PROVO — So how will the NCAA selection committee evaluate BYU and the curious case of Kyle Collinsworth?
The Cougars played a strong schedule, claimed 23 victories, won 10 of their final 12 games, and were runner-ups in the West Coast Conference behind Gonzaga.
But BYU has been on the proverbial NCAA tournament bubble for much of the season.
Making things even a little more nerve-wracking for the Cougars, they will be without Collinsworth for the rest of the season due to a knee injury. The sophomore guard tore the ACL in his right knee during the WCC tournament championship game last Tuesday.
NCAA tournament selection committee chairman Ron Wellman said this week that each team’s season is examined closely.
“I can assure you, in any situation, whether it regards an injury or an overall evaluation of a team, the committee not only looks at the victory or the won-loss record, we look at how the team played, who they played, where they played that particular team,” Wellman said. “So it is a very deep evaluation of a team.”
WCC commissioner Jamie Zaninovich, who is leaving for a job in the Pac-12 this summer, is a member of the tournament committee, which would seem to play in BYU’s favor.
As of Friday afternoon, ESPN.com bracketologist Joe Lunardi projected the Cougars as “one of the last four in” the tournament. He has BYU as a No. 11 seed playing in the First Four in Dayton against No. 11 Saint Joseph’s, with the winner facing No. 6 Texas in Orlando, Fla.
Friday’s Bracket Matrix update projected BYU as the third-to-last team in, with an average seed of 11.12.
The Cougars played a challenging non-conference schedule with wins over Stanford (21-11) and Texas (23-9). They also beat Mount Saint Mary’s (16-16), which clinched a spot in the NCAA tournament by winning the Northeast Conference tournament title.
Meanwhile, BYU lost to Iowa State (24-7), Wichita State (34-0) — the first unbeaten NCAA tournament team in 23 years — UMass (24-7), and Oregon (23-9).
“Bolstering BYU’s case is a formidable non-conference schedule rated fifth-toughest in the nation,” wrote Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Eisenberg. “The Cougars beat Texas on a neutral floor, won at Stanford and suffered narrow losses to NCAA tournament-bound Wichita State, Iowa State, UMass and Oregon. What detracts from BYU’s resume are the bad losses it suffered in WCC play. Pacific, Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine and Portland each upset the Cougars.”