COMMENTARY – As members of the media and more specifically, sports writers, we are a group that often gets accused of using excessive hyperbole. You know, hype, trying to make our readers excited over an event that isn’t always as big a deal as we make it out to be.
But I don’t think I can do that here as tonight’s Gonzaga-BYU game is as big as it gets for both teams.
Any BYU fan, especially a hoops aficionado, has a chance to witness the biggest regular-season home game in nearly 50 years and the biggest ever in the Marriott Center tonight as No. 2-ranked Gonzaga comes to town.
The last time the Cougars played a team that highly-ranked in Provo, it was 1965 and Matty Goukas-led St. Joseph’s, rated second in the nation, got run out of Provo 103-83.
The game was played in the old Smith Fieldhouse and BYU’s stars were Dick Nemelka and Neil Roberts. The Cougars would go on to win the NIT that year, but I’m not here to talk about them.
This game tonight (9 p.m. at the Marriott Center) is significant in many ways – for both teams.
Starting with Gonzaga, this game most likely means a No. 1-ranking for the first time ever for the Bulldogs and the West Coast Conference. The ‘Zags have one last regular-season game left, at home vs. lowly Portland Saturday. With top-ranked Indiana having already lost this week, the top spot is there for the taking.
Gonzaga is also on the verge of grabbing a No. 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament, which would also be a first. A win in Provo will also likely mean an undefeated WCC season and would officially clinch the league title outright for the Bulldogs.
Gonzaga has beaten BYU three times in a row, but the last time the Bulldogs visited Provo (Feb. 2, 2012), it was the Cougars who took an 83-73 win.
One thing Gonzaga is not playing for is an NCAA Tournament berth. They are a shoo-in. As for BYU, this may be its only chance.
At 20-9, the Cougars are on the low end of the tournament-bubble spectrum. We’ve crunched the numbers in past weeks in this column, but now we’re down to desperation time. BYU has to win tonight vs. Gonzaga to have any chance of getting into the big dance.
That’s not to say a win and they get in. The Cougars still have work to do, including closing out the conference with a win at Loyola Marymount Saturday. BYU would also need to at least make the finals of the conference tournament, which means (among other wins) a victory over Saint Mary’s College.
But the exciting thing is, BYU still has a chance. Hope is still alive.
Hopefully 22,000 fans realize that and deafen the Bulldogs into submission tonight at the Marriott Center.
Andy Griffin is a sports commentator. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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