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BYU Vs. Washington State: NIT Game Day Preview Plus Score Prediction

Mar 23, 2022, 10:22 AM
BYU Basketball - NIT - Alex Barcello...
PROVO, UT - MARCH 19: Alex Barcello #13 of the Brigham Young Cougars grabs a rebound away from Noah Carter #35 of the Northern Iowa Panthers during the first half of their second round NIT game March 19, 2022 at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – Tonight’s BYU/Washington State matchup has a trip to Madison Square Garden in New York City on the line. The All-Cougar matchup is an interesting NIT Quarterfinal game featuring two teams looking to continue their season.

BYU (24-10) is hosting the game at the Marriott Center because they are the 2-seed in the upper right region of the 2022 NIT bracket. Washington State (21-14) comes in as the four-seed of the bracket. The Cougars in blue defeated Long Beach State and Northern Iowa to advance to this game, while Wazzu took down Santa Clara at home and ended SMU’s 19-game home winning streak to move to the quarters.

Who’s going to get a trip to the Big Apple? We’ll find out tonight.

BYU vs. Washington State: 2022 NIT

Tip: 7 p.m. (MT)

Location: Marriott Center (Provo)

TV: ESPN2

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM – Pregame begins at 6 p.m.)

All-time series: 5-5

Final Home Game For Alex Barcello and Te’Jon Lucas

It’s not going to have the festivities like a senior night due to the NCAA requiring a sterilized environment at the Marriott Center for a “neutral court” setting. But tonight has the makings to be a great environment to send off BYU’s senior class in Alex Barcello and Te’Jon Lucas.

Barcello has been a foundational piece to BYU’s program since Mark Pope took over as head coach in 2019. In his wildest dreams, the former Arizona guard never envisioned playing at BYU, but it’s become a perfect fit for him to showcase his sharpshooting ability.

Ticket sales for tonight’s game have moved at a strong pace. The entire lower bowl is sold out and 15 of the upper bowl sections have sold out. When the Marriott Center gets rocking, it’s a tough place for any opponent to find success. Nevertheless, it has the makings for a memorable night at the Marriott Center in Barcello and Lucas’ last game in Provo.

Three-point shooting

When BYU is knocking down three-pointers, they are a tough team to beat. The high-flying offense that BYU displayed in their 6-0 start to open the season was back against Northern Iowa last week. BYU shot 43% from three on a night when star guard Alex Barcello was 1-of-8.

The Cougars received significant contributions from Gideon George, who poured in a career-high 27 points. In addition, Caleb Lohner chipped in eight points as his game continues to find its footing after struggling during league play.

When BYU knocks down the three at a high clip, they can beat anyone in this NIT field.

What to know about Washington State

Washington State finished fifth in the Pac-12 Conference standings at 11-9 in league play. Head coach Kyle Smith is in his third year with the Cougs on the Palouse, but before going to Wazzu, he was in the WCC at San Francisco.

Smith never coached against a Mark Pope-led BYU team, but he did coach against Pope in the 2018 CBI when BYU’s headman led the Utah Valley Wolverines.

Washington State is starting to find its stride as they have its entire personnel collection. Like most teams, Washington State was not immune from injuries. But now, they have a full roster of 12 players during this NIT run, and it led to one of the biggest upsets in the tournament by taking down one-seed SMU on the road.

Washington State has the size in their frontcourt, with Efe Abogidi and Mouhamed Gueye both over 6-foot-10. Then off the bench, Dishon Jackson is another 6-foot-10 presence to keep the bigs coming at BYU’s undersized but physical big men.

Defensively, Wazzu is No. 27 in the adjusted efficiency KenPom metrics. The last time BYU beat a top 30 defensive team was back on January 15 against San Francisco on the road.

The Cougs from Pullman are also on the lower end of tempo, being ranked 225th nationally in tempo.

Probable Starters

No. 2 BYU (24-10)

G – Alex Barcello, 6-2, 192, Sr.

G – Te’Jon Lucas, 6-1, 187, Sr.

F – Gideon George, 6-6, 210, Sr.

F – Caleb Lohner, 6-8, 235, Soph.

F – Fousseyni Traore, 6-6, 254, Fr.

No. 4 Washington State

G – Tyrell Roberts, 5-11, 175, Jr.

G – Michael Flowers, 6-1, 190, Sr.

G – TJ Bamba, 6-5, 215, Soph.

F – Efe Abogidi, 6-10, 225, Soph.

F – Mouhamed Gueye, 6-11, 210, Fr.

BYU vs Washington State Prediction

BYU/Washington State has the makings to be a fun college basketball game. Adding the element of a trip to New York City is on the line, makes it all that more interesting.

The contributions BYU has received from Caleb Lohner don’t appear to be a fluke. When Lohner succeeds on the offensive end, he creates potential matchups with his inside-out abilities, but consistency has been a big issue for him this season. With a roaring home court behind him, I’ll call for Lohner to have a big game tonight on both ends of the floor. Lohner’s elite rebounding ability will have to come up huge for BYU against a Wazzu frontcourt that terrorized SMU in the previous round.

BYU also needs a big game from Alex Barcello, who has been relatively quiet in the first two NIT games. He didn’t envision his final year at BYU would include a late-March game in the NIT, but it’s better than not playing. Barcello has one more shot to go out on a high note in front of BYU fans; he’ll have to be lights out from distance.

This game will be close throughout, but I’ll call for the Cougars in blue to come away victorious. A win for BYU would be one of the best victories this team has put together this season.

BYU 69, Washington State 67

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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