BYU is 5-0 in the games of February 2012, which will come as little surprise to those who have followed Dave Rose-coached teams through the most important regular season month of the college basketball year.
In his seventh season as BYU's head coach, Rose has compiled a 41-6 record in February, for a sizzling win rate of 87.2%, a percentage surpassing his already stellar career record of 182-51 (78.1%). When the games matter most, Rose's Cougars are most often at their best.
Rose's February success and five consecutive NCAA Tournament berths are closely correlated, and if BYU is to qualify for a sixth straight Dance bid, the Cougars' stretch run will again have played a significant part.
Rose's coaching record has placed him among the very best in the game, both currently and historically:
Active NCAA Division 1 Head Coaches, Career Win Percentage (at least five seasons coaching in D1)
|1||Roy Williams||North Carolina||666-167||79.95|
|4||Thad Matta||Ohio State||314-93||77.15|
NCAA Division 1 Top 10 Best Career Coaching Starts, By Wins, Through 7 Seasons
|3||Everett Case||North Carolina State||1947-1953||187-45||80.60|
|5||Thad Matta||Butler, Xavier, Ohio State||2001-2007||183-53||77.54|
*Note: Rose is in his seventh season.
One of Rose's hallmarks is the ability to coach his team to road wins. In the 55 seasons preceding his appointment, BYU had seven seasons with eight or more away (not including neutral court) wins. In Rose's seven seasons, his teams have won eight or more away games five times--each of the last five seasons. Last season's high-water mark of a 7-1 conference road record can be matched this season; BYU is 6-1 in WCC road games entering Thursday's game at Gonzaga.
This season, BYU has a true away record of 8-2, featuring a current streak of seven consecutive away victories. The last BYU team to win as many as seven consecutive away games was the 1979-80 squad, which reeled off eight straight away victories--still the single-season record. The 1980-81 team won its first away game of the season, setting the school record for most consecutive away wins (spanning seasons) at nine. BYU's final away game of the season will be played this Thursday, giving Rose and the Cougars a chance to tie the existing single-season school record.
Away/neutral wins are an important factor considered by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, and the 2011-12 Cougars' road play has put them in a good position for postseason qualification. BYU's away/neutral record is 11-3; only three of the 45 teams currently ahead of BYU in the current RPI can claim more away/neutral victories (#44 Iona-14, #35 Murray State-12, #31 Harvard-13).
As discussed frequently in this space, when BYU does lose a game, home or away, the Cougars under Dave Rose consistently respond with a victory in their next game. BYU is the only team in the West Coast Conference yet to lose consecutive games at any point this season, and a Rose-coached team last lost back-to-back regular season games on January 17th and 19th, 2009 (at New Mexico, v. UNLV)--more than three years ago.
In seven seasons, Rose's Cougars have never lost three straight regular season games. That is a particularly notable fact, perhaps made more so by the fact that former conference colleague San Diego State (just to name a team) is in the midst of a three-game losing skid, yet remains ranked in both major Top 25 polls. The Aztecs are good, but have lost four of their last six games, something pollsters appear to have ignored. Consistency and resiliency are not always afforded the same respect that popular opinion seems to engender.
Speaking of consistency, BYU is one of only four programs to have won at least 25 games in each of the previous five seasons. Of those four teams, BYU is one of only two that are on pace to hit that mark for a sixth straight season:
Teams with 25+ wins in each of the last five seasons
BYU's 11-3 West Coast Conference record gives BYU ten or more conference wins in seven straight seasons (all seven seasons under Rose), something a BYU team had never before accomplished.
The Cougars are assured of no worse than a 4 seed at the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas, meaning BYU will not have to play on the tourney's second day, when seeds 5 and lower will contest two Second Round games. If BYU finishes as a 3 or 4 seed, it will open play in Friday's tournament quarterfinals; a 1 or 2 seed would give BYU the double-bye to the Saturday semifinals.
With two regular season games left to play, the 1 through 4 seeds are possible for BYU. By winning out (at Gonzaga, v. Portland), the Cougars could do no worse than a 2 seed, with a shared or outright conference championship and 1 seed still a possibility.
Tomorrow, I'll have more on the conference tournament seeding possibilities and tie-breaker scenarios--and there are quite a few in play.