BYU basketball: Cougars talk up their NCAA credentials
Berth • BYU players say WCC-tourney win shouldn't be required.
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Provo • Not long after BYU scratched its way past Portland 76-66 in front of another sellout crowd of 22,700 at the Marriott Center on Senior Night, the questions started coming for the Cougars and their coach.

Does BYU need to win the West Coast Conference tournament next week to make it into the NCAA Tournament as the league's automatic qualifier, or have the Cougars done enough to ensure themselves an at-large bid?

As usual, coach Dave Rose wasn't biting.

"We will have to see how the tournament goes," he said. "Hopefully we can go down there [to Las Vegas] and play well."

Earlier, when asked how many WCC teams should go to the NCAAs, Rose replied: "It doesn't matter what I think. I think it is a great league. I think there are really competitive teams [in it], and I think our team has played really well all year long. Hopefully we can win this [WCC] tournament."

The Cougars placed third in their inaugural season in the WCC with a 12-4 league record, going 6-2 at home and on the road. They are 24-7 overall, with six wins against teams with top-100 RPIs. Their own RPI is in the 40s.

"I don't think we necessarily have to win [the conference tournament]," said Noah Hartsock, who did not play Saturday due to soreness in his left knee. "I think we have had a good, solid year, really strong, and we are playing well right now. ... I think we are going to have a good run in the conference tournament."

With Hartsock not playing, Charles Abouo was BYU's only senior on the floor, and he responded with 16 points, eight rebounds and two steals.

"If I was the [NCAA Selection] Committee, I wouldn't think we actually have to win that [conference tournament] to get us in there," Abouo said. "I think we are good enough to get in there, regardless, but I think when you win your conference tournament, you can control your own destiny."

The Cougars begin the tournament at Orleans Arena in a quarterfinal game Friday night at 9 p.m. MST against the winner of the Pepperdine-San Diego game, which will be played Thursday night.

drew@sltrib.com —

BYU's NCAAs résumé

• 24-7 overall record, third place in WCC (12-4)

• 8-3 road record

• 6-6 record against Top-100 RPI teams