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Game Preview: Zags vs. BYU

The Zags welcome the Cougars to the Kennel on Thursday night.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 09 WCC Tournament - BYU v Gonzaga Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Gonzaga Bulldogs will face their first real test in conference play this Thursday in the form of BYU. The Cougars come in off two straight wins to open WCC play. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:00 pm. The line has not been set yet, but Gonzaga should probably open favored by nine points or so.

Meet the opponent

Brigham Young University Cougars, 14-3, KenPom #25

BYU has won each of its first two conference games, downing Pacific and Saint Mary’s at home. The matchup with the Gaels was a defensive battle, as the Cougars scored just 52 points but held SMC to 43 on 29 percent shooting with 19 turnovers.

The Cougs are led by senior guard and All-American candidate Alex Barcello, who is averaging a team high 16.6 points per game and is shooting over 46 percent from three. BYU also returns Caleb Lohner and Gideon George, while Milwaukee transfer Te’Jon Lucas is the team leader with 4.7 assists per game

What to watch out for

Is Watson’s offensive emergence here to stay?

Anton Watson led the Zags with 19 points in their win over Pepperdine, and his rise in offensive production looks like a trend more than an aberration. He has scored in double figures in each of the last four games, twice going over fifteen. His increased confidence was on display against the Waves, as he broke out some slick moves we haven’t always been accustomed to seeing from him. If he can keep it up against the more talented and physical Cougars, Gonzaga’s offensive depth in the frontcourt looks like it got that much deeper.

The atmosphere is going to be electric.

I’m not sure when students officially return for Gonzaga’s spring semester, but the crowd at the Kennel tomorrow night is going to be loud regardless. The Texas game back in October was the first big game in Spokane since the return of in-person crowds, but the hype meter goes up when marquee conference opponents come to town. Cougars-Bulldogs matchups have been the highlights of WCC play the past few years, so expect Zag Nation to be out in full force.

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.