Location: Marriott Center – Provo, UT
Date: Thursday, February 02, 2012
Time: 9:00 PM TV: ESPN2
When the season started, this was the first game I, and most Cougar fans, circled on the calendar. In my mind, SMC would be tough but the conference championship went through Spokane. This was to be the first match up in this new rival and I was ready for it. Then we saw what these two teams are; battling for second place in a top-heavy WCC with the Cougars very much on the outside looking in for a NCAA berth. The Cougars may not have any “must-wins” on the schedule like they did last year with San Diego State, but this is probably just about as close as it gets. If they want any shot at an at-large berth, they start after it tonight.
What to watch for:
Gonzaga is 17-3 (7-1 WCC) and sits in second place in the WCC. They come in with a mix of youth and experience and play solid team ball. Robert Sacre, the 7’ senior center will be a lot to handle for the much smaller Brandon Davies and Nate Austin. The key to a Cougar victory here will be the reemergence of an outside shot presence. If the Cougars can get it started down low early (and the refs allow a little bit of physicality down low) and then start trying to work the open deep shots, the Cougars just may well find some of their stroke back and keep the middle of the floor open for Noah Hartsock and Davies to do their damage in the interior. And for you Jazz fans, don’t forget Jazz great John Stockton’s son, David, is on this team and a regular contributor.
The refs will allow this one to go a little bit after the debacle last week against SMC. The fans will be on edge from the opening tip, screaming and hollering to motivate the Cougars to victory. I don’t feel this game will ever show more than a 5 point lead to either team and will eventually come down to a game-winning shot attempt. However it ends, I’m expecting the Cougars to be on top by only 1 or 2 points. Call me a homer, but that’s just how I see it.
Location: Chiles Center – Portland, OR
Date: Saturday, February 4, 2012
Time: 8:00 PM TV: BYUtv
I don’t know if this game could come at a better time for the Cougars. The only way it could be better is if it were at home. After a brutal stretch of losing to LMU at home, squeaking by at Virginia Tech, losing to SMC at home again, and hopefully sneaking by Gonzaga, the Cougars are going to want a softer match up and the Pilots provide just such a breather. After this game, the Cougars get a full week off before they face the Waves of Pepperdine in Provo. Hopefully, they won’t already be looking ahead to the break.
What to watch for:
This is a very young Portland team that hasn’t played a lot of good basketball. They only average 64.7 points per game, 15 fewer than the Cougars. BYU holds a distinct advantage in rebounds, assists, free throws attempted, and 3 pointers made. The have fewer turnovers, more steals, and nearly double the blocked shots. This Pilot team is going to be overmatched in every aspect of the game. But the Pilots, like every other WCC team this year, will be excited a team like BYU is playing in their gym and will have the emotion riding high for this one. They only lost by 8 on the road to SMC and by 12 at home to Gonzaga so this isn’t a team to sleep on either.
Emotion will play a part in this game early and the Pilots will valiantly keep the score close for 10 or 12 minutes until the Cougars start putting some distance between them. The Pilots will be forced to pay extra attention to the Cougar big men and the three-point bombers will find their rhythm again and pull away. I feel the Cougars should be good for at least the difference in their average points per game, that is to say, at least 15 points.