Feb. 28, 2015 marked a turning point for the Gonzaga Bulldogs and the BYU Cougars. On that day, BYU marched into Spokane and squeaked away a win on Senior Night, and also got the win that propelled them into the NCAA Tournament.
BYU carried the torch again this season, with a one-point win against the Zags, courtesy of a dagger from Nick Emery. The Zags returned the favor on Senior Night for BYU, rolling into Provo and stealing a win.
The two teams split the series this year in games decided by a total of four points. When BYU entered the WCC, Gonzaga fans were excited for a legitimate opponent, and that is what we have got. Saint Mary's is still Enemy No. 1, but the Cougars are making a convincing case for Enemy No. 1.5.
There is plenty on the line tonight, obviously. Every team in the WCC Tournament is playing for chance to play in the NCAA Tournament. The Zags are a team on the ropes, and BYU smells blood. Or, the Zags are a team that is finally peaking at the right time, and BYU won't know what hit it.
The odds state it as well. Ken Pomeroy has the Zags winning by three points. The spread in Vegas stands at just 2.5 points. Tomorrow night is going to be a blood bath. It'll also be a borderline neutral stadium. No team in the WCC travels quite like the Gonzaga faithful, but there are plenty of BYU fans that reside in Nevada. Although it will be a heavily pro-Gonzaga oriented crowd tomorrow, there will be plenty of positive noise for BYU as well.
It also might be the final game for Kyle Collinsworth and Chase Fischer. But BYU is primed to reload, with freshmen Nick Emery and Zac Seljaas leading the charge. BYU has been in the WCC Tournament three out of the past four years since joining the WCC, and that isn't going to change now that coach Dave Rose has cemented his position.
Tomorrow night the team that wins is the team that wants it more. It is as simple as that. These two teams have played each other as closely as possibly all season. BYU boasts an impressive high-octane offense that is going to try and run through the brick wall of Gonzaga's stout team defense.
The Zags are two games away from the NCAA Tournament but also just one loss away from potentially missing the whole thing. This is college basketball at both its finest and its worst.