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WCC Tournament Final Preview: BYU faces must-win against Gonzaga

The Cougars have never won a regular season or tournament title in the WCC. Now would be as good a time as any to pick up their first.

Brigham Young v Saint Mary's
BYU’s Elijah Bryant
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

West Coast Conference Tournament Championship

No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs (29-4, 17-1 WCC) vs. No. 3 BYU Cougars (24-9, 11-7)

When: Tuesday, March 6 at 6 p.m. Pacific
Where: Orleans Arena, Las Vegas
Watch: ESPN

No. 6 ranked Gonzaga is looking to make it six straight WCC Tournament titles, while BYU is hoping that the third time will be the charm.

The Cougars have advanced to the WCC Tournament final twice. They came up short in both, to Gonzaga each time, but made the NCAA Tournament each year despite the loss. An at-large berth is out of the question for the Cougars, but they might have locked up their NIT at-large profile last night with their win over Saint Mary’s in the WCC semis. So if they want to make it back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015, they have to upset Gonzaga tonight.

BYU was swept by Gonzaga this season, losing by an average of 11 points per game. But that’s not to say this one is over before it starts.

In the semifinals against No. 20 ranked Saint Mary’s BYU played it’s best game of the season. The Cougars scored 1.356 points/possession and shot over 60 percent from the field in both halves. Yoeli Childs scored 33 points and Elijah Bryant added 25. It was each player’s 13th game scoring at least 20 points. Though neither has scored 20 points against Gonzaga yet this season.

Their offensive performance was impressive, but the way they disrupted the Gaels defensively was the difference-maker.

To pull the upset against Gonzaga, they’ll need to pick the right game plan, then execute it to perfection.

Sophomore Killian Tillie has been unbelievable in Vegas. The French stretch-four has gone a perfect 10-10 from three point range and totaled 50 points over his first two games. In two games against BYU this season, he managed to score just 19 total points. Perhaps the Cougars can neutralize Gonzaga’s breakout star.

If they do manage that, though, will they be able to stop anybody else? Gonzaga used a balanced attack with six players scoring in double figures to beat BYU on the road in the regular season finale.

It will be a pick-your-poison approach for Dave Rose’s staff tonight, which is not exactly a favorable situation. But of any coaching staff in the WCC, the Cougars’s staff seems most comfortable in this position.

Since joining the league for the 2011-12 season, the Cougars’s 5-13 record against Gonzaga is the best of any WCC team.