Though Saturday night’s game between BYU and Colorado State features the top offenses in the Mountain West, there is clearly a huge disparity between the programs.
It’s a matchup the ninth-ranked Cougars might have a tough time not overlooking because of the big showdown to follow, and they’ve had no trouble taking care of the Rams in recent years.
BYU (18-1, 4-0) visits Colorado State having won the last eight meetings, including all four over the previous two seasons by at least 22 points. This one might not be much closer, with the Cougars entering on an eight-game winning streak which includes double-digit victories in all four conference games.
A bigger challenge awaits Wednesday, when BYU hosts a sixth-ranked and unbeaten San Diego State team which currently has the nation’s longest win streak at 20.
Those are the only teams in the Mountain West standings ahead of the Rams (13-5, 3-1), who have won nine of 11. Plus, they’re coming off possibly their most impressive win, 78-63 at UNLV on Wednesday - a bigger margin of victory than BYU had over the previously ranked Rebels in Las Vegas on Jan. 5 (89-77).
However, Colorado State has lost 11 in a row to Top 25 opponents, dating to a 2004 conference tournament win over then-No. 25 Air Force.
The Rams lead the Mountain West in field-goal shooting at 49.7 percent and average 75.6 points, a distant second to BYU’s 84.7 average which ranks sixth in Division I.
The Cougars boast the nation’s leading scorer in Jimmer Fredette, averaging 25.8 points, and he could be due for another big game.
Fredette was limited to 21 points on 6-of-16 shooting in an 83-67 win over TCU on Tuesday. The other two times this month he was held below his season average, he followed with 39 points against UNLV and 47 versus Utah on Jan. 11.
The preseason All-American is 21 of 40 from 3-point range in five games this month and fellow senior Jackson Emery is 22 for 41. Emery, the school’s career leader with 199 steals, hit five 3s for a second straight game Tuesday and had 17 points as BYU improved to 16-0 when he scores more than 15.
“Jimmer is a great player and every team seems to have a great player,” coach Dave Rose said. “But it’s that second guy who makes the first guy better. Jackson hitting five from 3-point (range) probably changed the way TCU wanted to guard Jimmer.”
The Cougars have not been held under 70 points this season but are facing a Rams team which has held its last four opponents below 70. BYU has averaged 90.8 points on 58.0 percent shooting in the last four meetings.
Fredette scored 36 in the most recent one, a 92-70 road win Feb. 17.
“They happen to have our number,” Rams forward Andy Ogide said after that loss. “They are tough because they have to play 40 minutes of intensity against them.”
Ogide and fellow senior Travis Franklin lead Colorado State with 15.4 and 14.7 points per game, respectively. Franklin scored 24 and Ogide added 18 on Wednesday, but that duo has combined to average 16.3 points in four career games against BYU.