<
>

NCAA tournament would swap schedule if BYU Cougars reach Sweet 16

In 2003, the NCAA tournament selection committee erroneously scheduled BYU to potentially play a Sunday game in the second weekend, timing that violated the Mormon school's policy that prohibits competition on Sundays.

At the time, the message from the committee was that it would not happen again.

On Sunday, however, the committee put itself in the same bind when it placed BYU in the 2021 NCAA tournament's East Region in a bracket that, as presently arranged, would position the Cougars to play a Sweet 16 game on March 28, a Sunday.

The NCAA has announced a contingency plan, however, that would swap the East and Midwest regions' playing dates if the Cougars win two games and make the Sweet 16, which the team last reached in 2011.

The move would mean the East teams, currently scheduled to play their Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games on March 28 and March 30, a Sunday and a Tuesday, would swap with the Midwest Region, which has games scheduled for March 27 and March 29, Saturday and Monday. If BYU reaches the Sweet 16, the East's games would move to those dates to accommodate the Cougars -- a move that would reduce the region's days of rest between games to four -- and the Midwest would play the Sunday-Tuesday stretch, allowing those teams to gain an additional day of rest between games (six).

"That contingency will only be utilized in the event that BYU were to advance to the Sweet 16," Dan Gavitt, the NCAA's men's basketball vice president, said on NCAA.com. "If they do not, then there would be no change to dates for any teams for regionals."

The other two regions would not be affected by BYU's advancement to the Sweet 16.

Per David Worlock, NCAA spokesman, the committee anticipated the challenge with BYU months ago and had its contingency plan ready.

"It wasn't a reaction to anything unexpected," said Worlock, adding that the NCAA statement was intended to avoid any confusion about the potential swap.

Mark Pope's Cougars led Gonzaga by 12 points at halftime of their matchup in the West Coast Conference championship last week.

To reach the Sweet 16 for the first time in a decade, BYU, a 6-seed, will have to get through the winner of the First Four game between Michigan State and UCLA, then defeat the winner of the Texas-Abilene Christian first-round matchup.

BYU has made 37% of its 3-point attempts this season.

During its battle with the NCAA over its Sunday rule more than 20 years ago, BYU said competition on that day would violate religious principles supported by the institution.

"The NCAA has recognized that colleges and universities should not have to sacrifice athletic opportunities in order to maintain their religious tenets," said BYU president Merrill J. Bateman in 1998, when the NCAA reversed course and reinstituted its commitment to honoring BYU's rule.