LOS ANGELES — In the space of 48 hours, BYU is going from hosting the first-place team in the West Coast Conference — and the No. 2 ranked team in the nation, Gonzaga — to visiting last-place Loyola Marymount.
With a win Saturday (9 p.m. MST, ESPNU) over the Lions in the regular-season finale at Gersten Pavilion, the Cougars could clinch the No. 3 seed in the WCC tournament, which tips off next week at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
As of now, BYU and Santa Clara are tied for third in the WCC standings with identical 9-6 league records. But by virtue of the Cougars' season sweep of the Broncos, BYU would earn the No. 3 seed if the two teams tie.
Santa Clara visits Saint Mary's Saturday, one day after the NCAA announced sanctions against the Gaels.
The Cougars are mired in a two-game losing streak and have lost four of their last six games, including a 70-65 defeat to No. 2 Gonzaga last Thursday at the Marriott Center.
"They're good. They're one of the best teams we've played since I've been here," coach Dave Rose said of the Zags. "It's kind of comparable to the North Carolina team we played in Vegas a few years ago that ended up winning the national championship. I hope we get a chance to play them again in Vegas."
For now, though, the Cougars are simply looking for a victory of any kind.
"We need to get a win here and get on a positive note to have confidence going into the tournament in Vegas," said Rose.
But the coach added that Loyola Marymount (1-14, 8-21) should test his squad.
"We'll have a challenge on Saturday," Rose said. "It's a really talented team that's had some tough luck."
The struggling Lions have dropped 13 straight games, including a 79-56 beating at Santa Clara last Thursday.
Despite back-to-back losses to Saint Mary's and Gonzaga, senior guard Brock Zylstra said his team has improved dramatically since dropping two consecutive games to San Diego and San Francisco in early February.
"We're playing more as a team, we're sharing the ball. (Forward Brandon Davies) is playing great for us," Zylstra said. "We're playing, as a whole, better. If you look at the tape from two weeks ago when we played San Diego and San Francisco, we're playing 100 times better than we did then."
"We're just now kind of finding ourselves and playing the way we should have been playing all year," said Davies. "Against good teams like (Gonzaga), among the elite, you've got to put it together from the beginning of the season."
BYU (20-10, 9-6) at Loyola Marymount (1-14, 8-21)
9 p.m. MST
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company