What was your bigger take away from the 82-64 win in Santa Clara last weekend – that BYU is finally coming into its own or that Santa Clara has been overachieving thus far this season and they finally were put into their place?
Carl: It’s a little of both. Remember, the game was tied with 13 minutes to go. BYU is still not in the upper echelon yet; but neither is Santa Clara. BYU is playing the way the Utah Jazz has played for a while now: that is to say, down to the competition. That usually signals a bubble NBA team and currently, it’s showing the same thing with BYU. They need to play consistently at a high level for the next 10 days to feel good about the rest of the season.
Matt: I think it’s a very small part that SC is overachieving, but more importantly, that BYU might be finding its stride. An 18-0 run near the 30 minute mark into the game on the road shows this team is finally starting to understand what it is. The slow starts are concerning. Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga, as well as nearly any team in the tournament come March, won’t allow BYU to coast for 20-30 minutes and then flip the switch. They need to flip it to “on” at the first jump ball.
Mike: I think BYU is starting to figure it out. I watched Santa Clara at Duke earlier this year and they are legit. I’d still like to see more efficient offensive possessions. Gonzaga is still my 2012-2013 measuring stick.
Carl: Again, this is a must win game. If BYU loses tonight they likely fall below 40 on the RPI with an SOS somewhere near 70. They need to contain Matthew Dellavadova. That’s it. You keep him out of rhythm and by extension, the Saint Mary’s offense will be out of rhythm, and BYU should have the upper hand. If Saint Mary’s is flowing well offensively, they’re tough to beat on any floor.
Matt: The most important part will be containing Matthew Dellavedova. At better than 17 points and 6 assists per game, he is their leader. And last year, he handled BYU by tempting Matt Carlino and company into a track meet. BYU likes a fast tempo game, but under their terms. When they start trying to match pace for pace’s sake, they get in trouble.
Mike: How about defense that doesn’t collapse the last five seconds of the shot clock? BYU is as active as any WCC team on defense for the first 30 seconds. We got arms waiving, hustle…then when it matters, too many layups or wide open 3s seem to ensue. I like BYU tonight, but the real Saint Mary’s test is on 2/21.
Carl: I’ll keep saying it until BYU does it consistently; improve the 3-point shooting. BYU barely has a shot at making the tournament without it, and certainly has no hope of advancing even one round without it. At this point, I don’t know what the problem is. They just need to have the confidence to keep shooting it from distance when it’s within the flow of the game. Underlying current, need to see more depth. Over the years, BYU has been able to maintain an 8-9 man rotation to keep bodies fresh and keep the pace fast. Currently, I’d like to see Bronson Kaufusi and Anson Winder join the regular rotation as formidable substitutes for the starters.
Matt: Once more, it has to be getting to a fast start and burying a team early. They’ve shown the ability to outlast a team on fitness, but that advantage doesn’t get you very deep. They need to start quick, keep tempo to their own style, get Brock Zylstra on track early and let him ride momentum, and keep Brandon Davies on the floor. The rest will find its way home if they can just do these few things.
Mike: Gonzaga on 1/24 in Spokane is the type of team BYU will see in the NCAA tournament. I need to see a legitimate showing in Spokane. So many times college teams coast thru the road games especially vs. good teams as if the outcome is predetermined. I want to see a physical, efficient BYU team give Gonzaga all they can handle. Otherwise it could be another one and done come March.
Carl: BYU must hold the home court, and I think they will. I like BYU beating Saint Mary’s and San Diego to get to 6-0 in league play. Not seeing a win in Spokane, however. In fact, it could be an ugly, lopsided loss for the Cougars. The environment, the pressure, the lack of good cohesion; it all could be an eye-opener for how much BYU needs to improve. Should a loss occur to Gonzaga, BYU will still have to opportunity to avenge it on Feb 28th.
Matt: BYU will have their hands full tonight; that is for sure. But, I give BYU the nod tonight in a close game 82-77. San Diego is not good and in the Marriott Center, BYU will dominate big 84-67. Next Thursday in Spokane will be tough though. I think BYU could win, but they won’t win. I just want to see a well-played game that BYU remains competitive in throughout. Show the Bulldogs that the Cougs won’t go quietly and that come the rematch at the end of February in Provo will be the toughest game of the Bulldog’s season. BYU loses 78-71.
Mike: I like BYU tonight vs. Saint Mary’s and at home vs. San Diego big. I like to think the Gonzaga game will be tight with Zags pulling it out late.