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Cougar Sports Roundtable: Defining Success For BYU At Big 12 Tournament

Mar 11, 2024, 6:00 AM

BYU Basketball, Fousseyni Traore, Big 12 Tournament Expectations...

BYU basketball forward Fousseyni Traore helps guide the Cougars into the Big 12 Tournament this week in Kansas City. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

(Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

The Cougar Sports Roundtable is a weekly BYU basketball, football, and athletics feature on KSL Sports with KSL NewsRadio’s Cougar Sports Saturday & Cougar Nation team of BYU Insider Mitch HarperMatt Baiamonte, and Nate Slack. You can listen to them on Saturdays from Noon to 3 p.m. on 102.7 FM, 1160 AM, or On-Demand on the Cougar Sports Saturday podcast.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It’s for another week of the Cougar Sports Roundtable.

This week’s three questions focus on BYU basketball. The guys share their reaction to BYU basketball being snubbed from the three All-Big 12 teams. Their expectations for BYU at this week’s Big 12 Tournament and where the 2024 team ranks among the all-time squads in program history.

What was your reaction to BYU basketball being snubbed from the All-Big 12 teams?

Matt Baiamonte: I was happy to see Jaxson Robinson win the Sixth Man of the Year award. His sacrifice and willingness to put the team first are among many reasons this team exceeded expectations.

Regarding the lack of players selected for the All-Big 12 teams, I expected it. This team has been fun to watch because they are truly a team. There isn’t any one player that stands out above the rest.

In my opinion, either Robinson or Spencer Johnson should have been selected for the third team. However, it’s important to remember how talented this team is. It’s hard to argue with any of the selections made in front of those players. It’s a special league and it’s remarkable that BYU finished 5th this season.

Mitch Harper: I was surprised.

Jaxson Robinson or Dallin Hall deserved to be Third Team All-Big 12. But as Matt noted, who do you take off the list?

There’s an argument to be made that Mark Pope deserved more consideration for Coach of the Year in the conference. But Houston’s Kelvin Sampson’s carrying over his success in the AAC to the Big 12 speaks to how great that program is right now.

Nate Slack: Honestly, I wasn’t surprised.

BYU lacked the star power other teams had, but that’s kind of what has made this team so fun. BYU had a balanced attack all year and you never knew who would have the hot hand.

They have seven different players averaging more than nine points per game, which is incredible. I think there probably should’ve been at least one BYU guy to make an All-Big 12 team, but I would’ve had a bigger gripe had Jaxson Robinson not been the Sixth Man of the Year.

How would you define success for BYU in this week’s Big 12 Tournament?

Baiamonte: Finding a way to the semifinal round would be a big success for this team. However, I have little interest in this tournament.

If I were forced to choose between a Big 12 championship and a Sweet Sixteen appearance, I wouldn’t hesitate to celebrate an early exit.

If BYU were to make it to the Big 12 championship game they will have played four games in four days. That’s not ideal prior to the NCAA tournament. I don’t think there’s much to gain, and there’s a whole lot more to lose.

They need to win their opening round, and then anything after that won’t play much of a role on their seed line coming next Sunday.

Harper: If BYU made a run to the Championship game and played the four games in four days as you noted, they would likely have a win over the nation’s number one team, Houston.

I bring that up because why settle for a 5-seed? Keep moving up the seed lines as high as you can.

If BYU makes a run to the Big 12 Championship Game, it should be in the conversation for a 3-seed in the NCAA Tournament next week.

But at a minimum, get to the semifinals.

I’m not a believer in the rest argument. When you’re playing well, you want to keep playing.

The WCC offered long, extended rests for the NCAA Tournament. BYU never advanced to the Round of 32 in their four appearances when they were in the WCC.

Slack: Win the first game.

BYU doesn’t need to make a run in this tournament to validate what they’ve accomplished so far. Winning one game will lock up at least a 5-seed with a chance to move up from there. So, for me, winning one game is a success because you put yourself in a position to play the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament in Salt Lake City.

Where do you rank this year’s BYU basketball among the all-time great teams in program history?

Baiamonte: This is not yet one of the great teams in BYU basketball history. Let’s see what this team does in the big dance.

However, it’s been one of the more enjoyable teams to watch because of the style of play and the cast of characters.

One night, Robinson hits several three-pointers. On other nights, Richie Saunders or Aly Khalifa steals the show.

It’s hard to predict what this team can do in March Madness. If they can get hot and win a few games, then I’d be willing to call this one of the great teams in the history of BYU basketball.

One thing we can all agree on is it’s nice to be relevant again in March.

Harper: This might be the deepest team BYU has assembled in the last 30 years. There’s no glaring weakness with this team.

They don’t have the star power that Jimmer, Jackson Emery, and Brandon Davies provided in 2010 and 2011, but this team’s depth far exceeds that one.

I think this year’s team is already Top 10 among the greatest BYU teams ever. I’d give the best-ever nod to Danny Ainge’s squad in 1981.

If they make a run in the Big 12 Tournament and get to the Round of 32 in the NCAAs, I’d say they are a Top Five team of all-time. They could enter the greatest team ever conversation if they reach the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

Slack: This may be crazy, but I’d put them at number five all-time.

Right now, I’d put them behind the 1981, 2009, 2011, and 2020 teams. That 2009 team doesn’t get enough love. Jimmer and Michael Loyd Jr. took down Florida in OT before falling to Kansas State in the round of 32. If BYU can make it to the Sweet Sixteen, they’ll pass up 2009 and 2020.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and hosts the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X: @Mitch_Harper.

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Cougar Sports Roundtable: Defining Success For BYU At Big 12 Tournament