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Gonzaga vs. BYU: Zags take on one of the other WCC heavyweights

Every conference game is basically a must-win for Gonzaga, but a win here would feel ever so sweet.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since BYU launched into the WCC, it was supposed to change everything. The Zags now had an almost perennial NCAA Tournament contender in the conference ranks, and would finally get a bit of a RPI boost when playing WCC games.

Unfortunately, that hasn't worked out exactly as the Zags have hoped. Granted, BYU has been in the NCAA Tournament three of four full seasons in the WCC, but it has always been a crapshoot as to whether or not the team would make it.

This season, it looks just about the same. BYU has dropped only one game on conference play--against Saint Mary's. But losses to Long Beach State and Harvard have slightly tarnished the view on BYU. Still, this is on one of the top three teams in the WCC, and seeing as how close WCC games have been for Gonzaga, we shouldn't expect this one to be any more different.

Meet the Opponent

BYU Cougars, 12-5, KenPom #46

You have to give credit where credit is due for Coach Dave Rose. He takes a formula that works for the most part, and he runs with it. Coach Rose's formula is a whole crap ton of offense and then maybe playing some defense if anyone actually feels like it. The result is one of the faster-paced teams in the nation, averaging a tempo of 74.4 possessions per game. That KenPom ranking is pretty high thanks to an adjusted offensive efficiency ranked No. 27. The defense? Just as No. 142.

They are of course led by the triple-double machine Kyle Collinsworth. The senior guard has set the NCAA record for triple-doubles while he was sleeping and continues to add to it to ensure it will never be broken. Collinsworth is averaging 14.9 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game. If there is ever a conversation for best player in the conference, he is in it.

Collinsworth is joined by junior forward Kyle Davies, freshman guard Nick Emery, senior guard Chase Fischer...oh god there are so many players scoring so many points on this team. But that is what happens when you average 84.8 points per game (good for 15th in the nation). This team can score in droves and pretty much any member of their starting five is liable to go off for 30 points.

That doesn't mean this offense is invincible, however. In each loss this season, BYU has shot around 42 percent as a team (except for against Harvard). This is a high volume shooting team with a solid effective field goal percentage. But high volume shooting teams can also falter, and that is what Gonzaga needs to try and push.

What to watch out for

Can Gonzaga's offense keep up?

Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis are going to score a lot of points. The question for the Zags is where the rest of the offense is going to come from. BYU isn't half bad at shutting down the outside shot this season, so it would bode Gonzaga well to pound it down low early and pound it hard. BYU doesn't have a whole lot of height at the front end of their roster, and if 6'11 Nate Austin gets in foul trouble, the 6'8 Davis will somehow have to hope to contain Sabonis. But at the end of this game, BYU *should* score a lot of points, and that means that Gonzaga is going to need one of its supporting cast members to step up. If the guards have another shooting day like they did against Portland, things might get a bit dire.

Don't try and outshoot BYU.

BYU is going to run down the court, pull up at the three-point line, shoot it, and make it. This will happen a lot. As a team, the Cougars hit 40 percent from beyond the arc, good for No. 15 in the nation. That energy is generally contagious, and for Gonzaga, that isn't necessarily a good thing. Wiltjer can hit a three with ease, Josh Perkins has developed his outside shot as well, but the rest of the team is a bit rough around the edges from beyond the arc. McClellan, Melson and Dranginis are shooting a combined 29.2 percent from long range. Simply put, Gonzaga can't hit the outside shot like their opponent can, and there is nothing wrong with acknowledging your shortcomings.

Everyone in the The Kennel needs to make this place a living hell for BYU.

The team to beat at home in WCC is always going to be Saint Mary's, but BYU deserves some of that hatred as well. Anyone in attendance needs to remember how hideous playing in the Marriott Center can be, and channel that rage. People need to remember that the last time BYU rolled into Spokane (last year), they knocked off Gonzaga and wiped away any idea of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Last time BYU rolled into Spokane, they ended Gonzaga's 41-game home winning streak. BYU deserves any and all amount of vitrol and hate that can come their way. Let's make their trip to Spokane absolutely miserable.