BYU COUGARS

Cougar Sports Roundtable: NCAA Tournament Predictions For BYU Basketball

Mar 18, 2024, 3:07 PM

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.

PROVO, Utah – It’s time for another week of the Cougar Sports Roundtable.

This week’s three questions focus on BYU basketball. The guys share their thoughts on where BYU was slotted in the 2024 NCAA Tournament field.

They also give their predictions on how far BYU basketball will advance in the field of 68. Plus, the guys share who they pick to cut down the nets in Phoenix in April.

What were your thoughts on BYU basketball receiving a No. 6 seed and landing in Omaha for the 2024 NCAA Tournament?

Matt Baiamonte: I thought BYU got a good draw with Duquesne, but I’m having a hard time accepting the sixth-seed position.

They were the 17th team ranked by the committee. It doesn’t take a math expert to understand they were the highest 5th seed by ranking.

How does the top five seed get bumped a seed line because of Sunday play accommodations? It doesn’t make sense.

Because Kansas got Salt Lake City, BYU couldn’t slide in as the fifth seed there because of seeding rules. However, Kansas could have been moved to another four-seed city to allow BYU to get the top fifth-seed spot.

Sunday play hurt the Cougars, plain and simple. It would be easier to swallow losing the seed line if BYU was the last fifth seed by ranking versus being ranked as the top five seed by the committee.

Nate Slack: I’m with Matt; it doesn’t make sense.

I think the NCAA did BYU a favor by giving them a Duquesne over some of the other 11 seeds, but how does the top 5-seed slide all the way down to a No. 6?

I had hoped BYU wouldn’t continue to be under-seeded in the tournament now that they’re a member of the Big 12, but No-Sunday play is an issue that has no fix. I guess we should always expect BYU to land a seed lower than what the experts are even predicting.

Mitch Harper: BYU remains one of the toughest teams to slot in the NCAA Tournament. I don’t fault the NCAA Selection Committee for what they did.

Teams rated above BYU shouldn’t be punished by sliding down seed lines to accommodate BYU’s self-inflicted No-Sunday policy.

The matchup is OK, yes. But seeds do matter in this tournament.

The last time a No. 6 seed reached the Final Four was 32 years ago. It’s the longest Final Four drought for a seed line. Meanwhile, two five-seeds reached the Final Four last year.

BYU has a chance to make history and end that drought. Go prove it. But it’s hard to argue with three decades of trends.

I’m not worried about the landing spot in Omaha, Nebraska. That’s not an issue. It would have been awesome for BYU fans to support their team in Salt Lake. But the bigger issue is the seed.

How far will BYU basketball advance in the Big Dance?

Baiamonte: Duquesne should be a relatively easy win. But the potential second round matchup against Illinois will be challenging. They’ve won seven of their last eight games. I have a hard time picking against the Fighting Illini because they are playing great basketball at the right time of the year.

Who is going to slow down Terrence Shannon Jr? He’s averaging 23 points per game for Illinois as a fifth-year senior.

The Cougars have had trouble slowing down great guard play this season. Because of that, I have to pick Illinois.

However, BYU has shown that it can beat anybody in the country if it makes over 12 three-point shots in the round of 32. That will be the key.

Slack: BYU should get past Duquesne, but it was just shared this morning that their head coach of 26 years, Keith Dambrot, will be retiring at the end of the season. It feels like even when things seem to break BYU’s way, there is always some additional motivating factor that works against the Cougars.

I think BYU still wins the First Round, but it won’t be as easy as it seemed before the announcement.

Like Matt said, a possible Second Round game against Illinois would be tough, but this is where 18 games in the Big 12 slate can really help BYU. They’ve seen more talented teams and won’t be intimidated by another P6 brand. Some experts are picking Morehead State to upset the Fighting Illini, which would be fantastic. I’d love nothing more than to see a BYU – Iowa State rematch in the Sweet 16.

BYU had a great chance to sweep the Cyclones in the regular season but couldn’t hold them off long enough in Ames to complete the upset.

Harper: I’ll say BYU reaches the Round of 32.

Wins in the NCAA Tournament are hard to come by, but if you can get one, that’s a heck of an accomplishment.

Look past the name Duquesne; it’s an NCAA Tournament game. So you know this will be a battle that goes down to the wire.

If this BYU team wins on Thursday, it will become only the seventh Cougar squad to reach the second round since the Danny Ainge era.

Then, after Thursday, it’s house money to me.

If BYU gets paired with Illinois, play loose and go on the attack. The Illini haven’t escaped the first weekend of the Big Dance since that memorable Deron Williams, Dee Brown team in 2005. So, the reigning Big Ten Tournament champions could be tense in that spot.

Which team are you picking to win the 2024 NCAA Tournament?

Baiamonte: I picked Tennessee to win the whole thing over UCONN. I know the Huskies are a trendy pick, but there has been a repeat champion since 2007 when the Florida Gators won back-to-back championships.

Only four of the last 15 defending champions reached the Sweet 16; needless to say, it won’t be easy for the Huskies to repeat.

I thought long and hard about picking Houston to win it all, but I have concerns about their depth in this tournament. I didn’t like their performance in the Big 12 championship game where Iowa State blew their doors off.

Tennessee has one of the best players in the country this year in Dalton Knecht. I think he’ll be one of the big stars of the tournament. However, no team has ever won a national championship after losing their first game in a conference tournament, so my pick is probably dumb. Whatever. This is what makes March Madness so fun!

Slack: Maybe it’s the Big 12 bias, but I’m riding with Houston winning it all over UConn. Houston has a favorable bracket, and I don’t think they’re really tested until an Elite 8 game against Marquette.

Things were clicking all season for them, and though they got blown out in the Big 12 Tournament Championship, I still think they’re the team to beat in this year’s March Madness.

Harper: I’ve got UConn winning it all. Head coach Danny Hurley is the type of coach who can lead a program to back-to-back titles, so I’ll go with the Huskies.

I have Houston representing the Big 12 in the Final Four, along with future Big 12 program Arizona reaching the National Semifinals against UConn.

One thing is for sure: the matchups are going to be wild. The Transfer Portal/NIL era has been good for creating wild outcomes in March Madness. This should be a fun ride.

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: NCAA Tournament Predictions For BYU Basketball