Santa Clara at BYU Betting Preview, Selection, Odds

Game: Santa Clara at BYU (-15)

Sharp: Dave Miller

Selection: Santa Clara (+15)

Before it readies itself for a highly anticipated showdown with No. 2 Gonzaga on Saturday in its regular-season home finale, No. 23 BYU (21-7, 10-3 West Coast Conference) will have to take care of business against Santa Clara (18-9, 5-7) on Thursday night at Marriott Center in Provo in the only meeting between the teams this season.

This week the Cougars earned their first AP Top 25 ranking since 2011, the same season they finished No. 10 after falling to Florida in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. BYU has won six consecutive games following its recent road sweep of Loyola Marymount and San Diego. The win over the Lions featured the Cougars setting a school record with 18 3-pointers, while the win over the Toreros ended up being a one-point nail-biter.

The team is back among the nation's best but will be without senior forward Dalton Nixon, who suffered a serious ankle injury at LMU. He will likely be sidelined for at least a couple of weeks. Mark Pope's squad will certainly miss his play, though the team was boosted by the return of forward Gavin Baxter, who is back after missing the first 25 games of the season due to a shoulder injury.

Meanwhile, Herb Sendek's Broncos are just 4-7 since their blazing 14-2 start to the season. They are led by junior forward Josip Vrankic (11.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game) and sophomore guard Trey Wertz (11.9 points and 3.7 boards per contest). Freshman center Jaden Bediako can be a disruptor inside and is coming off of a 12-point, 11-rebound, five-block performance.

BYU has owned Santa Clara since joining the WCC, so bet against senior TJ Haws and Co. at your own risk. This is a senior-laden team that will not be looking ahead to Gonzaga or its first NCAA Tournament in five years.

However, Santa Clara is getting a lot of points and can stay in a game because of its shooting. BYU can certainly pull away late if the game's close because it plays so well at home, but the Broncos should play well enough to stay within that number.

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