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BYU-Saint Mary’s Preview: Cougars Face Massive Opportunity; Injury Updates

St. Marys v Brigham Young Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images

BYU’s NCAA Tournament hopes could be on the line when they travel to Moraga to take on Saint Mary’s Saturday night in a pivotal road game. BYU is 19-8 and firmly on the bubble. Saint Mary’s is ranked 20 in the NET and comfortably in the NCAA Tournament. A loss to the Gaels wouldn’t be bad by any means, but it is BYU’s last chance in the regular season to improve their resume. A road win at Saint Mary’s would be BYU’s best win of the year and the Cougars fourth Quad One win of the season. KenPom gives BYU a 27% chance to win and predicts a 70-63 margin in favor of the Gaels.

If BYU can beat Saint Mary’s and take care of business next week at home versus LMU and Pepperdine, I think BYU would be in. If BYU loses to the Gaels, they would probably need to beat them or San Francisco in the WCC Tournament in Vegas to have any shot to make the field.

Other bubble teams have more Quad One/Two games remaining than BYU, meaning they’ll jump and stay ahead of BYU if they win those games.

For the Gaels, they have been playing some of their best ball of the season since BYU beat them 52-43 in Provo on January 8. They went on a 7-game win streak right after until dropping 2 of their last 4. Those two losses were on the road at Santa Clara and Gonzaga, so no shame in that. They are coming off a 69-64 home win versus San Francisco Thursday night.

BYU won the last game by forcing turnovers and holding the Gaels to 29% shooting. SMC had an uncharacteristic 19 turnovers that game. BYU won despite shooting 1-13 from three, so they’ll need to be much better than that. Since the loss to BYU, Saint Mary’s has scored at least 69 points in every game with the exception of their loss to Gonzaga. BYU will have to defend well again, but they can’t expect to hold Randy Bennett’s team to under 50 points again.

A big game for Gideon George would also be welcome. Saint Mary’s is a veteran team and extremely sound on the defensive end, but they don’t have a ton of length and athleticism. Gideon George may give up some height on defense, but Saint Mary’s doesn’t have an athlete to matchup with Gideon. 12+ points from Gideon would go a long ways for BYU.

Will Fouss Play?

Fousseyni Traore missed the Pepperdine game after tweaking his groin in the final minutes of BYU’s OT win versus LMU.

Fouss didn’t practice Monday or Tuesday (there was no formal Wednesday practice), but two sources told me that he will practice today and play tomorrow at Saint Mary’s, barring any last-minute setbacks. Groins are super tricky and Fouss runs the risk of re-aggravating it, but he’s been feeling good and has been saying all week he feels good enough to play.

I don’t know how close to 100% he is or how much he will play, but the fact that he is playing is a great sign. Caleb Lohner or Atiki Ally Atiki or the only other two guys that can realistically play the five, so having Fouss will take some pressure off those two guys if they get into foul trouble.

If this was another game versus a WCC-bottom feeder I could see coaches holding Fouss out, but BYU’s season could be on the line and they feel comfortable enough where his groin is at to have him play.

Saint Mary’s By the Numbers:

KenPom: 20

Net: 20

Record: 21-6

Quad One Wins: 2 (at Utah State, at San Francisco)

Quad Two Wins: 5