I wrote last week that it is difficult to tell just how good this BYU basketball team is, but after blowing a 10 point lead against #11 Oregon on Saturday night, I have concluded that BYU’s young, talented team is solidly…average.
The Cougars are 8-5, folks. Most teams with that mark would be happy to call their team average and would be thrilled to have experts predicting their team to go to the NCAA tournament. And yet many BYU fans would be offended at the suggestion that their basketball team is merely “average.”
They have a good argument. Four of BYU’s losses came against ranked teams and one to arch rival Utah in Salt Lake City. Utah, by the way, has only one loss and is blowing out teams almost every time they walk on the court, including the Cougars. BYU itself has also blown out a lot of teams, and the Cougars played all four ranked teams closely. Going into Saturday night’s games, BYU had the 14th ranked RPI. Cougar optimists also point to wins versus Texas and Stanford, who recently beat #14 North Carolina and #10 Uconn respectively. Although Texas and Stanford both lost to good teams Saturday, BYU’s wins over these teams certainly bolster its resume.
But BYU still sits with a 8-5 record, with most of its wins coming against vastly inferior competition. With the exception of the Texas game, which was hard-fought, whenever BYU has been tested it has come up short. At some point you have to chalk that up to simply not being a great team. Close losses are still losses. I hate to say it, but the Cougar faithful sound a lot like Utah football fans when they insist that a tough schedule is the only thing keeping the team from greatness.
The Texas and Stanford wins, though good, will not be enough to carry the Cougars’ resume, and BYU has only two more games versus ranked opponents. Both are against a Gonzaga squad that has had the Cougars’ number since losing to BYU in the 2010 NCAA tournament, so, sadly, BYU’s chances for making the tournament are slim to none at this point.
Believe me, I hope I’m wrong. I hope this team finds its groove and manages at least one win against Gonzaga and a few wins in the WCC tournament. Unfortunately, recent history does not bode well for that.