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Big 12 History Deep Dive: What BYU Needs to do to Make the NCAA Tournament and Improve Seeding

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

Through 17 games of the regular season, BYU is 14-3 and would comfortably be in the NCAA Tournament if the season ended today. Non-conference play isn’t as important in the Big 12 due to the volume of quality games, but it is still meaningful. BYU didn’t suffer any bad losses, has a Quad One win versus San Diego State, a Quad Two win versus a NC State team that is trending towards Quad One , and a win that over a P6 Arizona State team.

The purpose of this article is to look at BYU’s resume and path ahead to see how that compares historically to other Big 12 teams and where they ended up seeded in the NCAA Tournament.

What BYU needs to do just to make the tournament and improve seeding

The Big 12 has been a 10-team league since the 2012-2013 season and played an 18-game, full double round robin for a decade. This year’s schedule is different since every team won’t play each other twice, but the league is still rated as the best conference in college basketball.

Below is the breakdown for teams’ conference record and the hit rate for which they made the tournament. I went back to 2012-2013, when the Big 12 went to a double round robin format after TCU and West Virginia joined. Note, I excluded 19-20 since the NCAA Tournament was not held then and excluded 20-21 since games were cancelled due to COVID and non-conference schedules were reduced. Every other season beginning with 2012-2013 is included.

6 or fewer conference wins: 0% hit rate. As strong as the Big 12 is, no team with 6 or fewer conference wins has made the NCAA Tournament.

7-11 conference record: 3 of 6 teams made the NCAA Tournament. Their seedings were 9 (Oklahoma 2019), 11 (Iowa State 2022), and 9 (West Virginia 2023).

A common theme among the three teams that made the NCAA Tournament is that they had zero bad non-conference losses and a handful of quality wins out of league to hang their hat on. Oklahoma’s and West Virginia’s non-conference schedules were ranked in the top 100 and Iowa State’s was in sub 300 — OU and WVU were 9 seeds, and ISU was an 11 seed, so non-conference SOS likely was a factor into seeding. BYU’s non-conference schedule is ranked right around 300, but they have some quality wins baked in there.

If you look at the 7-11 teams that missed the tourney, they largely had too many stumbles in non-league play. OU in 2022 had 3 non-conference losses (including a Quad 3 loss to Butler) and TCU in 2019 lost at home to Lipscomb.

Verdict: Get a couple of solid non-conference wins, avoid all bad losses, and rack up wins in non-league play and you can get in the tournament.

8-10 conference record: 6 of 12 teams made the NCAA Tournament with seeds between 9-11.

Like the last section, each team that missed the tournament from this group either had too many losses or bad losses in non-league play. Last year, OSU had 4 non-conference losses, including one at home to Southern Illinois. The year prior, OSU had 5 non-conference losses, including a home loss to Oakland. In 2018, Baylor and Oklahoma State each had 3 non-league losses and a non-conference SOS rated around 300. Each of those teams missed the tournament with an 8-10 league record.

Verdict: You can go 8-10 in league play and make the tournament, just avoid bad losses and/or 3 or more losses. Teams that didn’t missed the tournament.

9-9 conference record: 7 of 9 teams have made the NCAA Tournament; 5 teams received a 6 seed, 1 team an 8 seed, and 1 team a 10 seed.

The two teams that missed the tournament were in 2013 and 2014, a decade ago. The last four teams to finish 9-9 all got 6 seeds. The Baylor team that missed the tournament in 2013 had 4 non-conference losses, 2 of which were sub 100 losses. West Virginia in 2014 missed the tournament with 5 non-conference losses.

Verdict: Don’t absolutely lay down in conference play and you can get a good seed.

10 or more conference wins: 100% hit rate. Every Big 12 team over the last decade that has at least 10 conference wins has made the NCAA Tournament.

Last season, all four teams that had at least 11 conference wins received a 3 seed at minimum. The two teams that went 9-9 in league play got 6 seeds. The year prior, Baylor and Kansas got 1 seeds with 14-4 league records, Texas Tech was a 3 seed at 12-6, and Texas was a 6 seed at 10-8.

BYU Takeaway

So, where does BYU sit with 14 regular season games remaining? As illustrated above, BYU needs to shoot for at least 7-11 to make the tournament. Anything less than that would be unprecedented. The Cougars are currently 2-2. BYU’s non-conference SOS is weak, but they have a few wins they can hang their hat on and the lone loss is a Quad One road setback to Utah — no shame there (expect for pride).

Since BYU dismantled so many teams, the metrics that the NCAA Tournament committee looks at are really high on BYU. If BYU went 7-11 in non-conference play, I think that would be enough to make the tourney since the metrics would look good for BYU versus their bubble peer set, they’d have multiple quality wins in and out of conference, and they likely would have no bad losses.

8+ wins should get BYU safely in, and if BYU can get to at least .500 in league play then you start looking at a 6 seed or better, which greatly increases the likelihood to advance in the tourney.