Cougars think they've made NCAA case

Brigham Young can only watch and cheer against the underdogs playing in conference basketball tournaments this weekend. Every upset decreases BYU's chances of receiving an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.

Most projections have the Cougars (25-8) making the field of 68, but a 77-58 loss to Gonzaga on Saturday in a West Coast Conference tournament semifinal at Orleans Arena placed their fate in the hands of the NCAA selection committee.

"There is no question I believe this group belongs in the tournament," coach Dave Rose said. "We have won at home, we have won consistently on the road and we have won on neutral courts."

BYU hopes its tournament history can bolster its case. The Cougars have received five consecutive at-large bids and reached the Sweet 16 last year.

"I do think that talking basketball with the people (selection committee) in this room over the last year that there is a lot of respect nationally for our conference and what we have done," said WCC commissioner Jamie Zaninovich, a first-year member of the selection committee.

"I won't be in the room during any discussions or any votes on BYU or any other team in our conference. I'm confident that (BYU) has built an NCAA worthy profile, but that doesn't always translate to inclusion into the tournament. It just depends on how things shake out."

The tournament field will be announced Sunday.

■ WELL PREPARED -- The Cougars' women's basketball team (26-6) on Monday will learn its first-round opponent for the NCAA Tournament. BYU played a tough nonconference schedule, starting with a season-opening 61-55 home loss to No. 8 Duke on Nov. 11.

"That is part of the reason we scheduled some hard games," coach Jeff Judkins said. "We needed to have that experience of playing good teams and not be afraid. Those early games helped us and got us through when things were tough. We knew we could do it."

The nonconference schedule included a loss at Kansas State (59-46) and home victories over Wisconsin (77-59), UNR (84-53) and Utah (63-58). The Cougars also defeated Syracuse (83-59) and Arizona (82-73) at the Hukilau Invitational in Laie, Hawaii.

■ SPRING FOOTBALL BEGINS -- Senior quarterback Riley Nelson hopes to use the month of practice to improve the Cougars' efficiency on offense.

"We will be very good this year if I can turn myself into an efficient distributor," he said. "We have a lot of weapons, and I have to get the ball into their hands in the most effective and efficient way possible."

Nelson completed 111 of 202 passes last season for 1,452 yards and 19 touchdowns, with seven interceptions. He also rushed for 392 yards and a touchdown.

"I like having the ability to bail myself out with my feet, but the less I do that, the better we will be as a team," he said. "My No. 1 goal is high completion percentage, low interceptions and be more of a possession-type quarterback."

■ HEALED UP -- All-America sophomore Taylor Sander returned to BYU's men's volleyball lineup last week and led the No. 5 Cougars to a two-game sweep of No. 10 Pepperdine. Sander had missed eight games with a broken hand.

BYU hosts No. 11 Pacific today and Saturday at 6 p.m. on BYUtv (Cox 352).

Dave McCann is a morning news anchor on KLAS-TV (Channel 8). He hosts "True Blue" at 5 p.m. Monday on BYUtv and is the play-by-play voice for BYUtv. He can be reached at and on Twitter: @davemccann8.