The West Coast Conference is on full display Thursday night. The matchup between the BYU Cougars and the Pacific Tigers will be the undercard for the Gonzaga/St. Mary’s matchup. The undercard always has great value and I think this game is a perfect example of it. The Cougars are 15-5 overall on the season with losses to Gonzaga (2), USC, Boise State and Pepperdine. All but Pepperdine are likely NCAA tournament teams and all losses have something in common, the opposing team’s prolific athletic talent took away the strengths of the Cougars. That will not be the case in this matchup.
Pacific plays at one of the slower paces in the nation ranking 288th overall. Their pace has hidden a lot of their flaws on the defensive end. They are efficient according to the analytics ranking 98th overall in defensive efficiency but they still give up 71 ppg. They really have trouble defending beyond the arc giving up 35% shooting. While this BYU team is the shot-chucking team of the last few seasons they still can hit the three when given the chance making 35% of them on the season. Pacific relies on leading scorers Daniss Jenkins and Jeremiah Bailey, both average 12 ppg, other than that they don’t have any consistency on the offensive end. The Tigers got huge performances from their bench in the first matchup from Jabril Price-Noel and Justin Moore, who gave them 34 points in a OT loss. They can’t assume that they will get that kind of production again.
BYU guards the interior very well only allowing 44% shooting from inside the three point line this season. The Tigers are a horrible outside shooting team, they have to force turnovers and drive to get baskets and an offense reliant on that will have problems with the length BYU brings to the table. The Cougars have a group of offensive threats most notably guard Alex Barcullo who averages 15 ppg. They have two post threats that are ferocious on the glass in Caleb Lohner and Purdue transfer Matt Harms,. The interior will be completely controlled by BYU, they average 78 ppg and should have no problem scoring in this matchup.
The Cougars are not scared of playing on the road. They are 4-1 ATS on the road this season and they are in need of a win. While there are no stats that back up the desperation for a win, I like to go with teams on the bubble playing teams with little to play for. Pacific is a tough team led by a former NBA player and will keep this close in the first half, ultimately the better offense will pull away.
Play of the day: BYU Cougars -5.5