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BYU vs. Gonzaga: How the Cougars matchup against the No. 1 undefeated 'Zags

Brigham Young Cougars guard Nick Emery (4) scores past Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Eric McClellan (23) during the WCC tournament in Las Vegas Monday, March 7, 2016.  BYU lost 88-84.
Brigham Young Cougars guard Nick Emery (4) scores past Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Eric McClellan (23) during the WCC tournament in Las Vegas Monday, March 7, 2016. BYU lost 88-84.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

BYU and Gonzaga square off in Provo on Thursday night in one of the biggest match-ups the Marriott Center has ever seen.

For the Cougars, it is a chance to make history — to become the first BYU men's basketball team to beat the No. 1 ranked team in the nation. To do so, they have to overcome some big obstacles.

No. 1 ranked Gonzaga is a supremely talented team which comes to town riding a 22-game winning streak with a 23.8 points average margin of victory.

Here is a look at how the two teams measure up in BYU's toughest home test to date.


The starting backcourt

BYU

The Cougars use a three-guard line-up, led by sophomore Nick Emery. He is second on the team in scoring, averaging 13.9 points on 38 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

Joining him is former Lone Peak High School teammate TJ Haws who is in his first season with the Cougars. Haws has put up some big numbers for the up-and-down Cougars with averages of 13.7 points, 3.4 assists and 3.1 rebounds.

The third member of the backcourt is senior transfer L.J. Rose who is leading the team with 4.8 assists a night while adding 5.6 points and 4.8 rebounds.

Gonzaga

The Bulldogs feature a veteran three-guard lineup that has had plenty of success.

Nigel Williams-Goss is a do-everything lead guard who is in his first season after arriving from Washington. He can score the ball at a high rate (14.8 points per game), but is also the team's best facilitator averaging 4.9 assists.

Next to him is another former Pac-12 product, senior-transfer Jordan Mathews. He is also in his first season on the floor with the Bulldogs after showing off his outside shooting stroke with the California Bears for three seasons. He is an elite 3-point shooting threat who has already hit 51 3-point shots this season.

Alongside the transfers is sophomore Josh Perkins who is averaging 9.0 points a game on 43.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

Edge: Gonzaga


The starting frontcourt

BYU

Eric Mika is the one to watch for the Cougars up front. He is one of the best scorers in the West and a double-double machine. He is leading the team with 20.8 points on 54.8 percent shooting with 9.6 rebounds and 2.0 blocks.

Joining him is freshman Yoeli Childs who has stepped up since Kyle Davis was lost with a season-ending injury. Childs is a solid scorer (8.5 points per game), who does most of his damage close to the basket. He is also an excellent rebounder averaging 8.3 rebounds per contest.

Gonzaga

Przemek Karnowski is the man in the middle for the Bulldogs. He is second on the team averaging 12.5 points per game on 61.5 percent shooting while adding 5.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists.

Next to him is Missouri transfer Jonathan Williams. He is a great finisher who averages 9.6 points on 59.7 percent shooting with 5.5 rebounds.

Edge: BYU


The benches

BYU

Only three bench players average more than eight minutes a game for the Cougars. Elijah Bryant sees the most action averaging 20.7 minutes and putting up 9.5 points on 43 percent shooting.

Freshman guard Steven Beo and junior guard Davin Guinn are the other main bench contributors, but neither averages more than three points a game.

Gonzaga

The Bulldogs use a seven or eight man rotation, but get excellent production out of Zach Collins and Silas Melson.

Collins is a 7-foot freshman who is a presence on both ends of the floor. He is averaging 10.8 points on 67.8 percent shooting from the field with 5.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 17.1 minutes.

Melson is another one of the Bulldogs' impressive outside shooters. He averages 8.4 points on 38.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

Edge: Gonzaga


The coaches

BYU

Dave Rose is one of the winningest coaches in BYU history having amassed 299 wins with the Cougars in 12 seasons.

He has taken the Cougars to 11 straight post season appearances, including eight NCAA Tournaments.

While he holds a 5-10 record in the series, he is 4-5 in games where Gonzaga is ranked, including a 73-70 win in the Kennel in 2015 when the Bulldogs were ranked No. 3.

Gonzaga

Mark Few has had unparalleled success during his time at the helm with the Bulldogs. He has coached 488 games in 18 seasons with a winning percentage of 81.5.

He has won 15 regular-season conference titles, 13 conference tournament championships and made the NCAA Tournament every year.

On top of that, he is 3-2 against the Cougars in the Marriott Center, including wins in each of the past two seasons.

Edge: Gonzaga