BYU basketball: High-ranked Gonzaga to visit BYU Thursday

Published: Sunday, Feb. 24 2013 3:52 p.m. MST

Gonzaga's Przemek Karnowski (24) celebrates with his team during their game against Santa Clara, in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, in Spokane, Wash. Gonzaga beat Santa Clara 85-42.

Jed Conklin, Associated Press

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PROVO — Gonzaga could become the highest-ranked team ever to play BYU at the Marriott Center.

The No. 3 Bulldogs, who invade Provo 0n Thursday (9 p.m., MT, ESPN2), are poised to rise to No. 2 in the Associated Press poll after Miami, which was ranked second last week, was upset by Wake Forest last Saturday.

The Zags (27-2, 14-0) blasted San Diego, 81-50, at home over the weekend. They have never been ranked as high as No. 2.

As of now, the highest-ranked team to play the Cougars at the Marriott Center was No. 3 Utah, in January 1998. Two years ago, No. 4 San Diego State played BYU in Provo. BYU lost to the Utes, but defeated the Aztecs.

Gonzaga has clinched at least a tie for the West Coast Conference regular-season championship. The Bulldogs have won 10 consecutive games, a streak that began with an 83-63 victory over BYU in Spokane on Jan. 24.

Last week, the Zags beat Santa Clara by 43 points before topping San Diego by 31 points.

The Cougars (20-9, 9-5), meanwhile, have lost three of their last five games, including last Thursday's 64-57 setback at Saint Mary's.

BYU stands in third place in the WCC standings and is looking to clinch the No. 3 seed in next week's WCC tournament at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.

After hosting Gonzaga, the Cougars visit last-place Loyola Marymount next Saturday in their regular-season finale.

Fourth-place Santa Clara (20-9, 8-6) entertains Loyola Marymount Thursday, then travels to Saint Mary's Saturday.

The only way that the Cougars won't be the No. 3 seed is if they lose both of their games this week, and the Broncos win both. BYU swept the season series against Santa Clara.

The No. 3 and 4 seeds earn a bye into the quarterfinals of the WCC tournament.

It's clear that the Cougars will need to win the WCC tournament in order to earn a berth into the NCAA tournament. Their streak of six consecutive NCAA tournament appearances is in serious jeopardy, and BYU's likely postseason destination is the NIT.

Thursday's showdown against Gonzaga marks the Cougars' home finale, and it will be the final regular-season home game for seniors Brandon Davies, Brock Zylstra and Craig Cusick.

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