Jed Conklin, Associated Press
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.
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