BYU fans were certainly disappointed to see the Cougars lose to top-ranked and undefeated Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference Tournament championship game Tuesday night.
But they woke up Wednesday morning certain BYU is going to go dancing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015.
That ought to cheer them up.
The Cougars (20-6) could land anywhere from a No. 6 seed to a No. 10 seed according to bracketology experts. On Wednesday, ESPN Bracketology had BYU as a No. 7 seed playing No. 10 seed Rutgers.
Several regular season opponents have qualified or will still have a good opportunity to make the tournament. Gonzaga (26-0) will most likely be the No. 1 seed for the entire tournament. BYU defeated San Diego State during the regular season and the Aztecs are slated to be a No. 7 seed. The Cougars lost to USC, which is tabbed as a No. 6 seed. Utah State was listed as the first team out by ESPN Bracketology and St. John’s, which BYU defeated in November, is noted as one of the next four teams out. Boise State, which slipped past the Cougars 74-70 in Provo in December, is listed as a bubble team at No. 12.
The Cougars last NCAA Tournament win came in the First Four in 2012, completing the largest comeback in tournament history (25 points) to defeat Iona 78-72.
This year’s NCAA Tournament is scheduled to be played entirely in Indianapolis and the surrounding areas to better face the complications of the COVID-19 virus.
The teams and matchups will be announced at 4 p.m. Sunday on CBS.
One and done?
Gonzaga freshman sensation Jalen Suggs scored 23 points Tuesday night, making two long, contested 3-point shots in a row to give the Bulldogs some distance late in the game.
“He’s a really talented player,” BYU coach Mark Pope said. “He’s a good leader and he’s invested in making the right play. He’s long and athletic. We challenged him to make some shots in the second half and he did. He’s a terrific, terrific player.”
Suggs was named the WCC Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and was joined on the All-Tournament team by teammates Corey Kispert and Drew Timme, Pepperdine’s Colbey Ross and BYU’s Alex Barcello.
On a shooting spree
BYU sophomore guard Trevin Knell scored a career-high 20 points against Gonzaga, including 15 in the first half. He made 5 of 10 from the 3-point line and has made 21 of 33 (64%) from distance in his past eight games.
“Trevin is not lacking for confidence,” Pope said. “He had a great night for us. He was really solid for us on the defensive end and made some shots for us. Gonzaga was kind of searching with the press and the 1-3-1 and that left some opportunities for him. He did a nice job running the floor and in transition and our guys did a nice job finding him. Like everybody on our team he can step up and make big plays for us and he did tonight.”
Gonzaga became the fifth team since 1976 to finish the regular season unbeaten, joining Indiana State (1979), UNLV (1991) Wichita State (2014) and Kentucky (2015).
It should be noted, however, that none of those unbeaten teams ended up winning a national title. The last team to accomplish that feat was the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers.
Wallet Hub has ranked the best cities for college basketball fans, based on criteria such as wins, regular-season championships, hall of fame head coaches, ticket prices, national championships and fan engagement.
Durham, North Carolina — home of the Duke Blue Devils — was listed as the No. 1 city, though Duke is clearly a bubble team this season. Salt Lake City was ranked No. 27 and Provo No. 39 on the list.
Spokane — home of Gonzaga — came in at No. 67.
The BYU women’s basketball team, which finished the season 18-5 after Tuesday’s heartbreaking 43-42 loss to No. 16 Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament finals, is in a precarious position when it comes to the NCAA Tournament.
The Cougars did beat the Zags in the Marriott Center last month but are 50th in the women’s college basketball NET rankings. BYU coach Jeff Judkins has been vocal about the problems the Cougars have had trying to entice Power Five teams to add them to their schedule.
“I think we should go. We played Gonzaga three times great,” Judkins said. “I watch other teams that I know are going to go and we’re as good as anybody. Hopefully through what we’ve done in the past and what we’ve done this year, people will look at it and say, ‘BYU is (a) top 64 team in the country.’”
ESPN Bracketology lists the Cougars as a bubble team along with Notre Dame, Ole Miss and Houston.
The women’s tournament will be hosted entirely in San Antonio, Texas and the surrounding area. Tournament selections will be announced Monday at 5 p.m. MT on ESPN.
To the victor goes the spoils
Gonzaga’s Jill Townsend, who made the game winning-shot against BYU in the title game, was named the WCC Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. She was joined on the All-Tournament team by teammate Yvonne Ejim, Loyola Marymount’s Khari Clark, Santa Clara’s Merle Wiehl and BYU’s Shaylee Gonzales.