BYU basketball: Cougars need plenty of wins with soft schedule

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

With a weak non-conference schedule, BYU basketball will need to rack up plenty of wins in 2017-18 to be in NCAA Tournament contention.

BYU basketball announced its 13-game non-conference schedule for 2017-18, and one word could appropriately describe their slate of games.


Excluding exhibition games, BYU basketball’s non-conference schedule this year consists of:

  • Mississippi Valley State
  • at Princeton
  • UT Arlington
  • Niagara
  • vs Alabama (Barclay’s Center Classic)
  • vs UMass (Barclay’s Center Classic)
  • at UVU
  • at Utah State
  • Illinois State
  • vs Weber State (Beehive Classic)
  • Utah
  • Idaho State
  • Texas Southern

(See the schedule release here)

There are two ways to begin building an NCAA Tournament resume during the non-conference. First, win all of your games, or at least a high percentage. Second, win one or two games against marquee opponents.

Cross that second path off the list for the Cougars. There aren’t any marquee matchups on that schedule.

There are a few games, however, that can begin to build a solid RPI. Based on last year’s final RPI rankings, BYU basketball’s non-conference foes break down like so:

  • 1-100 RPI – 5 games
  • 100-200 RPI – 5 games
  • 200+ RPI – 3 games

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While the WCC schedule hasn’t been released yet, the opponents are already known. Looking once again at last year’s RPI, BYU basketball’s conference schedule looks like this:

  • 1-100 RPI – six games
  • 100-200 RPI – four games
  • 200+ RPI – eight games

That’s only roughly one-third of BYU’s opponents in the RPI top-100. Winning those games builds RPI strength, but that leaves 20 games that are no-win for the Cougars.  Winning those doesn’t build BYU’s resume, while losing them deals a direct hit to the RPI.

With the lack of marquee matchups on the schedule, winning a lot of games will be paramount.  Of those 20 games against 100+ RPI teams, the Cougars can only afford one, maybe two losses.

That leaves 11 games that will tip the balance of BYU basketball’s season.  Those games to watch are:

  • Princeton
  • UT Arlington
  • Alabama
  • Illinois State
  • Utah
  • Gonzaga (twice)
  • St. Mary’s (twice)
  • San Francisco (twice)

The Cougars will need at least six wins there, to go along with at least 18 wins against the 100+ RPI teams, to be in the NCAA tournament at-large discussion.

Anything more bolsters that resume even more.

Anything less, and it’s another trip to the NIT.