When Gonzaga and BYU took to the floor in their first matchup this season, things were quite a bit different. Gonzaga was fresh off a devastating loss to Butler and everyone was wondering if that loss would throw off what was looking to be an extremely promising season. BYU was looking to capitalize on this and take down the wounded Zags in Spokane. At that point, BYU was a 15-5 program with aspirations to make some serious noise in the conference and at least bolster their NCAA Tournament resume. Backed by the momentum of their home crowd, the Bulldogs put together an incredible performance to dominate BYU and get their season back on the right track. If that game had gone another way, there is no telling what we would be talking about at this moment.
Since that loss to Butler, the Zags haven't lost and, to be honest, except for a few moments against San Francisco in War Memorial, they haven't really been tested. They've won every game in that stretch by an average of over 20 points and have risen to the No. 2 ranking in the country. With seemingly every other night bringing a top-5 team falling by way of an upset, now is not the time for the Zags to be patting each other on the back. As we've outlined before, the Zags don't have the luxury that teams like Duke, Indiana, and other power conference teams have. They can't lose and still have a shot at a one or two seed. Lose, and the Zags are left wondering what East Coast destination they will be heading to.
With a target firmly painted on their back, Gonzaga now travels to Provo to take on a hungry BYU team. While the Cougars likely need the auto-bid to make the tournament, there is no doubting that they would love to play spoiler to the Zags high tournament hopes. One person in particular that would love to take down the Zags is star guard Tyler Haws. The prolific scorer scored a season low 1 point when BYU came to Spokane and was rendered completely useless. The sophomore is averaging 21 points per game and will absolutely need to step it up if their is any hope for a Cougar upset.
With a win Thursday night, the Zags will achieve one of their major goals for the season - win the regular season conference title outright. In addition to that, they will be that much closer to that coveted one-seed and, with the losses around them, to the No. 1 ranking.