BYU picked up a huge win Tuesday night when they blew out Oregon 81-49 in Portland. Oregon came into the game ranked #12 and coming off an impressive blowout win over a good SMU squad. The Ducks were also picked two finish second in the Pac-12 behind the #2 team in the country UCLA.
That didn’t matter to BYU as they dominated from the start and didn’t let up. That win could propel BYU into the top 15 of next week’s AP poll and will carry weight come March. BYU already has another resume-building win over San Diego State, but Oregon will likely be the best non-conference win BYU picks up. Even if the Ducks don’t live up to their preseason billing, they are in all likelihood a single-digit seed in the NCAA Tournament. San Diego State hosts Arizona State Thursday night and Oregon has the Maui Invitational next week, so those are some games to keep an eye on.
Oregon may be BYU’s toughest test behind Gonzaga, but BYU still has 12 non-conference games before opening WCC play New Year’s Day at Portland. BYU is up to 20 in KenPom and the Cougars are favored in every game before the January 13th tilt at Gonzaga. Below are the current KenPom projections. BYU will have two additional games in the Diamond Head Classic that aren’t listed.
BYU has some tricky ones here, but the two that stick out most to me are Utah and Creighton. The Utes are off to a 3-0 start — albeit versus subpar competition — but they have good size in the front court and capable guards they brought in via the transfer portal. The Utes are the first team that will really test BYU inside. Junior Branden Carlson is a 7-foot big man that can score in a variety of ways, and Utah has other big men that they will test BYU’s front court. Fouss and Gavin Baxter have played fantastic to start the season, but Utah will be the biggest team they face before Gonzaga. The game is in the Huntsman Center and tips off an hour before BYU plays at USC in football.
Creighton is coming off a good road win at Nebraska. The game will be played in South Dakota in a neutral site game that should lean towards the Creighton side due to proximity. Creighton is young after losing all five starters and reloading with one of the nation’s best recruiting classes, but they are talented and start a 7 footer inside. Their guard line and shooting will test BYU. The Bluejays should be favored in every game before the December 11 matchup with BYU, so they could be undefeated and knocking on the door of the top 25. This has a good chance to be a Quad one win opportunity for BYU. Next year’s return game will be played in Las Vegas.
Other games to watch out for are a road game Missouri State — who return two preseason All-MVC players from a top 100 team — and in-state games with Utah State, Weber State and UVU. The latter two are true road games, and those can always get weird.
The Diamond Head Classic runs from December 22-25 and BYU will be the favorite to win. USF in the first round shouldn’t be much of a test, and that will likely lead to a semifinal matchup versus Vanderbilt if they can beat Hawaii. Vandy is off to a 2-0 start and ranked 70 in KenPom. They have one of the best guards in the country in Scottie Pippen jr (yep, his dad is that Scottie). Pippen was named the Preseason SEC player of the year and is already averaging over 20 points early in the season. Vandy may not be a tournament team, but they present a chance at a solid win that should be at least Quad Two and potentially Quad One.
If BYU advances to the finals, Liberty or Stanford are the most likely opponents. Both are top 100 teams that have an early season loss. Stanford got trounced by 16 points at Santa Clara. Both teams could be Quad Two game, which would be nice for BYU.
BYU already has two quality wins that will resonate come March, but if BYU can win most of these remaining games they can add on a few more quality wins and cement themselves as a single-digit seed — and improve last year’s 6 seed — when they begin conference play versus an improved WCC.