After finishing non-conference play at 9-4, BYU begins its 18-game conference schedule looking for its first WCC title since joining the conference.
BYU welcomes the dangerous Santa Clara Broncos to the Marriott Center (7pm MST, BYUTV) hoping to start off WCC play in the win column.
Here’s what you need to know about Santa Clara:
Best Win: Valparaiso
PPG: 68.2; Points allowed: 65.5
Leading scorer: Jared Brownridge- 19.2 ppg
What to watch for:
Santa Clara has upset potential. Santa Clara is 6-7, but they have played well against quality opponents this year. They are coming off a true road win at Valparaiso, a team that BYU lost to in November. They also narrowly lost to Pac-12 foes Arizona and Washington State. Santa Clara is the lone team BYU has not lost to since joining the WCC, but the Broncos has given BYU some close calls. Senior guard Jared Brownridge is the leading active scorer in the WCC, and has had his fair share of big performances versus BYU. He scored 30 in Santa Clara’s last game versus Valpo, and has had two other games this year when he dropped over 30. If BYU wants to stop the Broncos from pulling off the upset, they’ll need to keep Brownridge in check.
Corbin Kaufusi makes his season debut. Corbin Kaufusi rejoined the basketball team on Monday after the football team finished off its season last week. Kaufusi’s return comes right after BYU announced that senior forward Kyle Davis would have season-ending knee surgery. Kaufusi won’t start over Mika or Childs, but he will provide meaningful depth in the frontcourt. BYU was at its best last season when Kaufusi was a defensive anchor protecting the rim. While it may take Kaufusi some time to readjust to basketball, he is the most experienced BYU player (after LJ Rose) at the Division 1 level. Also, it can’t hurt that he put on 30+ pounds of muscle for football.
As of this writing, Vegas has BYU as 13.5 point favorites. Santa Clara does have upset potential, but BYU has homecourt advantage and is the more talented team. BYU has a couple games this week versus lower-level WCC teams before a big showdown at Saint Mary’s next Thursday. If BYU continues to play through Eric Mika and can keep Jared Brownridge from shooting a high percentage, BYU should have no trouble keeping its undefeated streak going against Santa Clara.