Mark Few makes a case for BYU after Gonzaga's title win
LAS VEGAS — Before he praised his team for winning its third straight WCC tournament or thanked his fans for packing Orleans Arena for the seventh straight year, Gonzaga coach Mark Few had something to say about the Zags' opponent Tuesday night.
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"BYU is really good," Few told a sellout crowd Tuesday night after Gonzaga pulled away for a 91-75 victory over the Cougars. "There's no doubt they're an NCAA tournament team who can win a bunch of games."
If anyone can persuade the selection committee that BYU belongs in the NCAA tournament, maybe it's the head coach of one of the Cougars' fiercest rivals. Few elaborated his postgame speech in an interview with Yahoo Sports later Tuesday night, explaining he has been impressed by how much the Cougars improved over the course of the season.
"They're playing top 15, top 20 basketball right now," Few said. "They're playing as well as any team in the country. They're smacking guys. They were really [Tyler] Haws-oriented early in the season, and now they've spread it out and they're coming at you."
BYU (25-9, 13-5) needs all the support it can get because the Cougars are one of the last teams in or out of most mock brackets and are likely to be among the most hotly debated bubble teams leading up to Selection Sunday.
On the one hand, they have only one RPI top 50 win all season — a road win at Gonzaga 10 days ago — and the best teams they've beaten besides the Zags are likely NIT teams Stanford and UMass. On the other hand, they just look like an NCAA tournament team, an admittedly subjective opinion supported by their 8-3 road record, No. 29 KenPom ranking and No. 37 RPI.
Fast-paced BYU boasts an accomplished scorer in Haws, single-season triple-double record holder Kyle Collinsworth, an improving interior defender in Corbin Kafusi and an array of dangerous shooters. A lack of interior scoring and an indifference are two of the biggest reasons the Cougars are a bubble team in spite of that wealth of talent, but they had shown improvement during an eight-game win streak until revenge-minded Gonzaga put an end to that Tuesday night.
The Zags shredded the Cougars in transition and overpowered them in the paint, getting a combined 45 points from Przemek Karnowski, Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis and making BYU pay for leaving shooters free by sinking 8 of 12 threes. Collinsworth kept the Cougars competitive with 28 points, but the Zags answered every BYU surge and pulled away for good in the final 10 minutes.
Informed of Few's effusive praise for his team after the game, BYU coach Dave Rose quipped, "I think Mark is a really smart man."
Pushed for a more in-depth evaluation of the Cougars' chances of making the NCAA tournament, both Rose and Collinsworth acknowledged they're playing their best basketball in March but said they preferred to let their team's accomplishments speak for themselves.
Said Collinsworth, "It's not my job to decide it."
Said Rose, "I think that there's a committee put together that's going to decide this. If they watched us play, I think they'll feel pretty good about putting us into the tournament.
In reality, BYU's best spokesman Tuesday night was the opposing coach.
Few told Yahoo Sports the selection committee should take into account that San Diego State only ousted BYU in double overtime in Maui because one of its guards got away with a travel on a game-tying three in the final seconds of the first extra session. Few also scoffed at the idea that having only one RPI top 50 win should keep the Cougars out.
Noting that BYU was the only team to go into the Kennel and win, Few said, "If they can beat us in Spokane, that ain't just any top 50 win."
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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter!