Brigham Young Cougars vs. Cincinnati Bearcats Pick & Prediction JANUARY 6th 2024

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The action heats up for No. 12 BYU and Cincinnati on Saturday when both schools make their Big 12 Conference debuts in Provo, Utah.

BYU (12-1) has emerged as one of the biggest surprises this season by dominating on both ends of the court. The Cougars are averaging 90.4 points per game while holding opponents to 61.5 points per contest. That 28.9-point scoring margin leads all Division I teams. They also rank first nationally in assists (22.5) and made 3-pointers (12.8 per game).

“We’re not selfish,” center Atiki Ally Atiki said. “We like to pass the ball to our teammates. If someone is open, we share the ball. I think that’s really important and it’s hard to guard when you move the ball a lot.”

The Cougars closed out nonconference play with a 94-68 victory over Wyoming on Dec. 30. BYU never trailed after using an 18-0 run to take a 27-10 lead. Trevin Knell and Noah Waterman paced the Cougars with 17 points apiece. Ally Atiki had 14 points and Jaxson Robinson added 10 off the bench after a one-game absence for an ankle injury.

BYU may be at full strength for the first time this season going into Saturday’s game. Fousseyni Traore was a full participant in practices this week after a hamstring injury sidelined him for December. Traore gives the Cougars a rugged defensive presence and an inside scoring component to balance their lethal outside shooting.

Injuries have afflicted BYU throughout the first two months of the season and the Cougars are eager to see what they can do at full strength.

“We still haven’t had a game with a healthy roster,” coach Mark Pope said. “I would like to have a healthy roster, but these guys have answered the bell in spite of that for a really impressive two-month run.”

Cincinnati (11-2) has not fared well in its last two contests away from home. The Bearcats gave up an average of 83 points per game in mid-December losses to Xavier and Dayton.

Their chances against BYU may hinge on the health of Aziz Bandaogo, who has missed three straight games with since straining his back against Dayton. Bandaogo, a Utah Valley transfer, played a big role in his former team’s upset at BYU last season with 14 points and seven rebounds in the Wolverines’ 75-60 win over the Cougars.

“Aziz has been working back in,” Cincinnati coach Wes Miller said. “I wouldn’t say he’s 100 percent. He’s been working back in this week. That’s a good sign moving forward.”

Counteracting BYU’s outside shooting will be crucial. It could also be a problem area for the Bearcats with top outside shooter CJ Fredrick still out of the lineup. Fredrick paces Cincinnati from beyond the arc, shooting a team-best 44 percent from 3-point range. That means Simas Lukosius, who shoots at a 41.5 percent clip, may need to shoulder a heavier workload in Provo.

BYU holds a 2-1 lead in the all-time series between the two new conference foes.

–Field Level Media

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