In a conference season that has been more coronation than competition, the Gonzaga Bulldogs travel to Provo, Utah Thursday night trying to do something for the very first time. This basketball season has seen seven number one teams go down to defeat. Gonzaga, with a win over Brigham Young, should be able to take the seat at the top of the rankings. Minnesota's win at home against Indiana earlier this week made this moment possible.
Conversely, the chance to knock Gonzaga (27-2 overall, 14-0 conference) off of that lofty perch will be on the minds of Brigham Young and their noisy crowd. BYU (20-9 overall, 9-5 in conference) comes into Thursday's game off of a 64-57 loss to St. Mary's and needing a strong finish to gain an NCAA tourney invitation. BYU hopes to shore up a defense that struggled with the Gaels pick and roll offense.
The Cougars hope to pressure Gonzaga's backcourt with a heavy dose of Tyler Haws. The 6'5" sophomore is averaging just a tick under 21 points a game. He, along with forward Brandon Davies (18 ppg) key the BYU attack.
The Bulldogs will probe BYU's interior with Kelly Olynik and Elias Harris. The frontcourt tandem is averaging 32.2 points per outing and 14.4 rebounds a night combined. Expect a heated struggle on the boards between two of the better rebounding teams in the West Coast Conference.
Las Vegas lists the Bulldogs as a five point favorite. BYU will make sure that this isn't a walk in the park but Gonzaga should win and cover that number. Give the points and rent a car for a speed run at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Thursday night's game can be seen on ESPN2. The radio alternatives are KMAS 930- AM west of the mountains and KGA-1510 AM east of the mountains. Tip is scheduled for 8:05 p.m. P.S.T.