Provo • Oh, what might have been.
That's the sentiment of the BYU Cougars as they prepared for what was supposed to be the biggest game of their first men's basketball season in the West Coast Conference, Thursday night's clash with perennial WCC power Gonzaga.
Tipoff is at 9 p.m. and the game will be televised nationally by ESPN2. As of Wednesday, only 1,000 or so tickets remained for the game in the 22,700-seat Marriott Center.
There's not nearly as much intrigue as the Cougars (18-6, 6-3 WCC) figured there would be, thanks to back-to-back home losses to Loyola Marymount and Saint Mary's that not only took them out of the league race but put their hopes for an NCAA Tournament at-large berth in serious jeopardy as well.
Gonzaga (17-3, 7-1) has held up its end of the bargain to make this a marquee matchup for the league, after the Cougars knocked them out of the tournament last year with an 89-67 beatdown in Denver.
"I don't know if [the game] is do-or-die, but they are important. Every game is important," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "It is important to improve as a team. History will tell you that our teams get better through February and into March. Right now, this team has that opportunity. We will see if we can take advantage of it."
The Zags have won four straight games, but haven't played since last Thursday, a 74-62 win at Portland.
No. 24 Gonzaga at BYU
P At the Marriott Center (Provo)
Tipoff • Thursday, 9 p.m.
TV • ESPN2
Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Records • BYU 18-6, 6-3; Gonzaga 17-3, 7-1
Series history • Tied, 1-1
Last meeting • BYU, 89-67 (March 19, 2011)
About the Cougars • They have lost two straight home games for the first time in coach Dave Rose's seven-year tenure in Provo. â¦ Brandon Davies is the WCC's leading scorer in league games, averaging 18.7 ppg. in those games. â¦ They defeated the Zags in the NCAA Tournament's second round last year in Denver, but have not played them since.
About the Bulldogs • They are led in scoring by 6-foot-7 forward Elias Harris (13.7 ppg.). Freshman guard Kevin Pangos averages 13.3 ppg. â¦ They are scoring 73.8 ppg. and allowing 62.7 ppg. â¦ They have not played in a week, having defeated Portland in Portland last Thursday. â¦ They are ranked No. 24 in the AP Top 25 and are receiving votes in the coaches poll.