BYU men’s and women’s basketball teams look to improve March Madness recovery
Both BYU’s men’s and women’s basketball teams could use an additional quality win to improve their standings in the NCAA Tournament. The respective coaches have made it clear that they are ready to do whatever they can to help their teams.
Due to COVID-19 issues, the two teams did not play as many games as originally planned. The men’s team had one game in Portland called off, while the women’s team had their games against Portland and Pepperdine called off. University of Portland Vice President of Athletics Scott Leykam provided the following information to The Daily Universe about his school’s games with BYU.
“Both the postponed men’s and women’s basketball games between BYU and Portland were ruled a no contest by the WCC as we were unable to find dates that worked for both schools.”
BYU sports communications coordinator Kenny Cox confirmed that the women’s game with Pepperdine was also declared a draw by the conference for the same reason.
Head coach Mark Pope took a direct approach when talking about the schedule: he wants another game with a quality opponent.
Pope explained that he would prefer a Quad One road match. A Quad One game is defined by the NCAA NET Rankingsa metric system used to rank the 340 Division I teams. A Quad One road game would against a team ranked in the top 75 of the NET.
A strong opponent is a necessity as many supporting projections currently have the Cougars outside the 68-team March Madness field. ESPN parenthesisologist John Gasaway, who writes about teams “on the bubble,” thinks BYU could benefit from playing another tough team.
“This far from the selection on Sunday, we can’t tell if another non-conference quality win will be enough to win a general offer,” Gasaway said. “But we can say two things. BYU is probably just off the field right now, and another quality win would boost the Cougars’ work.
The difficulty of this undertaking is the feasibility of the planning. BYU’s first WCC tournament game is Friday, which means the last they could play in a road game outside of Las Vegas is likely Tuesday. Add to that the fact that if BYU makes it to the championship game, they will play four games in five days from Friday through next Tuesday. Despite these challenges, Gasaway believes the risk is worth the potential reward.
“The hardest part, as always, will be the logistics,” he added. “You’re looking for an opponent who is open to improving their own profile, but also highly ranked in the NET and available early next week (the week of February 28). Threading that needle won’t be easy, but it’s worth definitely worth a try.
BYU has several options for additional non-conference Quad One play. The following teams ranked above BYU in the NET (#50) have no games scheduled for the start of this week: Illinois, Texas, Murray State, Colorado State, Loyola Chicago, North Texas, Memphis and SMU.
The WCC tournament also provides the Cougars with the opportunity to score some valuable wins. A win on Friday would set up a Saturday game against Quad One San Francisco. BYU could also potentially play Gonzaga in the semis and Saint Mary’s in the finals depending on how the results go, providing two more Quad One opportunities.
Of course, a win in the championship game would give Pope’s team an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament, relieving all their stress.
Pope’s counterpart, Jeff Judkins, was much more reserved when talking about scheduling, largely sad that canceled games were being cut from the season for his seniors. “I feel a bit bad for the seniors. I mean, they wanted to play those games and that would have been fine.
Although obviously the health concerns surrounding COVID-19 dictated different outcomes, Judkins did everything he could to add more games. He confirmed that the South Carolina No. 1 contacted BYU, but the only possible opening in the Gamecocks schedule was on a Sunday, which was not possible due to the no-play Sunday policy of BYU.
Judkins has much less need to add a game, as his team is comfortably in March Madness no matter what happens in the WCC tournament. The only advantage the Cougars would have for additional games would be to finish in the top 16, as those teams host the first two rounds of the tournament. The AP poll currently has BYU at No. 17, but the NET, the main seeding tool, has BYU at No. 8.
As for its run in Las Vegas, BYU could face Portland in the semifinals, generating a Quad Two game and potentially avenging its only conference loss. The Cougars could also face Gonzaga in the championship game, providing a Quad One opponent.
The men’s team will start the tournament on Friday and the women’s team will start on Monday. Selection Sunday for both teams is March 13.