#14 Wofford (21-12) vs. #3 BYU (30-4)
Betting Line: BYU -8 o/u 147
The third-seeded BYU Cougars (30-4) might be a bit disappointed to be in the NCAA Tournament without leading rebounder Brandon Davies, but they should at least be happy to be playing close to home at Denver’s Pepsi Center for their Southeast Region first-round matchup with the 14th-seeded Wofford Terriers (21-12) on Thursday. The Cougars (-8) seemed to be on their way to a top seed in the Big Dance before Davies was booted from the team for violating the school’s honor code.
BYU has struggled without Davies in losses against physical Mountain West Conference opponents New Mexico and San Diego State, although Wofford will not offer that same type of challenge. The tallest Terrier starter is just 6-foot-6, which figures to create big mismatches in favor of the Cougars, who will find a way to ride leading scorer Jimmer Fredette as far as possible.
Fredette scored a conference-record 52 points in an 87-76 win over the Lobos in the semifinals of the Mountain West Tournament last Friday after losing to them twice during the regular season. But he struggled with his shooting against the Aztecs in the championship Game, making 10 of 25 en route to 30 points in a 72-54 loss. BYU had swept San Diego State in two meetings during the regular season, although Davies was a huge factor in helping to neutralize the opposition’s big men.
Wofford has won eight straight Games, going 6-2 against the spread during that stretch. The Terriers knocked off the College of Charleston 76-66 to win their second straight Southern Conference Tourney title last Tuesday and hope to build on last year’s 53-49 loss to Wisconsin in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Of the team’s 12 losses, Four came in Conference play and Four others came during the first half of the season against non-Conference opponents who also made the NCAA Tournament field. Wofford failed to cover the 8-point spread in a 74-59 loss to Georgetown on November 19 but beat the 8-point line in a 94-90 overtime loss to Xavier eight days later. The Terriers also did not cover a 78-70 loss at Clemson on November 15 or a 75-66 loss at VCU on December 29, but they did beat George Mason 82-79 in overtime on November 21.
Both teams made the NCAA Tournament last year with different results. The Cougars edged Florida 99-92 in double overtime behind Fredette’s Game-high 37 points in the first round before falling to Kansas State 84-72 in the second round as he was held to 21. Meanwhile, Wofford rallied a bit in the second half of a first-round loss to the Badgers after trailing 27-19 at halftime.
Predicted SCore: BYU 87 Wofford 67