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Predictions: Could BYU make a run at the Big 12 tourney?

BYU's Dallin Hall and Jaxson Robinson high-five as the Cougars play the TCU Horned Frogs on Saturday, March 2, 2024, at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah. BYU won in comeback fashion, 87-75, and open Big 12 play Wednesday morning against UCF.
BYU's Dallin Hall and Jaxson Robinson high-five as the Cougars play the TCU Horned Frogs on Saturday, March 2, 2024, at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah. BYU won in comeback fashion, 87-75, and open Big 12 play Wednesday morning against UCF. | BYU Photo

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Can BYU make Big 12 noise?

BYU made mincemeat of Big 12 preseason predictions to finish 13th in the league by earning a No. 5 seed in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Basketball Tournament in Kansas City this week. Can the Cougars continue into postseason play and make waves among the best teams in the country?

The Big 12 Tournament will be like a Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament because it has six top-25 teams involved, including No. 1 Houston. The atmosphere will be the same, the stakes will seem as big. It is a situation BYU basketball has never encountered before. This makes it a fascinating week of basketball. But first, BYU must win its first game Wednesday against UCF.

No. 20 BYU has won eight of its last 12 games, and that includes upsets over Kansas and Baylor and blowing a 14-point second-half lead over No. 6 Iowa State on the Cyclones’ home court. BYU is 4-4 against the teams on its side of the bracket.

BYU began this season with a chip on its shoulder for being picked 13th. This will continue in Kansas City after BYU was the only team that finished in the top eight without a player being named to the first-, second- or third-team All-Conference team.

BYU finished the season on a high note, defeating Oklahoma State on Senior Night in a packed Marriott Center. Here are our Deseret News reports of that season-finishing game.

Cougar Insiders predictions

Question of the week: BYU will play UCF Wednesday in the Big 12 tournament. Can the Cougars find more success in this league tourney or will this do-or-die 3-point shooting team fall to the whim of the lucky bounce of the rim? Why? Predict how far the Cougars could go in Kansas City.

Jay Drew: Predicting the outcome of Big 12 games this year, let alone BYU games, has become almost impossible. Every team is above average, and as coaches and players have said all season, any team can beat any team on almost any given night.

Given BYU’s style of play — reliance on the 3-pointer — and not-so-great-history in postseason tournaments, I’m hesitant to predict a long Big 12 tournament run for the Cougars. And they haven’t played well in day games this year, aside from the win over Texas. Throw in the fact that the Cougars will be adjusting to an arena they have never played in before, and they could have a tough time shooting the ball. You know, unfamiliar background, sight lines and all that.

If BYU doesn’t shoot well, it usually doesn’t win. However, this team has surprised me all season, so why not again?

Prediction: BYU makes it to the semifinals, then falls in another close one to Houston in the Big 12′s Final Four.

Dick Harmon: With the Cougars, it’s pretty simple. If they shoot over 32% from beyond the arc and make more than 11 treys, they can be in a position to defeat any team in the Big 12, including No. 1 Houston. Of course, free throws need to be made, defense must be played at a high level, and there must be an equal or superior rebounding effort. Having said that, BYU’s biggest challenge is that first game because of the time and setting.

BYU is a mature, experienced team with superior chemistry and established roles. These factors could overcome the uncomfortable early start time and a foreign arena. But the main case to be made for Mark Pope’s team in this setting is the feat of beating Kansas in Lawrence — something that has happened only 17 times in coach Bill Self’s career. BYU beat Kansas coming off a disappointing loss at Oklahoma State in which there was poor effort. This proves the Cougars are capable of explosive play against the best.

Prediction: BYU has one of the best benches in the country, a must for a week like this: BYU will make it to the semifinals.

Cougar tales

BYU track and field achieved nine first-team All-America citations at the NCAA indoor championships this past weekend. In men’s volleyball, the No. 6 Cougars split with No. 7 Stanford. A grand slam home run propelled the women’s softball team to its first Big 12 win over Texas Tech. In women’s tennis, the doubles team of Emilee Astle and Kendall Kovick defeated Oklahoma State’s No. 5 ranked duo.

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Comments from Deseret News readers:

Pope has done an amazing job getting the Cougs ready for the Big XII. Hopefully, most/all of the core players will return next year to be joined by Adams and Chandler and Dawson.

— CougfaninTx

This conference is so full of talent that it isn’t funny. The question becomes how badly beaten up are the teams. Houston, ISU, Baylor and TT are in good shape. BYU don’t know. It is clear their timing is really off a lot. Kansas and OU are really beaten up. How will the teams respond? Good question. At the fresh part of the season, this conference would destroy the rest in the country. Now don’t know.

— MarkMAN

So let’s see, isn’t the best Bball in the state being played in Provo and Logan?

Sold-out Marriott Center has to be a bigger draw than the tanking Jazz, right? And the Aggies are a fairy tale this year.

As for the Utes.... well, “Grimm” might be the word.

— SliverinYourThumb

Up next

  • March 13 | 10:30 a.m. | Men’s Basketball | UCF | Big 12 tourney @ Kansas City

  • March 14 | Swimming and diving | CSCAA National Invitational | @ Ocala, Florida

  • March 14 | 11 a.m. | Women’s tennis | Iowa State | @ Ames, Iowa

  • March 14 | 5 p.m. | Softball | Texas | @ Austin, Texas

  • March 14 | 6 p.m. | Baseball | Houston | @ Provo

  • March 15 | 4 p.m. | Softball | Texas | @ Austin, Texas

  • March 15 | 6 p.m. | Gymnastics | Quad Meet | @ Seattle

  • March 15 | 6 p.m. | Baseball | Houston | @ Provo

  • March 16 | Track and Field | Arizona Spring Break Fiesta | @ Tucson, Arizona

  • March 16 | 11 a.m. | Women’s tennis | Kansas | @ Lawrence, Kansas