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BYU-St. Mary’s Preview: BYU Eyes Potential AP Top 25 Ranking with Win

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at Brigham Young Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

BYU looks to put a bow on a successful regular season when they host St. Mary’s Saturday night in at 8pm MST on senior night. BYU is playing its best ball of the season and is already considered a lock for the NCAA tournament. Now, BYU is looking to improve its seed to get a 7, or even 6, seed come tourney time. Vegas and Kenpom currently have BYU as an 8-point favorite.

St Mary’s is ranked 66 in NET, which means they will be a Quad 2 game (home games versus teams ranked 31-75 in NET are considered Quad 2 games). The Gaels are down this season from where they traditionally are, but they always give BYU tough games and gave BYU a good game in the first matchup in January. BYU was behind for a majority of the game until they ended the game on a 17-2 run to take down the Gaels 62-52.

St. Mary’s opened WCC play with a 2-5 record but are coming off wins versus Pepperdine Monday and Pacific Thursday night. This is one of the weakest offensive teams Randy Bennett has had in years, but KenPom ranks them number 20 in defensive efficiency.

Also on the line for BYU is a potential top 25 AP ranking. BYU received 19 votes and came in at 31 in the latest top 25 poll. #24 Missouri and 3 teams ahead of BYU in the “other receiving votes” category have already lost this week, so BYU could sneak into the top 25 with a win and a couple other losses by other teams this weekend.

One of the keys for BYU will be 3-point shooting and ball movement. St. Mary’s 3-point defense is only 234th nationally, but they don’t allow many attempts — 26.9% of opponents’ field goal attempts are 3 pointers, which is the 4th lowest percentage nationally. For reference, the average this season is 37.5%. Opponents also only assist on 35.4% of field goal makes, which is the lowest percentage nationally. The D1 average this season is 52%.

BYU’s 3-point shooting has dramatically improved this month — BYU is now top 50 nationally — and ball movement is a foundation of Mark Pope’s offense, so that battle will be key to watch.

Saint Mary’s by the numbers:

NET ranking: 66

KenPom Ranking: 78

KenPom odds: BYU 77% chance to win, 66-58 score prediction

3-point Percentage: 30.9% (289th)

3-Point Percentage Defense: 34.9% (234th)