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BYU/Pepperdine: Three Game Day Predictions For WCC Tournament Semifinal

BYU basketball forward Caleb Lohner at practice on Monday at The Orleans Arena in preparation for semifinal matchup against Pepperdine. (BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)

PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball is finally back in action after a nine-day break when they take on the Pepperdine Waves in the semifinals of the 2021 WCC Tournament.

The Cougars come into the game as one of the hottest teams in the conference and are currently on a four-game winning streak. BYU is 19-5 overall and 10-3 in WCC play.

BYU arrived in Las Vegas on Sunday night and had a practice at The Orleans Arena at 8:30 a.m. (PT) to get acclimated to the gym. An environment that will be pretty much the same when the game tips off tonight (10 p.m. MT, ESPN2) as no fans will be allowed to attend the event.

This is the first-ever meeting between BYU and Pepperdine in the West Coast Conference Tournament. Here are three game day predictions for tonight’s tournament semifinal.

WCC Tournament: BYU/Pepperdine Predictions

1. BYU will set the tone with its physicality

Coming into this game, Pepperdine feels confident they can beat BYU. These two teams last met on January 27 in Malibu, that Pepperdine came away victorious. It was the first victory against BYU for Pepperdine stars Colbey Ross and Kessler Edwards.

In that loss at Malibu, BYU wasn’t physical with the Waves. Pepperdine had multiple possessions down the stretch where they had second and third chance opportunities. Look for BYU to bring their physicality early out of the gates tonight.

Matt Haarms isn’t typically looking to pull down a lot of rebounds; watch for him to be active on the glass tonight.

2. Colbey Ross drops 30+ points

Ross is now the all-time leading scorer in West Coast Conference Tournament history, passing Loyola Marymount’s Hank Gathers. When you pass any record set by Gathers in scoring, you can fill it up with the best of them. Ross, a senior for the Waves, is looking to do everything he can to position himself for an NBA contract. This will be the biggest stage he’s played on all season, and look for him to have a big night.

For BYU, they know Ross is going to get his. If he has a 30-point night, as I’m predicting, that’s okay. The key for BYU will be to prevent big performances from role players Jan Zidek or Sedrick Altman. Both of those guys combined for 24 points in the win over BYU in January.

3. BYU wins by double-digits

Pepperdine head coach Lorenzo Romar noted in his postgame press conference that BYU is on an “absolute buzzsaw” since the Cougars faced the Waves. He’s right. The dominance BYU showed in their final four games was impressive.

First Team All-WCC guard Alex Barcello has found his shooting stroke again, Haarms is playing the best basketball of his senior year, and Brandon Averette comes up clutch whenever BYU needs a big shot. Caleb Lohner’s emergence as of late has also been significant in BYU’s improved play. Romar views Lohner as one of the nation’s top freshman players this season.

Those three seniors won’t be denied tonight, despite the lack of practice on Sunday. BYU takes down Pepperdine to win its first game in the WCC Tournament since 2018 and advances for a chance to face Gonzaga on Championship Tuesday night.

Prediction: BYU 86, Pepperdine 72

Game Details

2021 WCC Tournament Semifinal

Tip: 10 p.m. (MT)

TV: ESPN2

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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