BYU Basketball faces a key road test on Saturday night, taking on a tough San Francisco team for the second spot in the West Coast Conference standings.
It’s not a giant surprise that BYU Basketball sits in second place in the West Coast Conference at this point in the season.
Yes, the Cougars struggled in their non-conference slate, and a lot of those struggles still remain unresolved, but coming into the season most people expected BYU to finish either second or third in the WCC this season.
The bigger surprise is who’s sitting right behind them.
San Francisco is just a half-game behind the Cougars in the standings, and unlike BYU the Dons didn’t struggle in their non-conference slate. They knocked off Harvard, Cal, and Stanford, only losing two games in that stretch.
Plus they’ve already beaten St. Mary’s in WCC play and took No. 5 Gonzaga to the wire before falling behind in the last couple of minutes.
The Dons have looked like the clear-cut second-best team in the conference this season, and if it stays that way they’d be the first team in quite some time to break through the “Big Three” of Gonzaga, BYU, and St. Mary’s.
BYU heads to San Francisco to take on the Dons on Saturday night. The winner sit in the WCC’s No. 2 spot, and if the Cougars can steal this road win they’ll be in good position to keep that spot.
Getting the No. 2 seed in the WCC Tournament is even more important this year, as the two top teams both get a bye until the semifinals.
But San Francisco has been the better team so far, and it’ll take BYU’s best road game of the year to pull off the win.
Here’s the battles they’ll need to win to walk away with a road victory:
Win the Turnover Battle
Just like their defense, BYU’s turnover rate is much higher on the road. On Thursday night at Pepperdine the Cougars matched their season average (11) by halftime. Fortunately they did better in the second half, but they can’t afford to make the same mistakes against San Francisco.
The Dons only allow 62.6 points per game, and they hold opponents to just 40.1% shooting and 28.7% from distance.
If BYU struggles with their perimeter shooting, which they’re prone to do, they’ll need to maximize their scoring chances on every possession, and turnovers will become even more costly.