ATI 2013.11 Overcoming 200/1 Odds and Dancing in the NIT

Ask the Ineligibles

NITDoes BYU have what it takes to run the daunting NIT Bracket in hopes of hoisting the 2013 NIT Championship Trophy while chanting “We’re number 69!!”?

Does it matter (or does it change anything) if they do?

Carl: Umm, no.  Washington will be a challenge in and of itself.  Get past that, you’d be on the road at Tennessee.  Somehow get past that, Southern Miss or Florida State most likely loom.  And we all know how the Cougars fared against the Seminoles.  Put all the effort on Washington tonight and let the rest be gravy for a mediocre season.

A great flash mob at halftime tonight would be a nice going away gesture.  But unless they beat the aforementioned teams, nothing changes for my thoughts on the season.

Matt: I like BYU tonight.  I think the team will rise to the chance to play another game at home.  And the best part is, despite BYU’s lower seeding, Tennessee comes to Provo for round 2 due to a scheduling conflict.  I like BYU tonight and again in round 2.  However, BYU’s road record is abysmal against good teams and playing in MSG against Southern Miss will prove to be too daunting for the Cougars and I’m predicting a 3rd round exit for the Cougars.

Mike:  It would be very BYU’13-like for Rose and company to play their best two weeks of the season in the NIT. They are surrounded by underachieving, misfit teams including NIT veteran Washington who won last year’s PAC 12 regular season yet went NIT-ing in 2012. The good news is BYU should look good in the NIT. The bad news is nobody cares.

Scott: I think it matters. It’s still a postseason tournament, and there are nearly 250 D1 teams that weren’t invited to a NIT or NCAA Tournament. That still puts BYU in a good spot. It’s not ideal, but BYU is still recognized as a good program even in a down year. I love watching BYU games, so I’m excited the season continues. A handful of these players are going to be playing together for the next two seasons, and something clearly wasn’t working right this season. This gives them more time to practice together and more time with the coaching staff. It can set the tone for the offseason workouts and for next season, and it can get the fans excited. A long run in the NIT matters.

wanted-craig-thompsonAs selection Sunday revealed, BYU left a conference that sent five teams to the Big Dance for a conference that sent 1.5 teams to the NCAA Tourney.  Do you have any second thoughts on leaving Craig Thompson’s hair and the Mountain West?

Carl: Nope.  If I look back I’ll either turn to dust or one of Craig Thompson’s hair pieces!  BYU knew exactly what they were leaving when they left and BYU did it for the exposure, mainly for football, not the basketball.  It has been nice to see the MWC rise up and I do wish them well during March Madness.

Matt: I have a hard time qualifying Saint Mary’s as “.5.”  BYU was a play-in game last year.  And I really don’t get how an 11-seed gets a play-in game.  Shouldn’t it stand to reason that if you are going to have “play-in games” that the lowest seeds should be getting that game.  But I digress.  The grass is always greener than where you are standing.  I miss the old rivalries and history with the MWC teams, but lets face it, BYU wasn’t going to make the NCAA this year in that conference either, so it seems futile to dwell on it.  The drawback of the WCC is supremely outweighed by the benefits of independence for football so no, I don’t have any reservations.  I for one am glad we are not under the tyrannical thumb of the hair.

Mike:  I read the MWC as a conference is ranked the highest it ever has been in this year’s RPI. Inconceivable, but true. I refuse to believe that Craig Thompson knows what he’s doing. After seeing him try to disguise UNLV’s home court as a neutral MWC Tournament site, I’m even more convinced Thompson is still asleep at the wheel. That said, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I missed watching BYU play the good ole MWC teams. I sound like any old guy at the Marriott Center listening to KSL on his headphones while drinking a smuggled Shasta but it’s true. Who knew how good Laramie looked compared to the high school courts of the WCC?

Scott: First of all, we can’t really say the WCC sent 1.5 teams if we’re going to say the MWC is sending 5 teams. Both St. Mary’s and Boise State are in a play-in game. Second, we knew the move to independence in football was not going to be a better move for basketball. We knew the MWC was and is a better basketball conference than the WCC. I think most fans would have LOVED to go independent in football and stay in the MWC for everything else, but that was not an option. Do I wish BYU was still in the MWC’s basketball conference? Absolutely (not that it would have made a difference for us on Selection Sunday this year). Do I wish BYU wouldn’t have gone independent in football, which was reason it left the MWC’s basketball conference? Heeeeeeck no. Do I miss Craig Thompson’s hair? Maybe a little.

Indiana HoopsMake your call now.  Who wins the whole NCAA bracket?  What about the NIT?

Carl: Louisville for the NCAA and Tennessee for the NIT.

