BYU's Fight To the Finish: Can the Cougars Win Their Last Six?

David MortimerContributor IIFebruary 15, 2010

LAS VEGAS - FEBRUARY 06:  Tyler Haws #23 of the Brigham Young University Cougars drives against Tre'Von Willis #33 and Matt Shaw #34 of the UNLV Rebels during the game at the Thomas & Mack Center February 6, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. UNLV won 88-74.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Yogi Berra said it, John Fogerty sang it, and the BYU Cougars are living it: "It's like déjà vu all over again."

With six games to play last season, BYU sat at 7-3 in Mountain West Conference play, a half-game behind San Diego State.

The Aztecs faltered twice, including a home loss to BYU, and eventually ended up in the NIT.

Meanwhile, the Cougars lost just once, at UNLV, to gain a share of their third consecutive MWC regular season title.

This season? The record and front-runner have changed, but all else is the same.

After a blowout and a nail-biter Saturday, New Mexico tops the MWC at 9-2, with the Cougars nipping at their heels at 8-2.

While an NIT trip is highly unlikely for the Lobos, the Cougars appear to be in a prime position to repeat last year's late-season heroics.

Here's a look at BYU's last six games, in order of difficulty, accompanied by Ken Pomeroy's predicted outcome of each game.


6. Feb. 20 at Wyoming

The Cowboys are an entirely different team without swingman Afam Muojeke, as seen by their 1-5 record since his injury. It appears head coach Heath Schroyer might as well put "embattled" in his title. BYU should coast in this one.

Pomeroy score: BYU 91, Wyoming 68


5. Mar. 6 at TCU

The Cougars last finished their season in Fort Worth in 2008, when the Horned Frogs made just one field goal in the final 9:18. While such a drought is not likely this time around, TCU just can't keep pace with the BYU juggernaut.

Pomeroy score: BYU 79, TCU 63


4. Feb. 17 at Colorado State

The Rams have been frisky this season and are a dark horse in the MWC tournament. However, their worst loss of the season came at BYU, a 91-47 trip behind the woodshed.

CSU, while much more talented than last year, is unable to consistently score enough points to outlast the Cougars.

Pomeroy score: BYU 77, CSU 64


3. Feb. 24 vs. San Diego State

The Aztecs gave BYU all it could handle in the Viejas Center last month but came up just short after Jimmer Fredette took over.

Kawhi Leonard must have another big game for SDSU in the paint, but another Aztec must step up to tip the scales. All signs point to D.J. Gay as the man who needs to take charge, but to do so in the Marriott Center is an order a bit too tall for him.

Pomeroy score: BYU 77, SDSU 66


2. Mar. 3 at Utah

It's hard to find the perfect word to describe the Utes this season: Unpredictable? Inconsistent? Schizophrenic?

This unpredictability, however, makes Utah that much more dangerous, especially on their home floor. Though the Huntsman Center doesn't fill up like it used to, a chance to take down BYU will raise the volume considerably.

The Cougars are far more talented than the Utes, but will they be drained after what is sure to be a barnburner against New Mexico just four days previous? If so, the Utes will capitalize.

This year's edition of BYU seems a bit tougher mentally than average, so the Cougars are likely to avoid the letdown.

Pomeroy score: BYU 76, Utah 65


1. Feb 27 vs. New Mexico

In last year's finishing stretch, BYU traveled to San Diego, overcame a 13-point halftime deficit, and beat the Aztecs, 69-59, to take the MWC lead for good.

The stakes will be just as high in this crucial game, but two differences from last year are key.

For starters, the Lobos are simply a better, deeper team that SDSU was last year. If one Lobo has a down day, another is ready to step up and make enough plays to win.

The three-headed monster of Roman Martinez, Darington Hobson, and Dairese Gary is as good as any trio in the country, let alone the MWC. Each of them will be amped to put BYU away and claim the title as his own.

The other key difference? The vaunted Marriott Center, where BYU is nearly invincible.

New Mexico is used to playing while surrounded by a wall of noise, but Provo will be absolutely atomic when the Lobos come to visit. A sellout is almost certain, given the game's importance coupled with BYU's Senior Day.

While the game will likely be closer than Pomeroy predicts, BYU's crowd will catapult the Cougars back to the front of their chase for a fourth straight title.

Pomeroy score: BYU 82, UNM 72


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