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Does Mark Pope Intend To Have BYU Basketball Play In 2021 WCC Tournament?

Feb 16, 2021, 10:35 PM | Updated: Feb 17, 2021, 12:17 am
Mark Pope - BYU Basketball...
BYU basketball head coach Mark Pope coaching his team against No. 1 Gonzaga on February 8th, 2021. (BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)
(BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)

PROVO, Utah – Does the 2021 WCC Tournament in Las Vegas include a field without BYU and undefeated Gonzaga?

If there is anything we’ve learned this past year in college sports, expect the unexpected. We are still living in a pandemic, creating unprecedented times and circumstances.

On Tuesday afternoon, Oregonian columnist and radio host John Canzano reported that BYU and Gonzaga “are weighing whether they should opt-out of the West Coast Conference basketball tournament.”

If the NCAA Tournament were taking place today, Gonzaga would be the No. 1 overall seed in the field of 68. We learned that this past weekend when the selection committee revealed its top 16 teams. For BYU, they are comfortably in the big dance as an at-large bid according to the Bracket Matrix, which compiles over 100 bracketology projections. The Cougars right now check-in as an eight-seed.

It’s not about avoiding competition. As has everyone else in the WCC, both programs have been annual fixtures in the conference showcase in Vegas. Gonzaga hasn’t lost to a team not named BYU or Saint Mary’s in the conference since 2014. They aren’t ducking anyone. Nor is BYU. BYU was working the phones frantically last week to pick up another game while their two previously scheduled WCC games were postponed.

This year is different, though.

The NCAA requires what they deem “Tier 1 personnel” to have seven days of negative COVID-19 tests before arriving in Indianapolis for this year’s NCAA Tournament.

Why risk your team’s health in a city that will feature conference tournaments for nearly every league in the Western United States? It’s a fair question to ask in these unusual and unprecedented times.

BYU basketball opting out of WCC Tournament? Mark Pope responds.

BYU head coach Mark Pope was asked by the Voice of the Cougars, Greg Wrubell, on his weekly coaches show (KSL NewsRadio, Tuesday, 9 p.m.) about Canzano’s tweet and if he intends to send his team to the WCC Tournament this March.

“Yeah, I mean, listen, my intent right now is to go play on Thursday [against Pacific], although we’ve been this close to several games where we’ve actually flown out, and the game hasn’t happened,” Pope replied. “That’s the point of intent right now. We’re kind of taking this minute-by-minute. That’s why it’s a little bit silly for anyone to imagine they can set anything in stone right now.”

Last week, Gonzaga head coach Mark Few was asked by ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt about what he would like to see for the WCC Tournament.

“I think there’s probably a way to do it. And it probably isn’t gathering, you know, maybe all 10 teams together down in Vegas,” Few said. “Whether it’s taking the top three up to Spokane and playing it off up thereafter, they settle it earlier, or something along those lines. So I think everybody’s putting some good thought into it, and I think we’ll come to a good conclusion when it’s time.”

Conferences have until February 26 to submit to the NCAA how their auto-bid will be handled this season. If Gonzaga and BYU both opted out, teams like Pepperdine and Saint Mary’s would probably jump for joy at that thought. But, does the NCAA step in and reign that in to avoid bid manipulation? We shall see.

BYU is 15-5 overall and 6-3 in WCC play this season. The Cougars return to action Thursday, February 18, on the road against Pacific in Stockton. Tip-off is at 6 p.m. and can be heard on KSL NewsRadio and seen on CBS Sports Network.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m., KSL Newsradio). Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper and the KSL Sports app.

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