Expectations are a funny thing. If you would have told most BYU fans that BYU would be 2-4 6 games into Big 12 play with halftime leads and in 5 of the 6 games and tied with #4 Houston with a minute left in the sixth game, every BYU fan would have taken that. After last season’s 19-15 year and going into the most competitive conference in college basketball, I think most fans wanted to see improvement and nightly competitiveness.
A 12-1 non-conference start that included several blowouts propelled BYU to top 10 rankings in both NET and KenPom and got a lot of the national media attention on BYU. The Cougars are in a good spot to get a NCAA Tournament bid, but they still have to win games no matter how competitive the losses are. I wrote last week that BYU needs to shoot for at least 7-11 in Big 12 play if they want a chance to make the tournament.
Upcoming 6-Game Stretch
BYU plays 18 Big 12 games. The first six may have been the toughest — that consisted of 5 Quad One games and 1 Quad Two game. On paper, BYU’s next 6 games is the most manageable stretch in Big 12 play. As of now, that stretch consists of just 1 Quad One game, 3 Quad Twos, and 2 Quad Threes. BYU could go 1-5 or 2-4 in that stretch, but the Cougars will likely be favored in 5 of the 6 games.
Below are the six games; the first column indicates what quadrant it falls into. As a reminder, a Quad one game is versus a top NET 30 team at home, top 50 on a neutral floor, and top 75 on the road. Quad two is versus a top 75 team at home, top 100 on a neutral floor, and top 135 on the road. Quad three is versus teams ranked 76-160 at home and 136-240 on the road. Quad four games are everything else.
KenPom currently favors BYU in all 6 games, although I think Oklahoma will be a betting favorite come gameday. Texas has some of the best offensive talent in the Big and is coming off two huge wins over Baylor and Oklahoma. West Virginia is a Q3 game, but they beat Kansas in Morgantown and are completely different team than the first two months of the season due to the NCAA’s transfer eligibility ruling in December that allowed two-time undergrad transfers to play. BYU’s one “bye week” comes before the West Virginia game; they’ll have a full week for prepare for the Mountaineers after Texas. West Virginia plays the Wednesday before.
That 3-game Kansas State, UCF, OSU stretch is one BYU needs to especially take advantage of. KSU and UCF are winnable games at home and Oklahoma State is the clear bottom team in the Big 12 with a 0-6 record.
I predict BYU goes 4-2. I wouldn’t be surprised if BYU goes 2-4 and I wouldn’t be shocked either with 5-1. BYU has been very competitive with top tier teams and the level of competition should drop a bit these next few weeks — but still difficult!
A 4-2 record would put BYU at 6-6 in league play and in prime position to jockey for tournament seeding before a tough 6-game end to regular season. 3-3 seems like the minimum BYU needs to aim for if they want to realistically keep their tournament hopes alive. 2-4 or 1-5 wouldn’t technically put BYU out of tournament contention since the last 6 games consist of 5 quality win opportunities, but that seems unlikely BYU could rack up enough wins there if they can’t go at least .500 in these next 6 games.
Whether the results or good or bad, we should know in a few weeks what side of the bubble BYU falls on before the final stretch run.