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Jay Drew
Jay covers BYU athletics for The Salt Lake Tribune. You can follow him on Twitter @drewjay.

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BYU needs to beat Zags to rekindle NCAA Tournament at-large hopes

After their 80-66 loss to St. Mary's on Saturday night, BYU players Noah Hartsock and Matt Carlino were adamant that the team would bounce back this week, saying Dave Rose-coached teams are known for not losing two games in a row.

But the test on Thursday is huge, with Gonzaga rolling into Provo having won four straight games and well-rested. The Zags haven't played since beating Portland 74-62 in Portland last Thursday. The Cougars should have their legs, too, finally getting some rest after playing at Virginia Tech on Wednesday and in Provo on Saturday.

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Fresh legs are huge to shooting, coaches say, and BYU knows all about bad shooting after going 11 of 73 from 3-point range in its last four games.

Should be an interesting matchup.

NCAA Tournament projections are getting to be a dime-a-dozen, it seems, but the good ones survive, such as Andy Glockner's in SportsIllustrated.com, Joe Lunardi's Bracketology in ESPN.com and Jerry Palm's work for CBSsports.com.

Jay Bilas of ESPN also does good work. He dropped BYU four spots to No. 42 in his Top 68 Index, noting "BYU dropped a home game to [St. Mary's], but this remains a good team."

Here's a rundown of what the others are saying:

* Glockner dropped BYU (RPI of 48) out of his tournament projections this week, along with Cincinnati, NC State and Massachusetts. He's got St. Mary's as a No. 4 seed and Gonzaga as a No. 6.

"Beating just about everyone else but Saint Mary's and Gonzaga probably won't be enough for the Cougars," Glockner writes. "They still have a home-and-home with the Zags, and probably need to split that and win a WCC semi against either of the big two to feel decent about their chances. No good wins right now."

* Palm has BYU as a No. 13 seed in his projections, the only major bracketologist that I've found online that still has the Cougars in the Big Dance.

* ESPN's Lunardi has the Cougars among the First Four Out with NC State, Stanford and Marshall. He's got St. Mary's as a five and Gonzaga as a six.

* Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports calls BYU's win at Va Tech a good win, but says the loss in Logan to Utah State is now a bad loss, along with the 82-68 setback at home to Loyola Marymount.

"A split of two games against Gonzaga (and no more gad losses) would make the Cougars feel more secure," Forde notes.

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