What’s Next for BYU?

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Let me give you some numbers and see what you can make of them:

12-0-5

6-11 and 6-4

34% to 13%

37% to 13%

35

Let me give you some clarity.

12-0-5: Senior center Brandon Davies stat line last night versus Saint Mary’s (points-rebounds-fouls)

6-11 and 6-4: BYU sophomore Nate Austin’s height advantage over Saint Mary’s senior guard Matthew Dellavedova

34% to 13%: The offensive rebounding advantage held by Saint Mary’s over BYU last night.

37% to 13%: The offensive rebounding discrepancy from BYU last night as compared to the season average.

35: The number of feet from the hoop when Dellavedova hit the shot that is still ringing in the ears of Cougar Nation and could likely be the final nail in the NCAA coffin for BYU come Selection Sunday.

So what does this all mean?  BYU was 14-4 going into the game last night with not a single win over a team that really mattered and four losses to teams that just as easily could have been wins.  For weeks now, BYU had been lying in a coffin designed to hold those teams that hope to make the NCAA tournament in March and slowly, the nails had been being driven in.  The past few weeks had provided BYU the chance to change their fortune and for the time being, all we quiet as the hammering had stopped.  Last night provided a chance to pop many of those nails out and allow the Cougars some breathing room.

I’m not going to recap this game for you.  It’s very likely that if you are reading this, you already watched the game and have some of your own opinions.  What I want to do is provide some of my insights into the game and what it will likely mean come March 21.

Here are some of my observations from last night’s game in Provo.  Compare them against some of our keys to success in yesterday’s ATI.

  1. BYU got off the one of the fastest starts I’ve seen in some time.  The team was playing well, and Saint Mary’s was not.  Sophomore point guard Matt Carlino couldn’t miss and he was shredding the opponent.  By the time BYU was out 20-4, Carlino had 10 points and 2 assists.
    1. The problem with Carlino last night (and most of the time) is that he’s easily frustrated and then he changes his style of play and starts forcing things that don’t work.
  2. Davies is fairly disappointing this conference season.
    1. He has so few post moves that he’s now over-scouted and getting beat to his spots.  He can’t surprise anyone and he’s not beating anyone with speed.
    2. 12 points, 0 rebounds, and 5 fouls are not what you need or expect from your senior captain.
    3. When he switches up high, he needs to learn only to “push” the guard out of his cut and then switch back to his man.  He shouldn’t be left alone to defense a potential all-American.  BYU should have found a better way to protect Davies at that point.
  3. And why we didn’t run more at Dellavedova after he got four fouls is beyond me.  Once Davies got four, how many times did they set the high screen and force him to roll out in coverage in order to draw that 5th foul?
  4. Nate Austin got lucky once on that charging call.  He wasn’t going to get it again.  Not in the last minute of the game.  He was in position to just stand up and put his hands up in the air and force Dellavedova into a tough shot over a 6-11 guy.  Instead, he tried a second time to take a charge, flops (badly), and leaves him open for a wide open shot.
  5. What the heck was with all the offensive boards we gave up last night?  I know it was only 12 but it sure seemed like more and either way, 34% of available defensive boards should never go to the offense.  I’d have been okay if we’d given up in the mid-teens (that would have only been about 6 – which were still 2 more than we got.)  And by comparison, we only snagged about 13% and we average about 37% on the season.  That means we missed on about 8 offensive boards last night based on our average.
  6. After the shot went in by Haws, BYU should have called a time out.  I don’t know how you effectively defend a full-court play, but at least acknowledging where Dellavedova was and getting the team focused on not celebrating for 2.5 more seconds.

Overall, I was very entertained by the game and I’m sure I nearly screamed in the quiet of my living room as loudly as the fans in the Marriott Center when Tyler Haws nailed that final bucket. Of course, my silence was just as suffocating when Dellavedova hit his game winner.

So what does this all mean for our Cougars going forward?  Is this the figurative end to their shot at the NCAA’s?  I don’t think so, but that stay of nailing into the coffin took a big swing last night and there isn’t much light at the end of the tunnel.  So, what does BYU need to do from here on out in order to play in the Big Dance?

  1. Forget last night and move on.  Starting with San Diego, who now sits atop the West Coast Conference alone in first place.  The Toreros are 4-0 in conference play, but they have played only the bottom teams thus far and have not had any challenge.  Their first such challenge comes Saturday.  BYU must dominate from start to finish and find that ability to open this game up and close it down early.
  2. Don’t become overwhelmed by Gonzaga.  Yes, they loom large next week, but don’t think of them yet, and don’t overthink them next week.  And don’t get down if you lose to them – it’s sort of expected.  Just play them tough, don’t get engulfed in the atmosphere, and give yourself a chance to win an upset.
  3. In the next 8 games, you face Gonzaga – that is all.  The rest of the games are games you should be able to win on any given night with relative ease; and you have to do it.  Quick starts, team play, and then bury them in the second half.  Get your swagger back and let the conference know that you are BYU.
  4. The death march begins February 19 with Utah State.  You have to win.  They’re a very good team whose only loss thus far is to Saint Mary’s.  It’s your chance to make a statement win against a team that may (and should) be ranked in the top 25 by the time you face them.  SMC and Gonzaga follow on the next two weekends and nothing short of a split should be acceptable and obviously, a sweep should be the goal.  A very attainable goal if the team plays within itself.
  5. And finally, the WCC championship game is the earliest possible exit point for BYU within the WCC tournament if they hope to hear their name called on Selection Sunday.

Can it be done?  Certainly!  Will it be easy? Not even a little bit.  There are so many stumbling blocks left in the road and BYU needs to navigate them closely to have a shot.  Carlino needs to play as he has.  Haws needs to continue to be dominant.  And Davies needs to return to form.  12-0-5 is not going to get it done against these teams the rest of the way.  BYU has 14 wins and only 12 games left to show the committee that they are worthy of playing on the big stage.

Its time to Rise Up mighty Cougars and hurl your challenge to the foe.

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