LAS VEGAS — 2 BYU vs. 1 Gonzaga (7:00 MDT ESPN)
Regular season meetings: The Cougs and Zags split their two regular season meetings, each winning on the other’s home court. Gonzaga won 87-80 in Provo on Dec. 27, and BYU pulled off one of the biggest upsets in program history when it beat the No. 3 Bulldogs 73-70 in Spokane on Feb. 28.
Momentum factor: BYU comes in hot after Tyler Haws’ last–second heroics in the quarterfinal and Kyle Collinsworth’s record-setting triple-double Monday night against Portland. Gonzaga had to come from behind to beat San Francisco on Saturday but easily took care of the Pepperdine Waves with a 79-61 final score in the semis.
What a win means: The WCC champion gets an automatic invite to the NCAA tournament, but both teams appear to be in; it’s just a matter of where they’ll be seeded. Also at stake are bragging rights. Gonzaga has been top dog in the West Coast for more than 15 years, and BYU would love nothing more than to dethrone them. The Cougars are also looking for their first tournament championship in head coach Dave Rose’s tenure, a fact that BYU basketball fans are very aware of.
Players to watch: We already mentioned BYU’s Haws and Collinsworth, so let’s take a look at a few supporting Cougars. Corbin Kaufusi has had an excellent tournament so far, finally providing some semblance of inside scoring for BYU. Chase Fischer was on fire in the semifinal game on Monday; they’ll hope he can stay hot outside the arc. As for the Zags … well … how much time do you have? This team is loaded, so we’ll just mention a few players who could make an impact on tonight’s game: Kevin Pangos, Kyle Wiltjer, Domantas Sabonis, Gary Bell, Jr., Przemek Karnowski, Byron Wesley, Kyle Dranginis, Angel Nunez. That’s right, eight guys who could start on almost any team in the nation. That’s why Gonzaga is in the discussion for a top seed in the NCAA tournament.
What Vegas oddsmakers are saying: Gonzaga 7.5, O/U 154.5