Heading into Thursday night’s game at home against No. 25 Gonzaga, the BYU Cougars already had 10 losses on the season. Five of those had come courtesy of the average-at-best West Coast Conference. If any team was on the NCAA Tournament bubble, it was them.
Unfortunately, their bad losses far exceed their good wins. Four straight road games in December saw them fall at No. 13 Oregon, Utah, Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount. Those first two are understandable, but the others are unacceptable.
A triple-overtime road loss at Portland was a crusher, as was yet another road defeat to a below average Pacific team. You simply can’t have those on your resume if you’re looking to impress the NCAA Selection Committee. They don’t particularly like losses to opposing teams that have 11-17 records. It really doesn’t go over well.
So, this game against a ranked Gonzaga team was everything. Win it and you vastly improve what is already your best quality: an RPI of 37. However, you fall to the Zags for a second time and suddenly you have 11 losses before your conference tourney even begins. As much as committee members don’t like ugly losses, they also don’t tend to welcome teams into their dance party who have 11 or 12 L’s on their rap sheet.
However, thanks to a clutch win, the Cougars now go into the final two games of the regular season with a respectable 19-10 record and an RPI well within the confines of tournament stature. It could’ve clinched them a berth. It also showed the rest of the country they won’t be an easy out if they do reach that field of 68.