The BYU Cougars look to end their regular season on a four-game winning streak when they take on the visiting Saint Mary’s Gaels in a West Coast Conference contest Saturday night. BYU has won three in a row and will finish in second place in the conference regardless of this outcome.
The Cougars (18-5) are 9-3 in conference play and will be the second seed at next week’s West Coast Conference tournament. These teams met with BYU coming out on top 62-52 in mid-January.
The Gaels (13-7) have won two straight and enter this one tied for fifth in the conference with Santa Clara. Both teams are a half-game behind Pepperdine in the standings at 4-5.
If you’re going to bet online on this game, the host Cougars are eight-point favorites, with the over/under set at 128.
On the Road Again
Because of multiple cancellations, the Gaels have made college basketball news by only playing four true road games. They’ve gone 2-2, one a loss at No. 1 Gonzaga.
Senior guard Tommy Kuhse paces the Saint Mary’s offense, averaging 12.9 points and 5.2 assists per game. Junior guard Logan Johnson is averaging 12.5 points on the season, but he’s heated up against WCC competition, averaging 15.3 points and coming off a 17-point outing in Thursday’s win over Pacific.
Matthias Tass, a 6-10 junior big man, will be key against the taller Cougars. Tass is averaging 11.0 points and 5.1 rebounds while shooting 52% from the field. He played well against Pacific as well, finishing with 15 points and eight rebounds.
Despite their place in the standings, the Gaels are considered in third in the standings thanks to a new system the West Coast Conference is using to determine conference tournament ranking. The system is being used to account for the scheduling imbalance caused by the pandemic and was developed by KenPom.com founder Ken Pomeroy.
The Cougars have plenty of experience in their starting five, with three seniors and a junior joining freshman Caleb Lohner on the floor at the opening tip. That kind of experience should be good for the team come NCAA March Madness as they handle the rigors of a new format for the tournament.
Senior guard Alex Barcello runs the show for coach Mark Pope, leading the team with 16.0 points and 4.6 assists per game. He also grabs 4.4 rebounds per contest and is shooting 50% from beyond the arc, leading the team with 46 3-pointers on the season.
Brandon Averette is averaging 11.4 points per game and is also a dangerous shooter from long range. Averette has 38 3-pointers on the season and dishes out 3.7 assists per contest.
The biggest addition (pun intended) to these Cougars was Purdue transfer Matt Haarms. The 7-3 senior center has plenty of experience in the postseason with the Boilermakers, and he’s been just the anchor inside BYU needed, averaging 11.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game.
The Cougars can get a little sloppy with the ball, averaging 13.4 turnovers a game. But this is a potent offense, which ranks second in the West Coast Conference in scoring at 77.9 points per game.
Too Much Strength
The Cougars are looking to finish strong and head into the West Coast Conference tournament on a high. They are too good on offense to be held down for long by the Gaels and should win this one easily.
When making your college basketball picks, take the Cougars to win and cover at home in their regular-season finale.