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BYU Vs. Gonzaga: Game Day In The Kennel Preview Plus Score Prediction

Jan 13, 2022, 1:43 PM | Updated: 1:47 pm
BYU Basketball - Alex Barcello...
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 09: Alex Barcello #13 of the Brigham Young Cougars drives against Aaron Cook #4 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the championship game of the West Coast Conference basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena on March 9, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Bulldogs defeated the Cougars 88-78. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – BYU vs Gonzaga is one of the top matchups out of the West Coast Conference each season. The first meeting between the two programs is tonight in a late-night tip at The Kennel.

Gonzaga comes into this matchup in a usual spot, among the top teams in all of college basketball. The Zags are No. 2 in the latest AP Top 25 poll and have a record of 12-2 (1-0 WCC) this season. Last ranked back in December, BYU is currently receiving votes in the Top 25 poll and holds a 14-3 overall record and the only team in the WCC to jump out to a 2-0 start in league play. The Zags had their first three conference games postponed.

BYU vs. No. 2 Gonzaga

Tip: 9 p.m. (MT)

Location: The Kennel; Spokane, Washington

TV: ESPN2

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM – Pregame begins at 8 p.m.)

Series: Gonzaga leads 21-7

Last Meeting: 2021 WCC Tournament Championship in Las Vegas – Gonzaga 88, BYU 78 (March 9, 2021).

BYU is looking for a fast start against Gonzaga

Both matchups moved up in last year’s regular-season meetings against Gonzaga due to COVID-19 scheduling adjustments. The quick turnarounds against an elite Gonzaga team appeared to cause struggles for BYU as the Cougs found themselves in deep holes before the first media timeouts in Spokane and Provo.

At The Kennel, BYU was down 23-2 before they could blink. Then in Provo, the Zags, led by Jalen Suggs, was out to a 15-2 lead.

 

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The script changed in the West Coast Conference Tournament Championship as BYU held a 12-point lead at the half over the undefeated Zags after a barrage of threes rained down in an empty Orleans Arena. Gonzaga then did what they typically do and mounted a comeback to pull off another win and another WCC title.

BYU vs Gonzaga sees the Zags as a sizable favorite over the Cougars. But if BYU can get off to a fast start, it could give them a chance to contend for a full 40 minutes as they did in Vegas 10 months ago.

Tuesday’s practice was intense at BYU’s Marriott Center Annex. Mark Pope was vocal with his players and coaches, zeroing in on all the little details with his team searching for their first win over the Zags since the classic in Provo nearly two years ago.

Players to watch for BYU: Alex Barcello & Te’Jon Lucas 

Mark Pope has always subscribed to seniors are magical. That magic will need to be on display tonight for BYU as they look to take down the No. 2 Zags, and it starts with the guards in Alex Barcello and Te’Jon Lucas.

“We’re not going to win a lot of games without Alex and Te’Jon being great,” said Pope. “You know, they don’t have to score all of the points; they don’t have to make all the plays. But their presence has to be felt. There’s no doubt about it. It’s just really, really important for us.”

The two senior guards will have the challenge of going up against the Zags guard line, which features Andrew Nembhard and Iowa State transfer Rasir Bolton.

Through two games in WCC play, Barcello and Lucas are averaging 22 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists per game.

What to know about Gonzaga

The Zags are elite once again and it all starts with their frontcourt stars in Drew Timme and freshman Chet Holmgren. Both players are in the National Player of the Year race and each poses challenges that no one else in the WCC can come close to matching.

Gonzaga is one of the biggest teams in the country as they average 78.7″ per player on their roster. That’s good for eighth nationally.

According to KenPom’s metrics, Gonzaga boasts the No. 2 offense in adjusted efficiency and No. 17 defense. In addition, Gonzaga is No. 2 nationally in scoring offense at 87.9 points per game, and they are No. 2 in scoring margin, beating their opponents by an average of 24 points per contest.

Gonzaga is No. 1 in field goal percentage at 52.3% per game, but their three-point shooting is a little bit more pedestrian at a 35% clip.

Four of Gonzaga’s five starters are averaging 10+ points per game. They have two players off the bench in Anton Watson and Hunter Sallis, scoring in double-figures every night.

Probable Starters

BYU (14-3, 2-0 WCC)

G – Alex Barcello, 6-2, 192, Sr.

G – Te’Jon Lucas, 6-1, 187, Sr.

G – Trevin Knell, 6-5, 197, Jr.

F – Caleb Lohner, 6-8, 235, Soph.

F – Fousseyni Traore, 6-6, 254, Fr.

No. 2 Gonzaga (12-2, 1-0 WCC)

G – Andrew Nembhard, 6-5, 193, Sr.

G – Rasir Bolton, 6-3, Sr.

G – Julian Strawther, 6-7, 205, Soph.

F – Drew Timme, 6-10, 235, Jr.

C – Chet Holmgren, 7-0, 195, Fr.

BYU vs Gonzaga Prediction

If there’s one WCC program that has had moments of success on The Kennel floor, it’s BYU. The Mark Pope era has struggled in Spokane, but that’s primarily due to poor starts. So I’m calling BYU to change that trend and jump out to a solid start in this one and be tied with at the first media timeout.

BYU will hang around with Gonzaga for the first 30 minutes before Gonzaga’s frontcourt duo of Timme and Holmgren pulls away in the final 10 minutes of action.

Areas that will be key to watch are how BYU rebounds the basketball and shoots the three. Despite losing the likes of Richard Harward and Gavin Baxter, BYU has been an excellent rebounding team this year. Will that continue against Gonzaga, who is among the nation’s best on the glass?

Gonzaga 89, BYU 77

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.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU Vs. Gonzaga: Game Day In The Kennel Preview Plus Score Prediction