The Cougar Cagers have had an interesting season this year. It’s been a season with very few home games, tough schedule, great performances, and sometimes bad performances. With five games left, BYU sits at 17-9 and sole possession of 2nd place in the West Coast Conference at 9-4. The ultimate question that remains with the 2013-2014 Cagers is will they get back to the NCAA Tournament? In my opinion, it is a must that this team make it into the big dance. Here’s a few reasons why.
- For Tyler Haws & Matt Carlino to get Big Dance experience
If BYU makes it to the NCAA Tournament this year, the odds are stacked against them to actually advance. Why? Last season, BYU went to the NIT which snapped a six-year streak of NCAA appearances for the Cougars. The last time BYU went into an NCAA Tournament and advancing one year after missing the Big Dance was back in 1971. The Cougars took down Utah State in that season. In 1970, BYU didn’t go to a postseason tournament.
What does all this historic stuff have to do with Haws and Carlino? See, next season these two will be heading into their senior campaigns. If they don’t get that taste of the NCAA Tournament now, it’ll be tough for them as seniors to get in and make a deep run. History just isn’t in their favor and BYU’s favor with advancing in the tourney without having that experience from the prior year.
Yes, Haws and Carlino both had tournament experience as freshmen in their respective seasons, but they were role players on those teams teams. Starters? Yes. But they weren’t the key cogs like they are looked to be now in the program. These guys are key contributors to the success of this BYU Basketball team. They need a taste of the big dance this year, win or lose, to maybe set up a second-weekend run next year with them as senior leaders.
- Youth on this team
This ties in to my first bullet point. This team has zero seniors. Eric Mika will be a huge loss after this year when he leaves for a LDS mission, but everyone else of significance will return. Then you will add two quality transfers in Chase Fischer from Wake Forest, and Jamaal Aytes from UNLV. Then Jordan Chatman comes home from a mission to help in the backcourt. Next years squad could be something special. These young guys on this years team need to bring BYU back to appearing in the dance.
- Changes outlook on the season
This season has had mixed reviews. There are so many good things about this team, and then there has been many frustrating moments that have driven us to the point where we have contemplated taking uppers and downers to get through games. All in all, it hasn’t been a dull season to say the least. But an NCAA Tournament is always something special that changes everyone’s views on a season.
BYU right now, would be one of the last teams in the field of 68 if the season ended today according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. If the cagers can get in it would say a lot about this team overcoming the adversity of a four-game losing streak in December, the head-scratching losses to the likes of Portland, and the games where they came up short against top 10 teams in Iowa State and Wichita State. It would also say a lot about the West Coast Conference. You can have an up and down season in this league and still make it to the dance. Something that very few felt was possible when BYU made the move to the WCC in 2011.
- The chance for One Shining Moment
When it comes to the NCAA Tournament, BYU hasn’t been known to advance very often. After day one of the tournament is completed, my bracket has usually been shot and thrown in the trash because my Final Four pick, BYU, was ousted by a hot shooting team that went off for career highs from unlikely sources.
BYU has had many heartbreaking moments in the tournament. 27 appearances in, and the Cougars hold the dubious honor of being the team with the most tournament appearances without advancing to the Final Four. But every year and every new NCAA Tournament bid brings new hope. If you get into the tournament you have a chance to have Luther Vandross singing at the end of the tournament on a Monday night in April while you cut down the nets.
Let’s get our dancing shoes on BYU and make some noise this March.