Matt: I’d love to pick the Zags but the WCC officials have them conditioned to be soft and they won’t be able to handle the toughness of teams from the Big 10 three games in a row.  (I have them in the championship game after beating Ohio State and Michigan State.)  I like Indiana to win the NCAA as Gonzaga will just finally not be able to pound against their third straight Big Ten team.

As for the NIT, I’ve got Maryland.  To be fair, I have no idea how this all shakes out, but in my first-run bracket scenario, I pick the Terps to win.

Mike: Gonzaga for the NCAA.  Virginia for the NIT.

Scott: I grew up in Indiana and currently live in Indiana, so I am going to go with my heart (and some of my brain) and pick Indiana to win it all. Go Hoosiers!

As far as the NIT goes, I’ve never really been all that interested in it, but since I am being forced to make a pick … I’m slapping on the blue goggles and calling it for the Cougars! BYU! BYU! BYU! But if not them, how about Maryland?

BYU UtahBoth BYU and Utah are a 200/1 odds to when the 2013 BCS Championship.  Which team has the better chance at winning a National Championship in 2013?

Carl: Tough question because 200/1 seems about right for both teams. Those Vegas oddsmakers make it so difficult.  I’ll go with BYU by a Craig Thompson hair piece!  The schedule is equally as tough as Utah’s, but I think the match-ups help give the advantage to BYU.

Matt: Let me just start by saying neither.  But since I am answering the question that was asked, I’ll let my heart bleed out and pick the Cougars.  Sure, Utah has dominated the Cougs recently, but that streak has to end soon.  I know both schools are implementing new, high-tempo offenses, but comparing limited sample sizes of the odds-on-favorite to be the QB for each school, I like the game that Taysom Hill brings to BYU.  He’s more polished and more mature.  Travis Wilson looked lost last year and I know a lot of that was due to Brian Johnson’s inexperience, but I didn’t see anything in his mechanics that tell me he’ll be a great quarterback.  He isn’t even an elite runner.  I do love his deep ball though.  It seems very effortless.  But in terms of this question, Utah has an easier road as a “power 6” member of the PAC 12, but they still have to play at USC and I believe at Oregon this year as well as beat Standford at home.  That’s a tall order.  With built-in break weeks throughout the scheduled, BYU doesn’t have nearly as tough a week-to-week grind as Utah.  BYU has no room for any missteps, but since we’re talking hypotheticals, BYU is more likely to be perfect than Utah us to win the PAC 12.

Mike:  I give BYU the nod as I believe they have more winnable games and I think BYU has addressed their coaching deficiencies better than Utah. Utah has a legitimate PAC12 schedule for the first time hosting UCLA and Stanford while traveling to Oregon and USC. Add road games at BYU and Arizona and I don’t see Utah winning six games let alone a national championship.  Notre Dame showed last year a team can play a schedule that looks tough without being tough and back door into the national championship. BYU must hope for the same thing if Zoob Nation wants to cash in on the 200/1 odds.

Scott: BYU has the better chance. Utah is playing Oregon and Stanford this year and has not proven itself in the Pac-12 yet. BYU’s schedule, while solid, lacks any team on Oregon or Stanford’s level. If BYU goes undefeated (which is probably not happening), I think their schedule is good enough to get into the game.

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Who Are the Hoos?

Virginia

History of the Cavaliers

Wahoo: In the 1890’s, the Cavalier fans were described as “a bunch of rowdy wahoos” as a term of derision after opposing fans hear the baseball fans yelling and singing “wa-hoo-wa.”  But in true “in your face” turn of play, the fans adopted the ridicule and made it their own.  Students and alumni alike now refer to themselves as “Hoos.”

Last year

Last year would seem to be a return to the normal for the Cavaliers in what could be described as a disappointing 4-8 season.  The team experienced one good season in 2011 with an 8-4 record, but since 2008, the team is used to low win totals (5, 3, 4, 8, & 4) since the end of the Al Groh era.  Last season started out promising with home wins against Richmond and Penn State, but an 8-game losing streak doomed the team until North Carolina sealed by handing the Cavaliers their 7th loss of the season.  The team split the quarterbacking duties between junior Michael Rocco and sophomore Phil Sims with the duo passing for 3200 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions.  Sophomore Kevin Parks did most of the heavy lifting in the backfield en route to five scores while he was spelled by senior Perry JonesDarius Jennings (sophomore) led all receivers with 48 catches, 569 yards and five touchdowns.

High Point

This is easy.  Winning against Miami is always a big deal and when you get a one-point Miamivictory over the Hurricanes on national TV, then it’s a really big deal, especially when you are still fighting to become bowl eligible.  The Cavaliers had to rally from 10 back and Rocco threw the game-tying touchdown pass with six seconds remaining to shock Miami.

