If there is one team in the WCC that has found a hole in the Spokane armor, it is the BYU Cougars. BYU has won three-straight in Spokane in three consecutive years, even more enraging, by a combined 12 points.
The Zags got a good defensive test against San Diego on Thursday night, and they had to grind out the win to do it. No one said the Toreros were going to be easy. But now, they possibly just earned a more dangerous BYU team rolling into Spokane.
The Cougars inexplicably lost to LMU last night, which means that any remote bubble chances for this squad (and let’s be honest, they were slim at best) are completely gone. With two losses to Saint Mary’s on the year supplemented by two losses to Pacific and LMU, the Cougars are officially playing with nothing left to lose. Often times, those are the most dangerous squads.
Meet the opponent
BYU Cougars, 18-6, KenPom #55
Where to even start here? This is a completely different BYU squad than we are used to seeing over the past few seasons. Case and point? Last season, BYU’s tempo was the fourth-quickest in the nation. This season, it is No. 242. Coach Dave Rose has changed it up quite a bit after losing Eric Mika early.
This isn’t nearly as high octane of an offense as before, but it still has some legitimately great scorers. Junior winger Elijah Bryant will be a first-team WCC player. He averages 18.2 points and 6.5 rebounds, shooting 45 percent from three and padding the rest of the stat box with ease. If you want to look for maybe one of the best all-around players in the conference, he is in the conversation.
After him, you have sophomore big man Yoeli Childs, who many expected to carry the torch down low this season after Mika’s departure. He hasn’t disappointed whatsoever. Childs averages 17.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Finally, there is TJ Haws, who is always a threat from long range but is hardly the player to worry about (yet) like his older brother was.
What to watch out for
Crash the offensive glass hard.
Both Childs and Bryant are really good defensive rebounders, and like the Toreros, BYU is good at denying those second-chance points. This isn’t the BYU offensive juggernauts of yesteryear, the defense is ranked much higher than the offense according to Ken Pomeroy. Childs and Bryant are versatile and athletic, and the Zags need to do a good job of bodying them off the glass.
Pass the stupid ball around.
Last night against San Diego, the Zags finished just seven assists as a team (Josh Perkins had ZERO). This is an offense that is better than that. Granted, San Diego’s defense did a great job of staying with their man and collapsing when needed, but the Zags offense runs best when it isn’t a bunch of hero ball happening. Those are when the offensive lulls happen, and Mark Few and company are never a big fan of those one on one attacks. BYU is going to be even more athletic than San Diego, but the Zags can counter that by playing good halfcourt offense. This team is smart enough to do so.
Bully them with our guards.
Both Perkins and Melson will have some serious size on their competition. TJ Haws is about the same height as Melson, but lacks 30 pounds on him. Janshire Hardnett only stands at an even six feet. The Zags have a the size advantage here and should ruthlessly exploit it. Melson has been showing signs of offensive life in the past few games, finishing with double digit points in three-straight games. The combination of their styles of attack: Perkins with the long range and Melson with the drives, should throw fits for these BYU guards.