Does BYU basketball have a chance to win the National Championship?

As crazy as it may sound, BYU is showing all the statistical signs of a title contender.
Trevin Knell and Aly Khalifa celebrate a win over Baylor
Trevin Knell and Aly Khalifa celebrate a win over Baylor / Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

I know what you're thinking--if anyone seriously believes that BYU is going to win it all, they're delusional. Pause for a moment and consider this: you were the one who clicked on this article. Surely, you have some morbid curiosity that compelled you to start reading, so I'll make this worth your time.

The most important fact to keep in mind before we get started is obvious but worth mentioning: there are no guarantees in sports. This is great news and bad news for Cougar fans who are just looney enough to believe BYU could win it all. Great news, because that means that as long as BYU is in the NCAA Tournament, they can feasibly get hot and win 6 games in a row on the way to the title. This is also bad news because if that statement gave you the slightest glimmer of hope, you're teetering over the gulch of infinite despair. Let's take a dive, shall we?

BYU fits the profile of a champion

All over social media, I am constantly bombarded with an unrelenting stream of stats nerds defining what it takes to be a national champion and what all national champions have in common. Specifically offensive and defensive efficiency, pace of play paired with net rating, and other incredibly boring metrics that try to make sense of the recipe of a champion.

During a typical season, these stats would grab my attention as I mumble, "ok neat" and jot down a note to recall in March when I fill out my bracket (this year will be perfect, I'm certain of it). 2023-24 has not been a typical season for BYU, and I can't help but follow as internet statisticians tell me with no human bias that BYU fits the profile of a champion.

BYU has also been a mainstay at the top of the NET Ratings, despite some ugly losses to bubble or non-tournament level teams. The Cougars currently sit at 11th in the NET rankings and have reached as high as the number 1 team in that metric earlier in the season. While determining the tournament field for Selection Sunday.

Of course, statistics are for nerds, and statistics alone can't win a championship despite what Moneyball tries to tell you. History tells us that BYU isn't the kind of team that you should write down as the winner of your March Madness bracket. They don't have the pedigree and out-of-nowhere successes rarely reach the Final Four. But has BYU's product on the floor shown us enough to believe that they are more than a statistical darling?

Does BYU have an adequate resume?

When looking at a team's resume, I often search for consistency. Key wins and bad losses are important, but if the good wins and bad losses are outliers, I don't always trust a team like that to win enough big games in a row to make a serious run at the title. For example, West Virginia beat Kansas earlier this season, but that doesn't mean that West Virginia is on Kansas' level.

Good Wins: SDSU, @UCF, Iowa State, Baylor

Bad Losses: Cincy, @Ok State

Some very impressive wins on the resume, and only a few bad losses looks good for BYU's season, but I'm most interested in how the Cougs hold up against tougher competition. BYU has a perfect record in Quad 3 and 4 games, which is great for a team that hopes to win in March. The Cougars win the games they're supposed to--no surprises.

In Quad 1 games, BYU has gone 4-5, with all the "good wins" I listed earlier being the 4 Quad 1 wins on Mark Pope's resume. Among the games they lost, 3 of 5 games were against top-25 opponents. Both non-ranked losses were away games against rival Utah and the second leg of a long road trip from Morgantown, West Virginia to Norman, Oklahoma.

Now, the very best teams win games even when all the odds are against them. BYU hasn't shown much to inspire a realistic expectations of a championship, but they have shown that they can compete with the best teams in the country. In a tournament known for upsets and unexpected turns, if BYU gets hot at the right time, they may have enough firepower to make a deep tournament run. Keep your expectations low, but enjoy the ride. March is going to be fun.

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