Fresh off a disappointing loss to Saint Mary's, the BYU Cougars will welcome the second-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs to town on Thursday. The Zags are the highest-ranked team to ever play in the Marriott Center. The Cougars will have to play their best game of the season to knock off this potential number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga is an elite offensive basketball team and have not been affected by difficult road venues this season. Asks the folks in Stillwater and Moraga how things went. Kelly Olynyk is having a season to remember.
Being near the top of the graph is always a good thing.
Additionally, Olynyk is shooting 66% from the field. SIXTY-SIX PERCENT.
The Zags are coming! The Zags are coming!
Having watched nearly thirty BYU basketball games this season, a win would certainly come as a surprise. Still, it would not be a shock, as BYU is a much different team amidst the friendly atmosphere of Happy Valley West. Would a regular season win over Gonzaga and a WCC Tournament win over Saint Mary's be enough for BYU to sneak into the Field of 68? I doubt it.
Even with a loss to the Bulldogs, the Cougars are assured a three-seed in West Coast Conference Tournament so long as they do not lose at Loyola Marymount on Saturday. BYU will need to win three games in four days, beating either San Francisco/San Diego/Pepperdine on Friday, Saint Mary's on Saturday, and Gonzaga on Monday. Sheesh.
Hey, at least if BYU gets to the Final, it will have a good Sabbath break to rest and recuperate. And if BYU does not make the Final for a second straight year, the Gonzaga and Saint Mary's fans huddled around the WCC-sponsored Catholic Mass at the Orleans Hotel on Sunday will ask why BYU needed a Sunday-exception if it never planned on making the Title game in the first place.
Parenthetically, as one who lives in Spokane, I can tell you that this town is absolutely enthralled with this Gonzaga basketball squad. The folks around here think this is the year the Fightin' Fews breakthrough with a deep Tourney run. It feels eerily similar to the way the Wasatch Front felt during pre-Davies suspension Jimmer mania. I tend to agree. Gonzaga has all the makings of a Final Four squad and, seeing that Elias Harris is but the only player who's eligibility runs out in 2013, the Zags may just be getting started. (If Kelly O stays in school, that is)
All this being said, the Zags are coming to town looking to wrap up the number-one seed. To do so, they will have to go through 20,000+ screaming Mormons and a pretty good basketball team in Brigham Young. Tyler Haws had his worst performance as a collegiate athlete during BYU's beatdown at the McCarthey Athletic Center earlier this winter and I'm sure he's anxious to atone. This is what college athletics are all about. The final week of the college basketball regular season is upon us. Let's go!