BYU loses out on No. 5 seed in Salt Lake City

ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has had BYU clinching the No. 5 seed in all his NCAA tournament projections since late February. 

On Sunday, his projections even included BYU facing Grand Canyon in Salt Lake City.

It seemed a perfect set up with BYU facing a lower 12-seed to start the tournament and getting a boost from hoards of hometown fans being able to drive over to the game, but that would prove not to be the case.

Instead, BYU slid down to a No. 6 seed, are playing the Atlantic 10 tournament champs in Duquesne, and will be doing so in Omaha, Nebraska. 

No one projected this.

“I am disappointed for our fanbase. I think it would have been really special for Cougar Nation to be able to be in that gym,” said BYU coach Mark Pope.

BYU fans quickly began speculating on X to get to the bottom of it. They expressed confusion and others frustration at the fact that BYU was placed 17 overall by the committee, but were seeded where teams placed 21-25 should be.

Additionally, some teams like San Diego State and Gonzaga that were ranked lower leapfrogged the Cougars to gain No. 5 seeds.

The answers seemed to come as the evening went on. Despite calls of the NCAA committee being biased or not knowing BYU’s game, the consensus seemed to agree it came down to BYU not playing Sundays.

“After the committee released the full seeding, BYU was the first 5 seed at 17 overall, but no Sunday play pushed BYU down to a 6-seed,” said BYU sports analyst Jarom Jordan on X.

This seemed to be confirmed, as a CBS panel said that the committee Charles McClelland told them that Gonzaga was a No. 6 seed, but got moved up, because BYU had to be on a Thursday-Saturday rotation.

Though the No. 5 seeds don’t all play their first or second rounds on Sunday, they all would have led to games further down the line that are. Consequently, the No. 6 seed was the next highest seed available that would allow BYU to avoid Sunday play.

Understandably, this would be difficult to swallow for most BYU fans. Having a lower seed would typically mean harder opponents. However, the committee did throw the Cougars a bone in how they matched them up. Of the four No. 11 seeds, Duquesne looks easiest to beat according to the metrics.

North Carolina State, Oregon, and New Mexico are ranked 58th, 55th, and 23rd in KenPom, respectively. While Duquesne is ranked 86th, making three of the four No. 12 seeds on paper ranked higher with Grand Canyon, the team that BYU was projected to play as a No. 5 seed, actually ranking better in the KenPom.

So the matchup is essentially a 5-12 matchup in disguise, as BYU had to be underseeded and Duquesne appears to have been overseeded.

BYU’s seeding was less than straightforward and might take awhile to explain to your grandma, but the Cougars are just looking to get ready for Duquesne.

“It’s a great team. They’re the A-10 champs, and that’s no easy feat. They’re playing elite level basketball. We know intimately how good this Dayton team is, and they ran them out of the gym earlier in the tournament,” said Pope.

They don’t care about the seeding as much as being given a chance to play in the tournament.

“It doesn’t matter what your record was as long as you make it in, so (we’re) just making sure we come prepared and ready to play,” said BYU guard Jaxson Robinson.

BYU will play Duquesne on Thursday, March 21, at 10:40 AM MDT on TruTv.

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