Low PointVT

In an equally depressing fashion, Virginia lost in the final game of the season to its in-state rival, Virginia Tech on a field goal with four second left on the clock, ending the season in disappointment with the 52nd loss to the Hokies in the 94 game series.

Quick Picks

Quick Picks 1 History: The Cavaliers began playing football in 1888 and began playing in Scott Stadium in 1931.  They joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1953 and in 1958 began a 28-game losing streak (second longest in NCAA FBS history.)  They ended the streak on opening day in 1961 at home against William & Mary.  They have won the ACC twice (1989 and 1995) but never as the outright champion.

Quick Picks 2 Bowling: Virginia has played in only 18 bowl games in its history and has a record of 7-11 in those games.  They have two streaks of four straight bowl games (1994-1996 – two games in 1994 and 2002 -2005) and they last played in 2011 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl losing to Auburn 43-24.

Quick Picks 3 Noteworthy: 2011 was a hallmark season in several ways.  The team returned to a bowl game after a nearly four year absence.  They upset #12 Georgia Tech 24-21.  Head coach Mike London recorded the team’s first ever victory in Tallahassee by beating Florida State 14-13.  But most notably, the team did something no other team has ever accomplished.  They beat Florida State and Miami on the road in the same season.

Coaching

Mike London is the head coach in Charlottesville.  He came to the program in 2009, shortly after the dismissal of Al Groh after a 3-9 2009 campaign.  London was an assistant to Groh at UVA from 2001-2004 and again in 2006-2007.  He served one season as the DL coach for the Houston Texans in 2005 and as head coach for Richmond for two seasons where he where he won the I-AA national championship and three head coach of the year awards.Mike London

But in the late 1980’s, London was a detective in Richmond, Virginia where, by the mercy of some unknown reason, he was given a second chance at life when the gun of the thief he was chasing didn’t fire.  The gun was pointed at his head.  He took it as a sign that being a cop wasn’t the life for him and he jumped into being a football coach that took him back to his alma mater as head coach only 20 years later.

London also played professionally for the Dallas Cowboys before pursuing his career on the police force.

Players to Watch For

Junior quarterback Phil Sims played a dual role with recently departed senior Michael Rocco last season.  He should be the favorite to lead the team this season.  Junior runningSims back Kevin Parks looks to improve upon last season by carrying more of the load in 2013.  Eli Harold and Mike Moore both from the DE position will need to be wreckers in the pass rush game in order to help an inexperienced middle of the line and a talented, albeit untested line-backing corp.  It will be interesting to see how the linebackers do this season as new defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta is a proponent of a heavy blitz and the linebackers will be tested a lot this season to make plays.

Positional Battles

Tight end: Junior Jake McGee looks to be the guy to be the first one off the bench for the Cavaliers but behind him it is pretty thin.  Senior Jeremiah Mathis and sophomore Rob Burns are both converted defensive ends and beyond that, there is talk that one or two wide receivers may move over.  For a school that has always prided itself on its tight end play, this is an unfamiliar position to be in.

Defensive tackle: Junior-to-be Chris Brathwaite was poised to become a started along a thin defensive line this season after posting 41 tackles (10 for loss) and 3.5 sacks NCAA Football: Virginia at Virginia Techlast season. But he found himself academically ineligible and is no longer enrolled at school.  His departure leaves a huge gap along the defensive line.  The Cavaliers run a base 4-3 defense and should have solid production at the end positions with sophomores Eli Harold and Mike Moore rushing the edges, but with no real experience in the middle, the position is wide open.  There is a trio of underclassmen that are waiting to show what they got.  Keep an eye on them to see if David Dean, Marco Jones, or Andre Miles-Redmond can get into the mix.

Safety: Despite nine scholarshipped athletes at the position last season, this was probably the biggest disappointment all season long.  Juniors Anthony Harris and Brandon Phelps were lost on every aspect of the game and have left room aplenty for the five underclassmen to step up and make a name for themselves in 2013.

News and Noteworthy

Top four games of all time: 1990 marked the first time 30 tries, the Cavaliers beat a top ten Clemson Tigers team 20-7.  In 1995, UVA handed Florida State its first ever conference loss in the ACC after 29 straight wins in four seasons by beating the Seminoles 33-28.  Virginia notched its biggest ever comeback by rallying back from being down 29-7 to rival Virginia Tech to beat the Hokies 36-32 in the 1998 season finale.  In 2011, the Cavaliers beat Florida State 14-13 for the first time ever in Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee.

