Well ... do you?
Barring an unforeseen loss down the stretch -- BYU still has games versus New Mexico and Wyoming, as well as the Mountain West tournament, which is likely to feature a rematch with San Diego State -- that might become the most pertinent and challenging question the NCAA tournament selection committee has to answer as it seeds and selects the field March 13. Does BYU deserve a No. 1 seed? If so, why? If not, why not?
It's also a question for bracket-obsessed college hoops fans: How far will you have BYU advancing when it comes time to put down the pencil and pick up the pen? With Jimmer Fredette at the helm, following an impressive nationally televised road win over a top-10 team, are you all-in on the Cougars?
Saturday afternoon, in an attempt to see what people thought about the seeding question, I conducted an informal poll on Twitter. The results? Undecided. Some said "absolutely." Others were baffled I even asked in the first place. ("Uh, no" was a common response.)
Frankly, it's a bit of a unfair question. There are at least five legitimate competitors for the four No. 1 seeds, all of whom could still make a claim at a spot on the top line. (And yes, Texas' chances took a major hit Saturday with a loss to Colorado, but a strong finish in the Big 12 tournament could still keep the Longhorns alive.) The dynamic between late-season play and overall body of work is going to play a major role, and conference tournament results could be deciding factors between the slimmest of profile differences on Selection Sunday. The chase, as they say, is on.
Maybe a more pertinent poll, then, would have gone something like this: How far are you riding the Jimmer train? Do you think BYU is a legitimate national title contender? Or do you think the Cougars are ripe for an upset on the first or second week of the tournament?
Let's go to the tape. For starters, here are some reasons BYU die-hards and bandwagon riders might cite to back up their enthusiasm:
BYU has Jimmer. Jimmer is really, really good. Far worse teams than this one -- think Davidson with Stephen Curry -- have ridden singular stars to deep tournament runs before. Guard play is an all-important factor in the college game and especially in the NCAA tournament.
The rest of the Cougars are pretty good themselves, and when teams focus too much on Fredette, complementary pieces like Jackson Emery, Noah Hartsock, Brandon Davies and Charles Abouo can hurt you inside and out. Also, with Davies patrolling the paint, the Cougars are more athletic and tougher defensively than in years past.
BYU's schedule (strength of schedule: 14) and conference (the Mountain West) are not nearly as bad as you'd typically expect from a non-power-six team. The "they haven't played anyone" rap doesn't apply this year.
The Cougars have some impressive performance-based statistics to back up that gaudy record, and they aren't just an offensive juggernaut. Dave Rose's squad entered Saturday as the No. 7-ranked team in the nation according to Ken Pomeroy, thanks to some highly efficient traits on both ends of the floor. The Cougars don't necessarily need to shoot the lights out to win, either. In fact, their best offensive factor is that low turnover rate -- 15.5 as of this writing -- that ranks them No. 3 in the nation overall.
Oh, and BYU has Jimmer. He's pretty good. Did I mention that already?
So, yes, there are a lot of reasons to like this BYU team in your bracket. But detractors and disbelievers have their reasons, too:
Who has BYU really beaten? Cougars fans won't like this argument, but it isn't entirely far-fetched, and it hinges on how good you think the Aztecs -- and the other top teams in the Mountain West -- really are. If you think San Diego State is a tad overrated (again, not far-fetched, based on what we saw Saturday afternoon), then you might not be all that enthusiastic about the Cougars' two wins over SDSU, which are basically BYU's best wins of the season. The other top-50 RPI wins all either came against UNLV, Colorado State, Utah State or Arizona. If you think San Diego State is as good as advertised, then you might not mind all this. But if you have your questions -- not to mention the sinking feeling that Saturday's game didn't look like two No. 1 seed, Final Four-caliber contenders -- then BYU's record doesn't do much to salve those concerns.
If Brigham Young goes cold, the Cougars could be vulnerable. No, BYU doesn't live and die by the 3-pointer -- see that second-to-last bullet above -- but they do excel when they're sticking open 3s, and they do take their fair share. About 36 percent of the Cougars' field goal attempts are 3s, which ranks them in the top 100 percentage-wise nationally. That's not a ton, but it's not a small mark, and if the Cougars hit a freak slump in the tournament, a huge chunk of their offense goes by the wayside.
Jimmer can be guarded by athletic opponents. BYU doubters (and Nolan Smith/Kemba Walker/Jared Sullinger player of the year advocates) have used this to justify all sorts of things this season, from why Jimmer shouldn't be player of the year (he only beats up on weak competition!) to why BYU isn't the real deal. I don't agree. Jimmer has scored against pretty much everyone throughout his career, and last season's 37-point performance against Florida in the first round of the NCAA tournament speaks to that. But Saturday's game did lend some credence to this theory. When Jimmer was guarded by Billy White -- SDSU's long, strong stretch wing -- he went 3-13 from the field and 0-of-7 on isolation plays, according to ESPN Research. When Jimmer was guarded by anyone else, he went 5-of-10 and scored 17 of his 25 points. If BYU meets a team with an athletic, intelligent defender that can make things difficult for Jimmer without needing a double-team -- these sorts of players don't grow on trees, but there will be more than a few of them in the bracket -- then BYU's offense could stagnate.
The eye test. I hate the eye test, but if you doubt the Cougars, your eyes probably have something to do with it. Ask a casual fan to watch BYU -- my roommates are a pretty good example -- and they often come away unimpressed. Whether fair or unfair, they might have a point. Is BYU really good enough to hang with, say, Kansas? Pittsburgh? Ohio State?
We've been here before, and BYU has let us down both times, a trend ESPN Insider's John Gasaway noted all the way back in early January. Yes, this team is better than either of the past two seasons. But Jimmer hasn't exactly come out of nowhere. He's been a top player for three seasons in Provo, and BYU has been impressive on a per-possession basis in each of those seasons. And yet, in March, the Cougars have disappointed. In 2009, BYU ended the season ranked No. 21 in the nation in adjusted efficiency; that team lost in the first-round to Texas A&M. Last season, BYU finished 30-6 and ranked No. 10 in adjusted efficiency; the Cougars didn't make it past the first weekend. That might be coincidence more than anything. The tournament is a pretty small sample size, and BYU did lose to Kansas State in 2010, a team that eventually went all the way to the Elite Eight. But it does raise concerns, a little like Wisconsin, that this efficient, impressive regular season team can't translate that success to college basketball's biggest stage. That goes for the entire Mountain West, actually. As Gasaway noted, since 2000 the MWC has sent 26 teams to the NCAA tournament. Only two of them have made it to Sweet 16.
In the end, as it always does, BYU's chances of making a deep tourney run will come down to matchups, seeding and location. Your bracket projections might have to be adjusted accordingly.
My answer? I buy the Cougars. I'm not worried about a relative lack of postseason success in the past. Nor am I particularly concerned about a batch of cold shooting. Yes, Jimmer & Co. could go cold in the tournament, but you could say that about any team. And I'm not one to poke holes in BYU's schedule. The Mountain West has been solid all season, and at some point, you have to give a team credit for winning the games it has won. It's not easy to get to 27 wins -- or 30 wins, or whatever BYU will end up with this season -- no matter who you play. And BYU has played plenty of tough teams.
As we've learned multiple times this season, it's never a good idea to doubt The Jimmer. Nor is it wise to sleep on Jimmer's supporting cast.
Your results may vary, but right now, I'm banging Jim Cramer's "buy buy buy!" button to annoying effect. Be skeptical if you want, but don't be surprised when the Cougars prove you wrong in the tournament. You were warned.