Gonzaga vs. BYU 2014 game preview: Time for a big (???) test

William Mancebo

The BYU Cougars just lost to Portland, and this possibly makes them more dangerous.

The Gonzaga Bulldogs are fully healthy, and they'll need that full compliment of scorers when they take on the BYU Cougars at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

Gary Bell had five points in his return, playing 22 minutes in the process. The Gonzaga offense got just barely enough against a feisty San Diego squad. Four Zags scored in double figures, led by Sam Dower's 18 points, but Gonzaga got a total of six players scoring. The team shot alright, but they looked tepid on the floor and finished with just four free throw attempts.

The announcers mentioned that Gerard Coleman left Thursday night's game with the flu. There is definitely a bug going around (and it has more than ravaged this bench), so lets hope that he drinks his fluids and is doing alright on Saturday.

Meet the opponent

BYU Cougars (13-8),Kenpom #47, RPI #45

The Jekyll and Hyde season of BYU continued on Thursday night when they fell at Portland in three overtimes. That is the third loss for the Cougars on the conference slate with every loss coming on the road. Still, despite the losses, the Cougars are probably the most dangerous team in the WCC. They lead the nation in points scored and are second in points per game. No team in the nation has more field goals or total rebounds than the Cougars.

The question is, where does that offense come from? A solid chunk is courtesy of probably, eventual WCC Player of the Year Tyler Haws. Haws averages 23.6 points per game and can take over if he needs to. Take last night for example, Haws scored 48 points in the loss. He is a threat to go off at all times, and hasn't scored under double-figures all season. He has eclipsed 30 points five times this season.

The Cougars have the steady hand of Matt Carlino running the point. The junior guard is averaging 4.8 assists and leads the WCC in steals. He is a tenacious defender that will give Kevin Pangos fits. Carlino isn't the best of shooters, but he still hasn't seen a shot he doesn't like. He averages 13.5 attempts per game, hitting 39 percent of them. Just like Haws, if Carlino's shot is falling, the Cougars can be tough to beat.

What to watch out for

The Cougars hit the ground running and demand teams to keep up. The Gonzaga Bulldogs can run with the best of them from top to bottom. Przemek Karnowski can take time getting across the floor, and Sam Dower is probably one of the better running bigs in the nation. The Bulldogs have a couple of distinct advantages going into the game -- home court advantage and rested legs.

Hopefully, the home court advantage shows up from the beginning. No offense to any students reading the site, but the section looked on extended winter break throughout much of the San Diego game, picking up the intensity at the very end. This is a common occurrence when you are used to winning, Gonzaga has lost only two games at this version of the Kennel after all. BYU is a high profile opponent and they deserve the high profile treatment (fierce hatred).

The second point will be key. Instead of playing 40 minutes on Thursday like most teams did, BYU played 55. Their starters played a lot of minutes. Haws was on the court for 50 minutes. Nate Austin played 52, Kyle Collinsworth saw 43, Carlino was at 44, etc. That is a lot of minutes on a 48 hour turnaround. The Zags are rested, and despite potentially missing Coleman, they need to push the ball hard and push it fast. BYU doesn't get run off a floor too often, but let's make this one of them.

Haws will score a boatload of points, that goes without saying. The Zags will need someone else to score a boatload of points. Sam Dower has been on fire as of late and we need his hot hand to be contagious. The Cougars are a scary team normally, but they are even more terrifying now because of the corner they've backed themselves into. Despite that impressive non-conference schedule, the losses mounting up on BYU's end are severely threatening their hopes of a NCAA Tournament bid. Teams with nothing to lose play like they have nothing to lose in the WCC. Normally, they just aren't that good. BYU doesn't fit that profile. They are good and they need a win.

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