It’s impossible to fill the gaping void in the hearts of college basketball fans everywhere who are mourning the loss of their beloved NCAA basketball tournament — and its accompanying bracket excitement — in 2020 due to efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.
But the Daily Herald’s BYU reporters Darnell Dickson and Jared Lloyd are giving Cougar fans a chance to play out a bracket of their own:
The Greatest BYU Men’s Basketball Team of All Time Bracket. Dickson and Lloyd combed through the annals of Cougar hoops history and have selected the 16 BYU squads they believe earned the right to vie for the illustrious title.
Those historic Cougar teams have been seeded by the committee (no computers or NET rankings here) and put into a four-round tournament — and you get the chance to vote for which team you think should advance all the way to the top.
Will there be upsets?
Will it just go straight chalk?
Will great memories of BYU stars of the past and present prove to be enough to propel one squad past another?
Cougar fans, you get to make those calls.
Don’t make your judgment based on which team you think would win if a squad from one era faced a squad from another. Given the numerous changes to the game of basketball in the last century, that method is virtually impossible.
Instead, you should select the team that you think has the better overall body of work — i.e. the one that was the “greatest” of the two that are matched up against each other.
Dickson and Lloyd will make a case for each team to help remind you of what they accomplished and then the choice will be yours.
Two squads who had a lot of contributors square off in the No. 3/No. 14 contest — but one was able to reach a higher pinnacle in the postseason:
No. 3-seed: BYU 1965-66 (20-5, NIT champions)
The Cougars started the 1965-66 season early, winning 19 of 22 games played on a tour of South America and Mexico. BYU averaged 95.5 points per game, the highest in school history, behind Dick Nemelka (24.0 ppg), Steve Kramer (18.3), Jeff Congdon (15.9) and Neil Roberts (10.8).
The Cougars were invited to the 14-team National Invitational Tournament, held at Madison Square Garden, as the No. 1 seed and defeated Temple (90-78), Army (66-60) and NYU (97-84) to win the title. In the championship game, Nemelka was saddled with foul trouble so juniors Craig Raymond and Gary Hill came off the bench to score 21 points each. BYU finished the year with a 20-6 record in what was the second NIT title for coach Stan Watts.
— Darnell Dickson
No. 14-seed: BYU 1970-71 (18-11, NCAA Sweet 16)
When you want to talk about a balanced team, it’s hard to beat the 1970-71 squad. The Cougars had five players who averaged double-figures in points and at least 4.5 rebounds per game: Bernie Fryer (19.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg), Steve Kelly (17.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg), Kresimir Cosic (15.1 ppg, 12.6 rpg), Jim Miller (11.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Phil Tollestrup (11.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg).
BYU was a perfect 12-0 at home that year but struggled on the road. The Cougars beat Utah State in Logan in the NCAA West region quarterfinals but couldn’t take down the Goliath of the time as BYU fell to UCLA, 91-73, in the Sweet 16. Pacific then beat the Cougars, 84-81, in the third-place game.
— Jared Lloyd
Check back Thursday for the No. 7/No. 10 seed matchup in The Greatest BYU Men’s Basketball Team of All Time Bracket.
You can also vote in previous rounds as well: