BYU lands top 150 Class of 2017 point guard Christian PoPoola Jr.

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BYU kept up some momentum on the recruiting trail on Wednesday night as they grabbed a commitment from Class of 2017 point guard Christian PoPoola Jr.

The 6-foot-2 lefty guard is athletic and can make plays with the ball in his hands as Rivals rates PoPoola as the No. 143 overall prospect in the Class of 2017.

One day after landing a Class of 2016 commitment from shooting guard Colby Leifson, the Cougars added another talented perimeter option to its future.

PoPoola attends basketball powerhouse Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas and he’s a good start to BYU’s Class of 2017 recruiting efforts. BYU landing top 150 prospects is important for them maintaining in the WCC as they try to keep pace with programs like Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s at the top of that league.

BYU adds late Class of 2016 guard commitment

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BYU added another piece to its roster for next season on Tuesday night as Class of 2016 guard Colby Leifson pledged to the Cougars.

The 6-foot-4 lefty is regarded as a perimeter shooter as he attended North Gwinnett High School in Georgia before playing this summer in front of college coaches during the July live evaluation period. Leifson was originally planning on going to Brazil for a mission trip after this summer, but he’ll play the 2016-17 season as a freshman before taking his two-year mission trip. He had some low-major offers this summer, but BYU came in late to land the commitment.

Leifson should have three years of eligibility remaining and he gives the Cougars another perimeter threat and practice body.

Beehive Classic features Utah, BYU, Utah State, Weber State

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) The University of Utah, BYU, Utah State and Weber State will play in a December basketball tournament called the Beehive Classic starting this season and running through 2019. The event will be held at the home of the Utah Jazz.

Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment, the ownership branch of the Jazz and Vivint Smart Home Arena, announced the tournament Thursday.

It will feature one night of two games each year with every team playing the other two over the span of three years.

BYU will play Weber State and Utah State faces Utah on Dec. 9, 2017. On Dec. 8, 2018, it’s Utah State vs. Weber State followed by Utah vs. BYU. On Dec. 14, 2019, it’s Weber State vs. Utah and BYU vs. Utah State.

Illinois, Northwestern part of State Farm Chicago Legends event

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Thursday afternoon another in-season event was announced, with Big Ten programs Illinois and Northwestern being two of the four participants. The State Farm Chicago Legends event will be played for the first time December 17 at the United Center, with BYU and Dayton making the trip to Chicago as well.

The Cougars facing Illinois in one game and Dayton playing Northwestern in the other matchup.

Of the four teams only Dayton reached the NCAA tournament last season, and with most of their rotation returning Archie Miller’s Flyers are expected to do so once again in 2016-17. BYU, even with the loss of Kyle Collinsworth and Chase Fischer, should also be an NCAA tournament team with Nick Emery returning for his sophomore season and he’ll be joined by the likes of forward Eric Mika and guard T.J. Haws (both return from LDS missions).

Illinois will look to rebound from a disappointing season that included injuries (Tracy Abrams’ ruptured Achilles) and disciplinary issues. Malcolm Hill, one of the Big Ten’s top scorers, will be back to lead the way. And Northwestern will continue its quest for the program’s first-ever NCAA tournament bid, with a promising rotation that includes point guard Bryant McIntosh, small forward Vic Law IV and forward Dererk Pardon.

In-state rivals BYU, Utah to meet again in 2017

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - FEBRUARY 27: Head coach Larry Krystkowiak of the Utah Utes gestures to his team during the first half of their game against the Arizona Wildcats at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on February 27, 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
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The series between BYU and Utah has been an intense one, with the two programs meeting a total of 257 times with the Cougars holding a slim 129-128 advantage. But after last season’s meeting, a comfortable Utah win mired by the ejection of BYU’s Nick Emery for striking guard Brandon Taylor late in the second half, threatened the future of the series.

Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak wanted to call a halt to things, and sure enough it was announced in January that the Cougars and Runnin’ Utes wouldn’t play each other during the 2016-17 season. But the “break” will only last one season, as Utah announced Thursday that the two teams will meet in Provo during the 2017-18 season.

Athletic director Chris Hill stated in a release that also announced non-conference series with Butler and Xavier set to begin this season that the game will be played in either November or December 2017.

Hopefully the one-year hiatus will be the only hiccup in this series, one that began way back in 1909 and managed to endure changes such as the run of conference realignment that landed Utah in the Pac-12 and BYU in the WCC. As for those games against Butler (November 28) and Xavier (December 10), Utah will host the Bulldogs and visit the Musketeers this season with the return games for both series to be played during the 2017-18 season.

News of the resumption of the BYU/Utah series was first reported by the Salt Lake Tribune.

West Coast Conference Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett argues a call, during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Gonzaga in Moraga, Calif., on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
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In recent years the regular season champion of the West Coast Conference would arrive in Las Vegas feeling secure about its chances of landing an NCAA tournament bid even if they didn’t managed to grab the league’s automatic bid. Things aren’t as comfortable this time around for either Saint Mary’s or Gonzaga, as their non-conference slates either lacked the challenging games (Saint Mary’s) or quality wins (Gonzaga) needed to provide some breathing room. That, along with the presence of BYU and Pepperdine, should make for an intense “long weekend” at the Orleans Arena, where the WCC will hope that this event can produce two NCAA tournament teams.

The Bracket 

wccbracket

When: March 4-8 (no games Sunday, March 6)

Where: Orleans Arena, Las Vegas

Final: March 8, 9:00 p.m. EST

Favorite: Saint Mary’s

The Gaels surprised many by winning a share of the regular season title, as they were picked to finish fourth in the preseason poll. They’ll be the top seed this week thanks to their season sweep of Gonzaga, and with guards Emmett Naar and WCC Newcomer of the Year Joe Rahon leading the way head coach Randy Bennett has the pieces needed to win the tournament. Forwards Calvin Hermansson and Dane Pineau shouldn’t be overlooked either, as they’re second and third on the team in scoring behind Naar and 6-foot-10 freshman center Evan Fitzner was productive in both wins over Gonzaga (16.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg).

And if they lose?: Gonzaga

Mark Few’s Bulldogs are led by one of the best front court tandems in the country in senior Kyle Wiltjer and sophomore Domantas Sabonis. Wiltjer’s a face-up four with range well beyond the three-point line, thus providing Sabonis with the room he needs to operate from 15 feet and in. The question mark throughout this season has been the development of their perimeter rotation, but there has been progress. Josh Perkins was named to the WCC’s all-freshman team, and Eric McClellan the conference’s best defender. How that group, which includes Silas Melson and Kyle Dranginis, performs will be key for Gonzaga as they look to win the WCC tournament for the fifth time in the last six years.

Other Contenders:

  • BYU: They’ve got the WCC Player of the Year in versatile guard Kyle Collinsworth, and fellow guards Chase Fischer and Nick Emery can fill it up scoring-wise. And even with their ability to put up points, BYU led the WCC in defensive efficiency in conference games per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers.
  • Pepperdine: The Waves can make a claim no other WCC team can make this season: they swept Saint Mary’s. Marty Wilson’s group, led by forward Stacy Davis and guard Jeremy Major, is capable of making a run in Vegas.

WCC Player of the Year: Kyle Collinsworth, BYU

The NCAA’s all-time leader in career triple-doubles (11), Collinsworth is the “straw that stirs the drink” for BYU. In WCC games he ranked in the top five in rebounds (third), assists (first) and steals (first), and at 15.6 points per game the senior ranked 13th in the conference in scoring. At 6-foot-6 he’s a tough matchup for opposing teams from a size standpoint, and his ability to find the likes of Chase Fischer and Nick Emery makes BYU a tough team to slow down offensively.

WCC Coach of the Year: Randy Bennett, Saint Mary’s

Saint Mary’s exceeded expectations this season, going from a team pegged by many as the one likely to fall out of a top three slot to one that grabbed the top seed in the conference tournament. For that Bennett should be praised, as the backcourt of Emmett Naar and Joe Rahon has meshed well and the front court has accounted for the graduation of Brad Waldow as well.

First-Team All-WCC:

  • Kyle Collinsworth, BYU
  • Emmett Naar, Saint Mary’s
  • Stacy Davis, Pepperdine
  • Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga
  • Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga

CBT Prediction: Saint Mary’s beats Gonzaga in a thriller.