right on the bubble after winning 5 of its last 6 games, including a road win at Duke. The Cavaliers have 30 games on the schedule and a open week next week. After playing Saturday the 26th, they don’t have a game for a whole week. They could play BYU Tuesday, March 1 and still have plenty of time until their season finale at Louisville. Virginia’s NET ranking is lower than other teams on this list, but they are the biggest brand and have some really good wins on their resume. A win versus Virginia would be huge for BYU.

SMU

NET ranking: 46

SMU is another team right on the bubble and an available game to schedule. The biggest issue with them is timing. BYU could play them Tuesday, March 1, but the Mustangs have a game two days prior on Sunday and two days after on Thursday. Possible, but they may not want that tight of a turnaround and risk dropping a conference game.

Memphis

NET ranking: 44

You can copy and paste SMU’s paragraph above. Memphis has an opening Tuesday the First, but it’s bookended by Sunday and Thursday games.

Kansas State

NET ranking: 60

BYU’s future Big 12 colleague has an available game to schedule and is on the bubble, but timing could be the blocker here. They play Monday, February 28, so BYU would need to play them Wednesday, March 2. Would BYU want to play the Wildcats potentially 2 days before their WCC tournament opener? Possibly depending on how aggressive Mark Pope wants to get, but not sure if I see coaches doing that.

Iona

Net ranking: 72

Iona isn’t a bubble team, but they would be a Quad One win if BYU beats them on the road. Rick Pitino was Mark Pope’s coach at Kentucky, so that’s why I through them in here. They also have a nice win versus Alabama on its schedule. Iona has on opening on March 1, but its bookended with games two days before and after. I’m also not sure Pope would want to fly the team all the way out to New York, but you never know I suppose.