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Broncos and BYU headline Thursday night WCC action

Brief previews of Thursday's four West Coast Conference games.

Santa Clara head coach Kerry Keating and junior guard Jared Brownridge.
Santa Clara head coach Kerry Keating and junior guard Jared Brownridge.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The WCC season is now in full swing and Thursday's slate features four quality games. Two put serious underdogs in a reasonably advantageous position while the other two put quality teams in position for easy wins. With one nationally televised game, one televised regionally and all available online something has to strike your fancy for a dose of Thursday night hoops. Get to know what's going down below.

Place Team Record
1. Saint Mary's Gaels 13-1 (4-0)
2. Gonzaga Bulldogs 12-3 (4-0)
3. San Francisco Dons 8-6 (2-2)
4. Portland Pilots 8-9 (2-2)
5. Pacific Tigers 3-10 (2-2)
6. BYU Cougars 10-5 (1-1)
7. Pepperdine Waves 8-6 (1-2)
8. Santa Clara Broncos 5-11 (1-3)
9. San Diego Toreros 5-8 (0-2)
10. Loyola Marymount Lions 7-7 (0-3)

Game of the Night: Santa Clara Broncos at BYU Cougars

When: Thursday, January 7 at 8 p.m. Pacific
Where: Marriott Center (18,987), Provo, Utah
Watch: ESPNU

The 2015-2016 season hasn't been easy for Kerry Keating's Santa Clara Broncos, though this team with promise has shown flashes of its potential. On Thanksgiving they took Arizona to overtime but came up just short, 77-75. Last Thursday Gonzaga came to town and barely escaped with a 79-77 victory. Could this be the night that the upset minded Broncos finally close one out?

Junior guard Jared Brownridge (20.4 ppg) was huge in both near-upsets (44 points against Arizona and 26 against Gonzaga) for the Broncos. He will need to have another monster performance in this one. BYU's backcourt of Kyle Collinsworth (14.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 7.3 apg), Chase Fischer (18 ppg) and Nick Emery (14.4 ppg) can light it up individually and if they all get going, look out.

Fortunately for the Broncos, and those who tune into the game, a three point eruption from the Cougars isn't the end of the world. Santa Clara's shooting has improved dramatically since a dismal start to the season. Over the past 11 games the Broncos are shooting 39.5% from three.

With BYU's penchant for fast paced play Santa Clara may just be forced into shooting threes, which should make for some quality basketball entertainment.

Saint Mary's Gaels at Loyola Marymount Lions

When: Thursday, January 7 at 7 p.m. Pacific
Where: Gersten Pavilion (4,156), Los Angeles
Watch: Streaming on TheW.tv

The 13-1 Gaels take their show out of the Bay Area for the first time this season with a Southern California swing this weekend — Saint Mary's has played just two road game so far, and they were quick trips to Cal and Santa Clara. The Gaels have shown their style of play isn't just a factor of their home court, as they played very well against both the Golden Bears and Broncos.

Saint Mary's boasts arguably the best offense in the nation, as of Wednesday they rank first in field goal percentage (54.3%), assist to turnover ratio (2.04) and, per KenPom, effective field goal percentage (63.9%).

Loyola Marymount's well below average defense — the Lions give up 1.05 points per possession this season — will have a rough time containing the Gaels.

Pacific Tigers at Pepperdine Waves

When: Thursday, January 7 at 7 p.m. Pacific
Where: Firestone Fieldhouse (3,104), Malibu, Calif.
Watch: Streaming on TheW.tv

The Waves stumbled to start the season and once again to start conference play (though opening at Gonzaga isn't ever easy). With a record two games above .500 and sitting seventh in the early conference standings, hopes of an NCAA tournament at-large bid are well in the rear view mirror for what should have been a promising season.

So, who better to get back on track against than the Pacific Tigers? Probably no other team in the conference, honestly. Pepperdine has a good shot to improve to .500 in conference play before likely falling back below that mark on Saturday when the Saint Mary's Gaels come to town.

San Francisco Dons at San Diego Toreros

When: Thursday, January 7 at 7 p.m. Pacific
Where: Jenny Craig Pavilion (5,100), San Diego
Watch: Fox Sports San Diego, CSN Bay Area, ROOT Sports Northwest, ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain and also streaming out-of-market on TheW.tv.

KenPom's computer predicts San Diego will win this one and that's utterly absurd to me. San Francisco just put up 94 points on a solid Gonzaga defense and took the game to overtime (or, if you like, blew a very comfortable second half lead and couldn't keep up after that). San Diego's offense is abysmal, unlike Gonzaga's, and defensively they're nothing to write home about.

Though it must be said that this match-up does bare similarities to earlier this year when the Toreros knocked off the San Diego State Aztecs (a win that has lost almost all its luster at this point). San Diego State's offense is so bad that the Toreros needed just 53 points to win. San Francisco's defense is so bad that San Diego shouldn't have much difficulty reaching the mid-50s.

So, the similarity with the win over San Diego State is this: if you want to watch the Toreros have a shot against a much better team, now is your chance.