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Cougars Officially on the Outside

27 January 2014 Brett Richins
Tyler Haws and BYU are now 13-9 after two straight WCC losses. (BYU photo)

Tyler Haws and BYU are now 13-9 after two straight WCC losses. (BYU photo/Jaren Wilkey)

Get ready to get your tickets now BYU fans, your team is headed for its second-straight NIT tournament appearance.

Losses to Portland and Gonzaga during their latest road swing through the West Coast Conference means that the Cougars will be forced to win the WCC tournament in early March if they want to go dancing this year.

Heading into last week’s games, it looked like they had a real shot at challenging for the WCC regular-season championship and were entertaining the real possibility that they could make the NCAA tournament as an at-large entry.

No longer.

Even if the Cougars (13-9, 5-4 WCC) win out over the last nine games of the season, they’re not going catch a Gonzaga team that now enjoys a three-game lead on BYU in the conference standings.

A team with nine losses coming from the West Coast Conference isn’t going to garner much respect from the NCAA selection committee either, especially when four of those losses are to the likes of Utah, Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount and Portland.

BYU’s best win this season was a 86-82 come-from-behind victory over Texas on Nov. 25 in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City. The neutral-court win looks better and better as the Longhorns (16-4, 5-2 Big 12) have bounced back from a rough start in Big 12 play to post five straight conference wins, including three in a row over ranked opponents.

The second-best win came early in the year, a 112-103 on the road at Stanford on Nov 11. The Cardinal (4-3, 13-6 PAC-12) check in at 6th-place in the current PAC-12 standings.

However, those wins can’t outweigh the three bad losses the Cougars have suffered against WCC opponents. The fact that they couldn’t get it done when given the opportunity against ranked teams in Iowa State, Wichita State, UMass and Oregon won’t help their cause either.

Just like last year, when they finished the regular season with a 21-10 record, the resume just isn’t there for the Cougars to make an argument that they belong in the Big Dance. Short of getting hot and winning the WCC tourney, they’re facing a second-straight year of have to settle for the chance to make some noise in the NIT.

The problem is that the Cougars haven’t fair too well over the years in conference tournament play and haven’t exactly burned it up since joining the WCC. In their first two seasons in the league, the Cougars are 1-2 in the tournament and have failed to advance beyond the semifinals. Last year, the Cougars were bounced out in their first game by San Diego.

Another trend that doesn’t bode well for BYU is that since joining the WCC, the Cougars are just 1-9 against conference top dogs Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s. And they’ll almost certainly to have to beat one or both this year in order to win a tournament title.

With the way BYU is defending teams, the outlook of getting a win against the likes of either the Bulldogs or the Gaels come tournament time isn’t looking real good. While the Cougars are currently second in the country in scoring, averaging 87.5 points per game, they are also 331st out of 345 Division-1 teams in defense, giving up 79.6 points per game.

It seems like every game, somebody facing the Cougars is going off for a career night. Last Thursday, it was Portland’s Bobby Sharp, who came off the bench to score 27 points, including going 8-of-13 from three-point range. He averages just over 7 points per game.

Amazingly, BYU got 48 points from its leading scorer Tyler Haws, scored 110 points and still lost to a team that has zero history as a winning program.

On Saturday, Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos poured in 24 points–21 of those coming in the second half–to break open what was a close game at halftime. The Zags shot 64 percent in the second half, including 67 percent from the three-point arc, as they outscored the Cougars by 13 over the final 20 minutes of the game.

Until Dave Rose figures out how to get his team to play at least decent team defense, they’re not likely to return to the NCAA’s anytime soon. It would be a shame if Haws spent the final three years of his illustrious career on the outside looking in come March Madness.

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