Thursday’s West Coast Conference schedule has two games that would be incredibly entertaining and mean a great deal for the standings and teams who plan on playing in March.
BYU and Gonzaga meet for the first time this season and the Cougars could reclaim first place with a win. More importantly, BYU could pad their resume with a win at Gonzaga. On the flip side, Gonzaga is coming off a loss at Butler in heartbreaking fashion and how they rebound from that will show the ability of the Bulldogs to move on.
San Diego has spoiled the Saint Mary’s party a number of times in the past. In 2008, the Toreros knocked the Gaels out of the WCC Tournament. Two season ago, Saint Mary’s was well on its way to an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament when San Diego, which won all of six games that season, beat the Gaels and effectively took them out of at-large consideration.
There is some bad blood in these games and they should be good.
BYU (15-5, 5-1) at Gonzaga (17-2, 4-0), ESPN2, 8 p.m.
The only way BYU has a chance is if Brandon Davies stays out of early foul trouble. Gonzaga got Santa Clara into early foul trouble. Gonzaga got Saint Mary’s in early foul trouble. With such a deep frontline Gonzaga could take advantage of BYU if Davies can’t stay on the floor. Kelly Olynyk, Elias Harris, and Sam Dower scored a combined 53 points on Saturday against Butler. Davies has picked up four or more fouls in three conference games.
Predicted winner: Gonzaga
San Diego (11-9, 4-1) at Saint Mary’s (15-4, 4-1), CSNCA, TWC SN, ESPN Pacific Rim, 8 p.m.
San Diego got a reality check at BYU and now faces the defending champion although, for whatever reason, the Toreros have given Saint Mary’s trouble over the past few years. The two games last year were decided by a combined 17 points so expect this to another close one. The key for San Diego is the offensive production of the role players. Cameron Miles, Ken Rancifer, or Chris Manresa have to give them something to have a chance.
Predicted winner: Saint Mary’s
Pepperdine (9-9, 1-4) at Loyola Marymount (8-11, 1-5), TWC SN, 6 p.m.
These two teams have struggled to put points on the board all season and this could end up being a game in the 50s. LMU is coming off a game where they shot 28 percent from the field. Pepperdine has failed to eclipse 55 points in three of their five conference games. The Waves’ defense might put them over the top but it will be up to Moriba De Freitas and Stacy Davis to keep Ashley Hamilton in check.
Predicted winner: LMU
San Francisco (8-11, 1-5) at Portland (8-12, 1-4), CSNNW, CSNCA, 7 p.m.
There are a lot of young players to watch in this game. USF forward Matt Christiansen earned his first start against LMU last Saturday and has been one of the more consistent players for the Dons over the last couple of weeks. Portland’s Oskars Reinfelds is shooting 53 percent in WCC play, good for fifth in the league. But youth won’t decide this game and will likely be decided by the experience of Cody Doolin at the point.
Predicted winner: San Francisco
Cal State Bakersfield (7-13) at Santa Clara (14-6, 3-3), 7 p.m.
Santa Clara’s last nonconference game should be nothing more than a tuneup for their Saturday conference game at San Diego. Kevin Foster shot 62 percent from the field last week and has really found his rhythm in conference play. But it’s not just Foster. In the last three games, Marc Trasolini has averaged 11 rebounds. The Broncos will need to keep an eye on Stephon Carter, who leads Bakersfield in points and steals.
Predicted winner: Santa Clara
Follow Zack Farmer on Twitter: @Zack_Farmer