BYU head coach Mark Pope joked before the season that he should be fired for scheduling such a tough start to the 2021-22 campaign. However, the Cougars have made it through the first two of the three 2021 NCAA Tournament teams that open their season. The third game of the stretch could be the toughest, though, as they face No. 12 Oregon in Portland as part of the Phil Knight Invitational. Let’s take a look at the college basketball odds and make our pick!
BYU Cougars vs. Oregon Ducks
Tuesday, November 16, 2021 – 10:00 PM EST at Moda Center
No Cupcakes for BYU
Brigham Young certainly isn’t shying away from tough opposition this November.
“I’m going to get fired soon because all I want to do is try and be as challenged as best as we can, as fast as we can,” Pope said. “It’s not smart to schedule (Cleveland State) first. It’s not smart to schedule San Diego State second and it’s not smart to schedule Oregon third. But we’re going to do it. Who knows if we’ll make it through or not. But it’s going to show us how we need to get better. We’re so anxious to know how we need to get better.”
So far, so good. The Cougars beat Cleveland State by 10 and the Aztecs by six in a pair of hard-fought home wins. BYU will need to find its outside shot. The Cougars entered this week No. 314 in the nation in three-point shooting at just 24.3 percent.
Pope wants senior Alex Barcello, a 57 percent shooter from three, to be more aggressive in seeking his shot. He’s only taken 16 shots in the two games, and just seven from outside. Barcello and fellow senior Te’Jon Lucas give the Cougars a senior backcourt, something that bodes well for tournament success.
About the only ones shooting worse from three than BYU are BYU’s opponents. The Cougars are holding opponents to 18.4 percent from three, the seventh best defensive rate in the country.
Oregon is coming off a Sweet 16 season and is 2-0 on the year with home wins over Texas Southern and SMU by an average of 20 points. The Ducks play a matchup zone, which is even tougher for opponents to solve with the sheer amount of size Oregon can put on the floor. Four players are 6-foot-11 or taller, including 7-footer Isaac Johnson, brother of BYU’s Spencer, and 6-foot-11 Franck Kepnang.
“I know they have like 10 7-foot-2 kids that have 8-11 wingspans,” Pope said. “They really can score and they confuse you with their matchup zone.”
Oregon is far from a lumbering group of stiff big men, though. The Ducks’ leading scorer is returning guard Will Richardson, a preseason All-Pac-12 first-teamer who is averaging 19 ppg and has hit eight of his 13 three-point attempts so far this season.
Oregon is replacing three starters, and a trio of transfers is helping with that transition. Syracuse’s Quincy Guerrier, Rutgers’ Jacob Young, and Oklahoma’s De’Vion Harmon all joined the team and fit right in. Young and Harmon considered jumping to the NBA after last season but instead transferred to the Ducks.
Young is averaging 16 ppg so far. Guerrier is certainly familiar with the defense, having played in Jim Boeheim’s matchup zone for two years. Harmon, who was also heavily recruited by BYU in the transfer portal, leads the team in minutes played and rebounds at nine per game.
The last time BYU started a season with three tournament teams was 1994-95. That year, the Cougars won their first two games, then lost to Minnesota. Oregon’s size, zone, and talent level will be a tough puzzle for Pope and the Cougars to solve, but their experienced guards should be up to the challenge. For our NCAAB pick, look for the Cougars to hit from outside for the first time this year and keep things close.
*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.