Rivalries can erase any sort of advantage one team may seem to have over another. But then a rivalry usually has some give and take.
San Francisco and Saint Mary’s meet on Wednesday in a renewal of their longtime rivalry and the Gaels are looking for their 16th straight win over USF. The Dons came close back on Jan. 12 but were unable to close the deal.
That win over USF started a season-high five-game winning streak for Saint Mary’s, which they carry to The Hilltop on Wednesday.
BYU and Pepperdine meet for the second time and the Waves put up a fight in the last matchup before letting it slip away in the second half. But their game against Saint Mary’s, which they lost by 12 in Moraga, should give them confidence versus BYU on Thursday.
San Diego is off until Saturday.
Here is a look at the matchups:
Saint Mary’s (17-4, 6-1) at San Francisco (9-12, 2-6), CSNCA, 7 p.m.
Let’s face it. USF, for whatever reason, has struggled mightily against Saint Mary’s over the last five years and it likely won’t get any easier tonight. Saint Mary’s has started to play some of its best basketball of the season and a lot of that has to do with the supporting cast. Matthew Dellavedova has gotten plenty of help over the last two games, which has allowed him to dish out 21 assists with no turnovers. His matchup with Cody Doolin is always entertaining. But let’s remember, the last game was decided by six points in Moraga and in that game Cole Dickerson was held to eight points and six rebounds, only the second time he has held to single digits in both categories. This should improve.
Predicted winner: Saint Mary’s
BYU (16-6, 6-2) at Pepperdine (10-10, 2-5), TWC SN, ROOT Sports, 7 p.m.
Matt Carlino has found himself since the beginning of conference play. He is averaging 16.4 points 5.3 assists and it has been incredibly important with teams focusing on Brandon Davies and Tyler Haws. Getting off to a good offensive start will also be important for Carlino and BYU. Pepperdine held BYU to 28 percent in the first half but let it slip away in the second back on Jan. 10. Pepperdine rode Jordan Baker offensively but they will need more help. Stacy Davis needs to provide something. Nikolas Skouen need to give them something. Pepperdine could surprise somebody.
Predicted winner: BYU
Portland (8-14, 1-6) at Santa Clara (16-6, 4-3), CSNCA, 7 p.m.
Santa Clara is heading in the right direction and has feasted on the lower tier of the league. This game likely be no different. If there is one matchup to watch it is the battle between Ryan Nicholas and Marc Trasolini. They are two of the better power forwards in the league and both play in the post. Trasolini has averaged better than 10 rebounds over his last five contests, including a 14 rebound game against BYU. Nicholas has been the focus of every team but he was able to pick up his seventh double-double against BYU on Saturday. Look for the Santa Clara guards to make the difference in this game.
Predicted winner: Santa Clara
Gonzaga (19-2, 6-0) at Loyola Marymount (8-12, 1-6), ESPN2, 8 p.m.
Before the season, this looked like it would be one of the better matchups in league. Now it is a matchup of the best shooting team in the league against the worst shooting team in the league. Advantage: Gonzaga. Teams have been trying to make it incredibly difficult on Anthony Ireland and his numbers are showing it. He is shooting 41 percent from the field, a step back from his 44 percent last season. Ashley Hamilton will likely have his own problems trying to guard Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris.
Predicted winner: Gonzaga
Follow Zack Farmer on Twitter: @Zack_Farmer