The parking lots at the Mariott Center hadn't even emptied yet Wednesday night when the first TV analyst began shoveling dirt on BYU's season.
As highlights played from the third-ranked Cougars' stunning 82-64 loss to New Mexico, ESPN's Jimmy Dykes declared that BYU was a team in the throes of a "quick downward spiral." Dykes added that the Cougars had no shot of earning a No. 1 seed or even reaching the Elite Eight without center Brandon Davies, who was suspended for the rest of the season on Tuesday for violating the school's honor code.There's no doubt that BYU's lack of back-to-the-basket scoring and 36-25 deficit on the boards against New Mexico were disconcerting, but perhaps we should hold off another game or two before making a snap judgment and burying the Cougars.
First of all, BYU was playing just one day after news broke that its third-leading scorer and top rebounder was lost for the season. Secondly, the Cougars were facing nemesis New Mexico, a team that has now beaten them four straight times during a two-year period in which BYU is 26-1 against the rest of the Mountain West.
Granted the Cougars do not have another low-post scorer or defender of Davies' caliber on their rapidly thinning roster, but not all of their woes against New Mexico were a result of the sophomore center's absence.
Fredette shot 10 for 26 and did not fare well against multiple defensive looks. New Mexico built an early double-digit lead with torrid shooting. And Noah Hartsock and Charles Abouo missed a combined 9-of-10 shots and the Cougars as a team missed 21-of-26 3-pointers.
Regardless of the factors working against BYU, this loss will almost certainly remove the Cougars from contention for a No. 1 seed. BYU's resume still isn't too much thinner than that of Duke or Kansas, but the selection committee now has seen tangible evidence that the Cougars aren't the same caliber of team without Davies.
The challenge now facing BYU is to diminish the damage to its NCAA seeding by defeating Wyoming on Saturday and then making a run in the Mountain West tournament next week.
If the Cougars can regroup, overcome the mental blow of losing Davies and figure out how to play with a smaller lineup, they still have an opportunity to salvage a No. 2 seed and advance to at least the NCAA tournament's second weekend. If they continue to falter, a dream season could unravel in a matter of two weeks.