How are we already in February and Santa Clara and Saint Mary’s haven’t played each other yet? Luckily that will be remedied on Thursday.
The two renew their longtime rivalry with big implications for the conference race. Saint Mary’s is only three games away from a potential first place showdown with Gonzaga. Santa Clara is trying to keep pace with San Diego for the fourth seed, ensuring a bye in the WCC Tournament.
San Diego will have their hands full with BYU and could possibly be without Johnny Dee. The Toreros suffered a tough loss to Gonzaga on Saturday and nearly pulled off the upset. Can they rebound and shock BYU?
San Francisco is off until Saturday.
Let’s take a look at Thursday’s games:
BYU (18-6, 8-2) at San Diego (12-12, 5-4), BYUtv, 7 p.m.
BYU has caused matchup problems for San Diego over the last two years and that is when they are fully healthy. With Johnny Dee being a game-time decision, this game could go one of two ways: bad or really bad. Matt Carlino has given them a legitimate third option and has been a catalyst for the Cougars. Who would have thought that two months ago? BYU dominated the glass in the last matchup and had three players with at least seven rebounds. Dee had 15 points on 5-for-13 shooting. If he is not there, the focus will go to Chris Anderson.
Predicted winner: BYU
Loyola Marymount (8-14, 1-8) at Portland (8-16, 1-8), CSNNW, 7 p.m.
Can a game end in a tie? Both of these teams have been on a roll of futility and neither has won since Jan. 12. Neither has shot well overall and are eighth and ninth in the WCC in field goal percentage. But just maybe a game against each other will change that. Again, we will have a battle of two very good forwards in Ashley Hamilton and Ryan Nicholas. Hamilton will likely try to pull Nicholas out to the perimeter and Nicholas will take Hamilton down low. The contrasting styles of the two should be fun to watch.
Predicted winner: LMU
Pepperdine (10-12, 2-7) at Gonzaga (21-2, 8-0), ROOT Sports, 8 p.m.
Gonzaga had some trouble with Pepperdine in the last meeting and they struggled with San Diego on Saturday. Games against Pepperdine are turning into grind it out contests and that will likely be the case again in Spokane. The Waves have hung with BYU and Saint Mary’s on the road and nearly stole one from the Cougars last week. Jordan Baker has been much more consistent in conference play and has averaged 14.6 points. Gary Bell, Jr. has been quiet offensively but has come alive in the past week with two straight double figure games after not having one since Jan. 5.
Predicted winner: Gonzaga
Saint Mary’s (19-4, 8-1) at Santa Clara (17-7, 5-4), ESPN2, 8 p.m.
Throw out numbers. This is a rivalry game. Saint Mary’s and Santa Clara are two of the original WCC teams and this game means a lot for both teams, possibly more for Santa Clara. The Broncos have not had a marquee win since beating Saint Louis in November and a win over Saint Mary’s could solve that. Of course, Santa Clara has to play a complete game. They have gone long stretches without scoring in games and that can’t happen against Saint Mary’s. Marc Trasolini has possibly been Santa Clara’s best player and he will have to deal with the physical Saint Mary’s frontcourt. Key to the game might be Yannick Atanga and if he can stay out of foul trouble.
Predicted winner: Saint Mary’s
Follow Zack Farmer on Twitter: @Zack_Farmer