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BYU basketball, No. 17 in latest AP poll, ‘will be one of the most entertaining teams in the tournament’

BYU is also projected as a No. 6 seed in NCAA Tournament and is No. 14 in NCAA’s NET rankings. With a road win this Saturday, the Cougars would clinch the No. 2 seed, and triple bye, in the West Coast Conference Tournament.

Brigham Young Cougars forward Yoeli Childs (23) celebrates with fans who rushed the court after BYU toppled No. 2-ranked Gonzaga 91-78 at the Marriott Center in Provo on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020.
BYU Cougars forward Yoeli Childs (23) celebrates with fans who rushed the court after BYU toppled No. 2-ranked Gonzaga 91-78 at the Marriott Center in Provo on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

PROVO — In BYU coach Mark Pope’s first season at the helm, the Cougars continue to trend upward.

In the wake of the Cougars’ epic 91-78 victory over No. 2 Gonzaga Saturday night at the Marriott Center, BYU vaulted six spots in the Associated Press poll from No. 23 to No. 17 Monday. The Zags dropped to No. 3.

Last week, the Cougars made their first appearance in the AP poll in nine years.

BYU, which is riding an eight-game winning streak, closes out the regular season Saturday afternoon (4 p.m., CBS SN) at Pepperdine.

With a road win this Saturday, the Cougars would clinch the No. 2 seed, and triple bye, in the West Coast Conference Tournament.

“Every win right now is huge for us. This win (over Gonzaga) keeps giving us confidence and it keeps our momentum going,” said guard TJ Haws, who scored 16 points and recorded eight assists against the Zags. “There’s magic that happens in March. When you have a lot of momentum and you have some magic going, it will be really good for us. We’re going to get better from this and we’re excited for next week as well.”

“It was a great opportunity to put us in a good position to finish second in the league,” said Yoeli Childs, who scored 28 points and pulled down 10 rebounds Saturday. “We just wanted to fight for each other and make our last game in here special.”

Childs earned WCC Player of the Week honors Monday after averaging 25 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and shooting 51% from the field and 43% from 3-point range in last week’s wins over Santa Clara and Gonzaga.

Meanwhile, BYU (23-7, 12-3) is projected as a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament according to ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi.

The Cougars checked in at No. 14 in the NCAA’s NET rankings and Andy Katz rated BYU No. 15 in his weekly Power 36, writing, “The Cougars will be one of the most entertaining teams in the tournament.”

BYU also debuted in the USA Today Coaches poll Monday, landing at No. 18.

Saturday’s upset of the Zags gave coach Mark Pope his 100th career victory. In his fifth year as a head coach, Pope has compiled a 100-63 record.

“I’m so happy for him. He’s a special coach,” said Jake Toolson, who also played for Pope at Utah Valley University. “He believes in us, he loves us. I feel really blessed to be able to play for him. He’s a great coach but I’m so happy for him.”

“That’s like a fun thing on the list a thousand miles down,” Pope said of that milestone. “This is about these extraordinary young men coming together for each other.”

No. 17 BYU (23-7, 12-3) at Pepperdine (15-14, 8-7)

Saturday, 4 p.m. MST

Firestone Fieldhouse

TV: CBS SN

Radio: KSL 1160 AM, BYU Radio