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Are they in or are they out?
The BYU men's basketball team faced that seemingly annual question about the at-large chances bid chances for the NCAA Tournament a few months ago.
Now it is the baseball team's turn as the Cougars prepare for the West Coast Conference tournament this weekend at Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton, Calif.
The No. 2-seeded Cougars (37-15), who tied with Gonzaga (33-16) and Saint Mary's (30-23) for the WCC regular-season title, will open the tournament on Thursday against the No. 3 Zags. Top-seeded SMC will tangle with No. 4 Pepperdine at 4 p.m. in the double-elimination tournament.
The champion will get the conference's automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
With an RPI around 50, BYU probably needs to make it to the tournament's championship game to get an at-large bid, coach Mike Littlewood has said.
The Cougars started the season 19-1 and were ranked as high as No. 16 in the country in April before injuries started to take their toll. They've won five of their past six games, the only loss in that stretch an 8-1 nonconference setback to Utah, which is still contending for a Pac-12 regular-season title and that league's automatic berth.
"We feel really good about the way we are playing right now, and although we've had a couple injuries on the mound we have had guys step up and get the job done," Littlewood said. "It's been a rewarding season and the guys have put it on the line every night, but we all know we haven't reached our main goal of reaching the NCAA Tournament."
All four teams in the WCC tournament have an ace on the mound. BYU's junior right-hander Michael Rucker earned all-conference first-team honors and is 11-0 with a 2.58 earned run average.
BYU's Brennon Lund is also a first-team All-WCC selection, and Keaton Kringlen, from Cedar City, is the WCC Freshman of the Year. Colton Shaver was voted second team all-WCC; Brennon Anderson, Tanner Chauncey, Hayden Nielsen and Eric Urry received honorable mention accolades.
BYU went 2-1 against Gonzaga this season, but all three games were played in Provo.
"The opening day of our tournament will feature four starting pitchers who will be playing professional baseball soon so it really doesn't matter who we play," Littlewood said.
West Coast Conference Tournament
P At Banner Island Ballpark, Stockton, Calif.
Thursday's opening round
• No. 1 Saint Mary's vs. No. 4 Pepperdine, 4 p.m. MDT
• No. 2 BYU vs. No. 3 Gonzaga, 8 p.m. MDT
BYU Radio • ESPN 960 AM, BYU radio, Sirius Ch. 143