February 15, 2012

Are BYU’s three-point shooting woes finally over?

Matt – I don’t think you can claim that the Cougars are out of the woods just yet.  Through 20 games they shot 40%.  Over the next 6, they shot 17%.  The game against Pepperdine could be a resurgence or it could be a fluke.  They shot 38% which is consistent with their season average.  Pepperdine is not a good perimeter defense so I want to see how they do on the road against San Francisco, Santa Clara, and Gonzaga before I’m convinced. (See the final question for the second half of my answer.)

Carl – 3-point shooting will always be the double-edged sword; you’ll live by it until you die by it.  I’m looking forward in the next few games to seeing how much the team has progressed in overcoming woeful shooting nights beyond the arc.  I’m interested in seeing if Hartsock and Davies can be the leaders in a grind-it-out, ugly win.

David – When you are in a slump like they have been, a game like Pepperdine is often the best way to get back out. They weren’t quite back up to their average, but I think they are on the upward slope.

Mark – I say too soon to call.  However it does seem that the mental block over the basket has been lifted temporarily.  I want to see it continue for another game or two before I call it over.

We’re four weeks away from the beginning of March Madness.  BYU has just four games remaining plus West Coast Conference Tournament.  Give me your March Madness prediction for the Cougars: Will they make it? What will be their seeding? How far will make it in March?

Matt – We discussed this briefly last week.  I still maintain that if they finish as a 3 seed or lower, they need to not only make it to the semi-final game, they need to win it and make the finale.  If they can get the 2 seed and show well in the tournament, they should get an at-large.  To be safe, they need to make the finale, and really, win it.  I would predict that they do make it as an 11 seed, but will be a first round exit on Thursday.  But the 5/12 and 6/11 matchups are notorious for upsets so I’ll be cheering for one.

Carl – Barring no bad losses to the lower half of the WCC, this cougar team will make it to March Madness yet again.  I expect at their current level of play they’re looking at a 10 or 11 seed.  Then it all depends on match-ups.  But I don’t see this team doing much in the tournament unless the aforementioned Noah and Brandon want to carry the team.  1 win tops and that win hinges squarely on the match-up.

David – I’m thinking a 12 seed for BYU this year. I’m expecting to see a Dave Rose team break into the final four, but this won’t be the year. They will make it as far as the second round.

Mark – I think BYU makes it, however their see will be very low (maybe even one of the play-in teams).  Regardless of being such a low seed, the fact that they get to the tournament (assuming I’m right) is a huge compliment to Dave Rose.  That being said, I don’t think they get out of the first round.  I would love for them to prove me wrong.

Last year BYU won both regular season games against San Diego State, but couldn’t three-pear at the tournament.  Can BYU pull off a similar type upset against Saint Mary’s in this year’s West Coast Conference Tournament?

Matt – It is so hard to beat a team three times in one season and yet, BYU not only has to do that in order to make the finale, but then hope it doesn’t happen to them in the finale.  The Cougars will need to win in Spokane on February 23; a tall order to be sure.  Then they will in most scenarios play again in the WCC tournament necessitating a three game sweep of the Bulldogs in February.  Then a looming third game against the Gaels in the championship game will be daunting for the Cougars.  I just don’t see how BYU could pull off the three game sweep of the Zags and then avoid a three game sweep to the Gaels.

Carl – If everything remains status quo, BYU would face SMC in the WCC championship game.  Certainly anything is possible.  And winning that game would ensure a punched ticket to the dance and a bump higher seeding in all likelihood, instead of waiting nervously until Sunday afternoon.  They would have plenty to play for too, trying to atone for a home loss.  If I’m guessing right now, Saint Mary’s is still the better team and would have more in the tank going in to the finals than BYU.

David – BYU is going into this tournament with something to prove. I’m confident that BYU will be able to overcome Saint Mary’s this time around if they meet. BYU needs to watch their backs though because they could have a similar situation with Gonzaga depending on the outcome of their next game on the 23rd.

Mark – Beating a good team 3 times in the same year is very difficult.  But Saint Mary’s is an outstanding team.  If there was a team that could do it, it would be Saint Mary’s.  I put the chance of BYU winning a potential game 3 against Saint Mary’s at 40%.  It would be better if someone else could knock them out of the tournament before the Cougars had to play them.

On Thursday BYU plays the first of its final four West Coast Conference games (3 on the road with Portland at home to conclude the regular season.)  Which player is the biggest key to success for these four games, the WCC tournament, and any post-season play and why?

Matt – Stephen Rogers.  For better or for worse.  He’s on the shelf for two more weeks which means his most likely return in the regular season will be at Gonzaga on the 23rd.  Will he be ready or won’t he?  Can he step in and contribute from the 6th man position?  What will that do to the rotation of Anson Winder and Brock Zylstra?  And most important for the rest of 2011-2012’s games, can he bring the missing consistency from the arc that the Cougars have been missing?

Carl – My brother in law tells me the same thing every year about this time- “Good guard play wins games in March Madness.”  Yada yada yada…wait!  You ‘yadaed’ over the best part!  I’m not going to choose Matt Carlino; it’s tough enough to play well as a freshman, let alone be the guy going down the stretch.  BYU needs a leader going in to march and I want Brandon Davies to be that guy.  I want him to step up and rally the team around him, making up for what he did last year, and being the great player on the biggest stage we all know he can be.

David – I love seeing so many players that can step up and deliver on different nights. At this point I think Noah needs to be positioning himself as the definite leader. He needs to take charge and be on his game every night. Without that type of player leading the way, they will fall apart when they face the fierce competition that comes with post season play.

Mark – Really, the question is who is the X-factor?  I think the X-factor is Sir Charles.  When he is playing well, it takes a lot of pressure off of Noah Hartsock.

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