Gonzaga (22-0, 10-0) at BYU (16-7, 7-3)
When: Thursday, February 2nd 2017
Where: Marriott Center, Provo, UT
Time: 11:00 ET | TV: ESPN2
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The top-ranked and undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs have their first test as a No. 1 team when they visit the Brigham Young Cougars in Provo, Utah on Thursday night. The Bulldogs tied a record set by the 2014-15 team with their 22nd consecutive victory last Saturday at Pepperdine and were elevated to the No. 1 spot on Monday for just the second time in program history. Gonzaga has dominated opponents with an average winning margin of 23.8 points and have 15 victories by 20 or more points, including eight by 30 or more. The Bulldogs haven’t even trailed in the last 224 minutes, 31 seconds of playing time and only three of their games have been decided by single digits. Junior point guard Nigel Williams-Goss received the WCC Player of the Week honors after averaging 18.5 points on 17-of-24 shooting in the past two games and he leads the Bulldogs in scoring (14.8), assists (4.9) and steals (36). Senior center Przemek Karnowski is shooting 71.3% from the field in 10 WCC contests and has an overall percentage of 61.5 while averaging 12.5 points and 5.4 rebounds. Freshman backup power forward Zach Collins (10.8) has hit his last 12 shots, has scored in double digits in six of the past seven games and is shooting 67.8% from the field overall.
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BYU, which is hosting a No. 1 team for the first time in program history, owns a 12-1 record at home including nine straight wins, and are led by Eric Mika. The sophomore forward has scored in double digits in every game this season and leads the Cougars in scoring (20.8), rebounding (9.6) and blocked shots (46). He recently had a stretch of seven consecutive double-doubles stopped and has gone over 20 points in five of the past eight games. Sophomore guard Nick Emery (13.9 average, 54 3-pointers) and freshman guard TJ Haws (13.7, 49 3s) are the sharpshooters while senior point guard L.J. Rose is averaging 4.8 assists while running the offense. Emery is battling an illness and is questionable for Thursday’s game. A victory would make Dave Rose (299-106) the second coach in Cougars’ history to reach 300 victories, joining Stan Watts (371 from 1949-72). Gonzaga holds an 10-5 series edge and is 3-2 when facing BYU in Provo.
I have to think that at some point, Gonzaga is going to get a game and this might be the spot. BYU is a talented team and will be playing this like a championship game. Teams seem to struggle right after they’ve been vaulted to the top of the polls, especially ones that haven’t been there in a while. See Baylor earlier this year. I’ll take the points.
Pick: BYU +8.5