BYU will play number 3 seed Pepperdine in the WCC semifinals 9PM PST, Monday night on ESPN2 after the Waves took care of business versus Santa Clara 78-70 late Saturday night in Las Vegas. Vegas opened with BYU as 11-point favorites and KenPom also has BYU has 11-point favorites. The winner will get the winner of Gonzaga-St. Mary’s Tuesday night (let’s be honest, we know Gonzaga will win). Gonzaga opened as a 17-point Vegas favorite.
BYU and Pepperdine split the regular season series 1-1 — BYU won the first meeting in Provo, 65-54, and the Waves won the rematch in Malibu, 76-73. Pepperdine lost 3 games in a row before their regular season finale versus San Diego, but they won that game by 6 and Saturday night’s game versus Santa Clara to get some momentum back on their side.
BYU, meanwhile, is playing its best ball of the season. Inserting Caleb Lohner and Gideon George into the starting lineup has given BYU more defensive versatility and better spacing on offense. Their improved shooting, along with Trevin Knell’s, has improved BYU’s offense dramatically in the past month.
Pepperdine’s identity revolves around first-team All-WCC members Colbey Ross and Kessler Edwards. BYU did a pretty good job on both them in the prior two matchups, but poor shooting, turnovers and rebounding lapses cost BYU in the loss.
With Gideon George and Caleb Lohner getting more minutes now than the January games, BYU seems better equipped to slow down those two guys on defense. Gideon George and Caleb Lohner can both matchup with Edwards, and Gideon George has shown this season that he can guard opposing point guards. Alex Barcello and Brandon Averette will get the main assignment on Ross, but I expect BYU to give him a lot of different looks and put George on him occasionally.
Pepperdine is ranked 114 in NET, making this a Quad 3 game for BYU — neutral court games versus teams ranked 51-100 are considered Quad 2. BYU’s road loss to Pepperdine is Quad 2 since Pepperdine is ranked in the top 135.
Pepperdine is dangerous and Colbey Ross or Kessler Edwards can go for over 30 on any night, but BYU is rolling right now and I don’t think Pepperdine is good enough defensively to beat BYU again. The Waves will give BYU a game but I expect BYU to win fairly comfortably.
Pepperdine by the numbers
NET ranking: 114
KenPom Ranking: 115
KenPom odds: BYU 84% chance to win, 80-69 score prediction
Pepperdine 3-Point Defense: 27.6%, 4th nationally
Pepperdine 2-Point Defense: 55.7%, 330th nationally