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PROVO — With Saturday's loss to Saint Mary's, the BYU men's basketball team finds itself stuck in fourth place in the West Coast Conference.
With a mediocre 5-3 league record, the likelihood of the team receiving an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament seems unlikely. For all intents and purposes, it appears BYU may have to win out to get a coveted spot in the Big Dance.
The question becomes, can BYU win out? Given the way the team has been playing lately it seems like a tall task. Even with a fully healthy team, the Cougars would need to play a nearly perfect game to beat Gonzaga in Spokane, Washington.
Since that scenario is unlikely, how realistic is it for BYU to win every other remaining game in conference? That task, though stiff, seems much more doable.
To win out (besides against Gonzaga) some things will need to need to change, however. First and foremost, the Cougars are going to need to get healthy. The team has been negatively impacted by injuries to key players in Nate Austin, Tyler Haws, Anson Winder and Kyle Collinsworth. If BYU can get those players fully healthy, it has a much better chance of going on a big run.
Secondly, BYU is going to need a big man to step up. Against Saint Mary's, Cougar bigs were basically non-existent. The only stat Luke Worthington put up against the Gaels was a missed shot in 17 minutes of play. Isaac Nielson and Corbin Kaufusi were likewise ineffective. While it is unrealistic to ask these players to be major contributors on the offensive side of the ball, it is not too much to ask that they provide solid defense and rebounding.
Finally, the Cougars need to have better shot selection. While coach Dave Rose's system encourages 3-point shooting and lightning-paced play, the Cougars need more discipline and take better shots. If they can do these three things, the team has a fighting chance of going into the WCC tournament with just four conference losses.