Cougars heading to 12th-straight postseason appearance

Ari Davis
TJ Haws drives towards the net in the game against Gonzaga. Haws and the Cougars will face UT-Arlington in the first round of the NIT. (Ari Davis)

The BYU men’s basketball team is heading to a 12th-straight postseason appearance as a No. 3 seed in the National Invitation Tournament.

As a No. 3 seed in the California quadrant, BYU will host a first-round match up with the UT Arlington Mavericks at the Marriott Center on Wednesday, Mar. 15 at 7 p.m. MDT.

BYU is 1-0 all-time against UT Arlington. The only previous match up between the Cougars and the Mavericks came on Dec. 9, 1988 in Provo as part of the Cougar Classic. BYU won that game 87-70.

The Mavericks went 25-8 this season, winning the regular season Sun Belt Conference title with a 14-4 conference record. They lost in the semifinal round of their conference tournament to Texas State 82-63.

UT Arlington’s resume includes wins at Texas, at LMU, vs Troy and most noticeably a 65-51 win at No. 12 Saint Mary’s. The Mavericks are the only team other than Gonzaga to defeat Saint Mary’s this season.

As a team, UT Arlington is averaging 77.3 points per game while shooting 46 percent from the field and 34 percent from downtown.

UT Arlington is led by junior forward Kevin Herley. Herley is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, dropping 17.1 points per game and grabbing 8.6 rebounds per game.

Three other Mavericks averaged nine or more points per game. Jalen Jones (12.4), Erick Neal (10.4) and Jorge Bilbao (9.3). Neal leads the team with 6.3 assists per game.

The Mavericks will come to Provo with a RPI ranking of 45. BYU is currently ranked 65 in the RPI.

A win on Wednesday would see BYU travel to No. 2 seed Houston or host No. 7 Akron later in the week during the NIT’s second round.

The rival Utah Utes also made the NIT. As a No. 3 seed in the Illinois State quadrant, the Utes will take on Boise State in the first round.

If the Cougars and Utes were to meet on the hardwood this season, it would have to come in the NIT championship game.

The 2017 NIT will feature a few experimental rule changes that the NCAA approved last year for the tournament.

The biggest change will be that team fouls will reset at the 10-minute mark of each half. Instead of shooting 1-and-1 free throws at seven team fouls and shooting the double bonus at 10 fouls, teams will go directly to the double bonus after 5 team fouls in a 10-minute segment.

Additionally, the shot clock will reset to 20 seconds when in-bounded in the front court instead of 30 seconds.

The NCAA will evaluate the data gathered from the NIT and consider further implementation of the changes in upcoming years.

BYU is 18-10 overall in 12 NIT appearances since 1951, winning two championships, the first in 1951 and the second in 1966. This will be the Cougars’ fourth trip to the tournament under coach Dave Rose. Since Rose took over, the Cougars are 6-3 in the NIT with two semifinal appearances and a first round exit to Houston in 2006.

Last year the Cougars made it to the semifinal round of the NIT, losing to Valparaiso 72-70 at Madison Square Garden in New York City after defeating UAB, Virginia Tech and Creighton at the Marriott Center.

The NIT began in 1938, making it the oldest college basketball tournament in the nation. The 32-team field is divided into four quadrants with the first two rounds and quarterfinal games being played at the higher seeded school’s campus. The semifinal games and championship are held in New York City at Madison Square Garden.

The entirety of the 2017 NIT bracket can be viewed here.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email