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BYU Basketball Takes On San Francisco Seeking Another Resume Building Win

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 25: Brigham Young Cougars guard Alex Barcello (4) dribbles the ball during the mens college basketball game between the BYU Cougars and the San Francisco Dons at on January 25, 2020 at the War Memorial Gymnasium in San Francisco, CA. (Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – Fresh off a big win at Saint Mary’s, BYU basketball continues its Bay Area road trip with a stop on the Hilltop to take on the San Francisco Dons (9-6, 3-2 WCC).

BYU (10-3, 1-1 WCC) currently is projected in the NCAA Tournament field by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, but it’s by a thin margin. “Joey Brackets” has the Cougars as the last team in the field of 68. San Francisco, who has wins against Virginia and Nevada this season, is a Quadrant 2 opponent.

For those unfamiliar with the quadrant system, it’s based on the NCAA’s NET ranking system used by the Selection Committee. San Francisco currently sits at No. 85 in the NET ranking, making them a Quad 2 opponent.

To highlight how bizarre this pandemic-riddled season of college hoops is in 2021, USF is ranked one spot higher than Michigan State in the NET. So yes, look past the brand name, and realize this is a big opportunity for Mark Pope’s BYU team.

Last year, BYU lost at War Memorial Gymnasium, 83-82, before reeling off nine consecutive victories to close out the regular season. The stars of that Dons team are back in Khalil Shabazz and Jamaree Bouyea, who combined for 55 points against BYU a season ago.

“They’re playing really well. They have two incredible, explosive, dynamic guards that can really score –as we can remember from last year–, and then they have unbelievable length,” said BYU coach Mark Pope. “Really one through five, with the exception of Shabazz, everybody they put on the floor has incredible length.”

According to Ken Pomeroy, the Dons boast the 53rd tallest in America this season, averaging 77.8″. BYU is a tick higher as the average height for the Cougars is at 78″. A lot of size will be on the court for this WCC showdown that got moved up by ESPN to a primetime slot on ESPN (6 p.m. MT).

BYU will look to shoot a lot better than they did in Moraga against the Gaels. Pope’s squad only hit one three-pointer in the win over the Gaels. USF will try to limit BYU to similar shooting woes, and they have a track record this season that proves they can do it. The Dons are 19th nationally defending the three-point line as opponents have made only 27.4 percent from deep against USF.

The starting lineup for BYU will be something to monitor. Against Saint Mary’s, Pope sent Connor Harding to the bench and replaced him with Trevin Knell. Knell made the lone three-pointer against Saint Mary’s and made some big buckets down the stretch in the win. He continues to improve on the defensive end, which has earned him the trust from coaches to be inserted into the lineup as a young sophomore. With the size of San Francisco, will Pope roll with the same lineup?

It’s a big test for a BYU team working its way back into a rhythm of playing games on a quick turnaround. This is the first two-day turnaround between games since December 23rd.

The guard matchups will be one of the top storylines in this game. BYU’s Brandon Averette and Alex Barcello against USF’s Shabazz and Bouyea are some of the best matchups you’ll find in the WCC this season.

What you need to know about San Francisco

USF can shoot the lights out. The Dons are sixth nationally in three-point field goals made per game this season at 11 per contest. Guard Jamaree Bouyea is the Dons leader as he comes into the BYU game fresh off a career-high 28-point performance on Thursday against Portland.

Bouyea is averaging 17.3 points per game, and his backcourt running mate is scoring 14.8 per night.

Head Coach Todd Golden, a Randy Bennett disciple, put together a 22-win season last year and gave Gonzaga everything they could handle in the WCC Tournament’s semifinals last March. He’s got a team this year that has the potential to be a postseason participant in the NIT. Consistency is the problem, as is the case in most years with the Dons. They’ve consistently been the fourth-best team in most years of the WCC. But can they break through into the upper tier with the Zags, BYU, and Saint Mary’s? Games against BYU give them a -no pun intended- golden opportunity to shake up the league’s power structure.

What’s at stake for BYU/San Francisco

For BYU, it’s improving the NCAA Tournament resume and ending a two-year losing streak on the Hilltop at USF. San Francisco, who’s already playing their sixth WCC game, is trying to stay in the hunt for the No. 2 seed of the WCC Tournament.

The top two seeds in the WCC get a bye all the way to the Semifinals round of the conference tournament.

Projected Starting Lineups

BYU (10-3, 1-1 WCC)

G – Alex Barcello, Sr.; 6-2, 180

G – Brandon Averette, Sr.; 5-11, 185

F – Trevin Knell, Soph.; 6-5, 190

F – Matt Haarms, Sr.; 7-3, 250

C – Kolby Lee, Jr.; 6-9, 240

San Francisco (9-6, 3-2 WCC)

G – Khalil Shabazz, Jr.; 6-1, 170

G – Jamaree Bouyea, Sr.; 6-2, 180

F – Josh Kunen, Soph.; 6-8, 210

F – Dzmitry Ryuny, Jr.; 6-9, 205

F – Taavi Jurkatamm, Sr.; 6-9, 210

BYU at San Francisco

Tip: 6 p.m.

TV: ESPN

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM)

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m., KSL Newsradio). Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper and the KSL Sports app.

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