Cougars have a week to forget

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(PROVO) - Sometimes, bad weeks happen. The weekend, the car is out of gas, the children are sick, there is too much to do and not enough time at work - whatever could go wrong, seems to be doing so.

Last week was one of those weeks for the BYU men's basketball team.

The Cougars came into the week, with games against San Diego and San Francisco, hoping to build momentum before the final month of the season and potentially a run in the NCAA tournament. Sophomore point guard Matt Carlino had picked up the West Coast Conference player of the week award for his outstanding play, and the team wanted to get two wins before going into their bye week.

Instead, BYU lost to San Diego on the road, 74-68, and then came home to lose to San Francisco, 99-87. How bad was this week?

BYU had been holding their opponents to an average of 67.5 points per game on the season. The last two games, BYU allowed an average of 86.5 - a 19 point difference. BYU committed 21 fouls per game, sending their opponent to the free throw line 50 times in the two games.

The loss against San Francisco was the first season where they reached 80 points and did not win. BYU had been 13-0 in games where they scored 80 points or more, and outscored their opponents by an average of 20 points in those games.

Carlino, who had been lava hot, went into a cryogenic state. Here are his numbers from his player of the week games, compared to his numbers last week.

Carlino's past two weeks

BYU guard Matt Carlino dribbles around a screen against San Diego in a game last week.
BYU guard Matt Carlino dribbles around a screen against San Diego in a game last week.

Not exactly the results they were hoping for.

"None of us are giving up," BYU forward Brandon Davies said after the loss to San Francisco. "We have a choice. We can either back down or we can fight our way through it."

What are the Cougars looking at after a week of misery? BYU still remains in third place in the conference, behind No. 5 ranked Gonzaga and Saint Mary's. BYU is 2.5 games behind the Gaels, who are on a nine-game win streak, with their last loss coming on the road against the Bulldogs. Gonzaga travels to Moraga to play Saint Mary's on Valentine's Day, in a game that will likely decide the conference.

What are the hopes for BYU in the NCAA tournament?

Joe Lunardi of ESPN has BYU in the "next four out" section, putting them behind Temple, Maryland, Villanova, and Virginia in the running for a berth to participate in March Madness.

For BYU to have any shot of playing in the NCAA tournament, they will need to win all of their remaining games (vs Portland, Utah State, Gonzaga; at Saint Mary's, Loyola Marymount). Those opponents combined win record is 78-44, with a majority of those losses coming from Loyola Marymount and Portland.

Ken Pomeroy has BYU ranked No. 58, with the next closest West Coast team, Santa Clara, at No. 74. The Pomeroy rankings for the remaining teams: Gonzaga 9, Saint Mary's 21, Utah State 101, Loyola Marymount 244, Portland 273.

The difficult schedule shows how important those two weeks were for BYU. Gonzaga beat BYU by 20 points in January. Saint Mary's won on a last-second shot in Provo. Will the Cougars be able to defeat the conference leaders?

Last season, the Cougars were able to secure an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, playing Iona to earn the right to play Marquette as a 14 seed. Marquette, led by Jae Crowder, beat BYU 88-68, ending the season for BYU and the careers of Noah Hartsock and Charles Abuou.

Saint Mary's and Gonzaga both earned a 7 seed. Gonzaga defeated West Virginia while Saint Mary's lost to Purdue. If BYU is able to win the WCC Championship, they would have to hope that the selection committee rewards their postseason conference play over their regular season record.

"All we can worry about is our game Saturday," Davies said. "We can't look past anybody now; we can't look to what's going to happen in the future."

If BYU loses again, perhaps it is time for fans to start looking at travel destinations for NIT games.

BYU will look to right the ship against the Portland Pilots next Saturday. The game begins at 7:00 pm MST, with pregame coverage on KSL Radio beginning an hour before tipoff.

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Dan Lewis


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