First the loss to Loyola Marymount, then the loss to Pepperdine; a 0-2 start to WCC conference play put the Cougars in a deep hole back in January. Cougar Nation’s faith dwindles.
Following the losses the Cougars rattled off five straight wins and moved up the WCC standings. Cougar Nation’s faith grows.
An unexpected triple-overtime loss to Portland and a loss to Gonzaga halts the win streak at five and all but destroys BYU’s chances of an at-large tournament bid in March. Cougar Nation’s faith is crushed.
March 8: The first day of the West Coast Conference Tournament and BYU’s last attempt to secure a ticket to the NCAA tournament. A win against Loyola Marymount will pit BYU against San Francisco in the semifinals. A loss will end the postseason bid for BYU.
March 10: The Cougars dismissed Loyola Marymount with little effort, but a physical San Francisco team lay in store, and with a win; a showdown against WCC powerhouse Gonzaga.
March 11: BYU steps off the Court after having beaten San Francisco in an overtime thriller the previous day; but losing handily to Gonzaga by 11. Dave Rose’s squad just doesn’t have enough left in the tank to secure an automatic bid. The waiting game continues for that elusive NCAA invitation.
Fast-forward to March 17, in the dark theater room of Coach Rose’s private theater sits 12 restless players and their coach. It’s Selection Sunday and BYU’s name hasn’t been called.
The play in game is announced. No BYU.
The South Bracket is announced. No BYU.
The West Bracket is announced. No BYU.
All but that last flicker of hope remains for the Cougars.
Now to the East Bracket where Oregon the 7 seed will be playing the 10 seed Brigham Young University Cougars! An invitation to play in the tournament.
For this Cougar basketball team, it was all joy. As the experts projected BYU to be on the bubble right to the end, BYU did just that. With a good showing at the WCC tournament, a great RPI, and strength of schedule; BYU played themselves into the tournament. This BYU squad received an invitation to play in the 2014 NCAA tournament this past Sunday, and the Cougars deserved it.
Coach Rose’s team this year went across the country and back, they scheduled a brutal non-conference schedule, and they battled in a much better than anticipated West Coast Conference to a respectable second place finish.
This years’ team has broken the hearts of Cougar Nation, but has also been the only source of hope. This years’ team now has the chance to battle to the end and exert revenge on the Oregon Ducks and prove to the nation that BYU deserved its’ invitation to the tournament.
For the Cougars its win or go home.
From the desk of Spencer King, who helps with BYU Sports Nation on BYU Radio.