By the Numbers

9: Coach of the Year award winners in the ACC

8: ACC players of the year award winners in the ACC

25: First-team All-Americans

7: College Football Hall of Fame inductees

3: NFL Hall of Fame Inductees

21: Current NFL players

Key Games

While the Cavaliers get to play host to non-conference opponents in BYU and Oregon this season, the games to watch for will be:Virginia Sidebar

November 2 as the host Clemson: Clemson has been top of the ACC for several seasons now and will be one of the marquee games in conference for Virginia this season.  But the Tigers are in the Atlantic division so it won’t be as key of a game as Virginia Tech.

November 30 as the host Virginia Tech: You just can’t talk about key games here and not include your rival.  The Commonwealth Cup came down to a field goal last season as the Hokies took it by a score of 17-14.  But when you are completely dominated historically by your rival as Virginia is to Virginia Tech (by a record of 52-37-5), you tend to get a little more up for this game that you do for other games.  And since it may come down to this game to decide the participant in the end of season conference championship game, keep an eye on this game.

2013 Prediction

It’s often said that the game of football is won in the trenches.  UVA should have decent talent along the offensive line and because of that, should allow for the offensive skill positions to do some good things, but the defensive line is a huge question for me heading into 2013 and if they can’t get any pressure on opposing offenses, they will be trying to keep up with some of these high-tempo offenses they will face this season.  BYU has stated they intend to increase their tempo to a level of an Oregon and while achieving that level of success will be very unlikely, it will be hard for Virginia to keep pace with back-to-back opponents at such a high speed, even if both opponents are coming from the other side of the country.

I think five wins will be a good starting point for this team and there might be some wiggle room in there to pick up a sixth and get bowl eligible.  Mike London will need to develop some new talent early in the season if they are to have anymore success than that so don’t expect more than six wins from this team and consider it a blessing if they get that many.  The Cavaliers appear poised to continue to improve in the future, but that isn’t this season.

Best Case Scenario: The Cavaliers catch BYU unprepared and open the season 2-1 heading to face a Pittsburgh team with its own issues.  A win there and against the Keydets of VMI and the Cavaliers could see themselves on the bright side of 4-1 heading into the meat of their conference season.  With four of seven remaining conference games at home, the Cavaliers clean up five of the games and finish the season 9-3.

Worst Case Scenario: The Cavaliers struggle from the first game with so many new players in key positions and BYU and Oregon run all over them.  VMI and Ball State should be a good chance to recalibrate and assess things and wins should come easily.  But with eight conference games the Cavaliers scrape wins from Duke and North Carolina only to lose the season finale to their rival, finishing an unremarkable 4-8.

And Finally . . .

I like this match up for both schools (by both I’m referring to BYU as the second school.)  It’s a solid non-conference game to start off the season that is winnable for both teams.  I like that they are happy enough with each other that before they ever take the field they added two more games to the series in 2019 and 2020.  I think the Cavaliers will compete this season but the lack of experience and play-makers at key positions, especially on defense, make this team exploitable and it will cost them some games that could go the either way if they can find the right piece early. I think this will be a good “rebuild” year for Virginia and Mike London and they could be primed to take a huge step forward in 2014. I just don’t see it this year.

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ATI 2013.10 – More Football and What’s Next for Dave Rose’s Team

Ask the Ineligibles

O Line IIEnough about the spring football quarterback nonsense . . . . More importantly, what are your expectations regarding BYU’s offensive line?

Carl: It’s especially difficult to really know how the offensive line compares to other name brand schools without having a quality opponent on the other side.  Not saying BYU’s defense is bad; I’m just saying this is spring practice.  Health and depth are the most tangible elements to equate currently.  Reynolds is still questionable, although I’m on the doubtful side of him returning.  Beyond that, the young line will have a steep learning curve of Anae’s offense.  In my opinion, the positive with Anae’s offense is it will put a little less pressure on the line because of its quick nature.

Matt: I was reading earlier that Anae named Andrew George as a graduate assistant andAndrew George assigned to work with the tight ends.  That frees Anae up to help with the line play (among other benefits.)  Offensive line play was a hallmark in his first run in Provo and teaming with Garett Tujague will only bring more harmony and consistency to a unit plagued with injuries and inconsistency the past three seasons.

So what do I expect from this unit?  I expect harmony and consistency.  I expect them to get mean and nasty.  I expect them to hold against the defensive line and do their job – namely to protect the quarterback, open running lanes for the running back, and wear down the defensive line as the game progresses.  With Blair Tushaus leaving the program, I think we get an indicator of things to come in this unit; namely big guys who will get back to the days of 6-4 and 320 lbs averages who will bully opponents into submission.  Tushaus may have had personal reasons beyond football for leaving (I’m not stating anything one way or the other) but the fact that the Cougars recruited and signed two new centers this past signing day (one freshmen and one JUCO) tells me he saw the writing on the wall and left to pursue other opportunities and I wish him well.

Mike: I read some interesting things about Mark Weber last year. His resume is solid but the effort, scheme and athletes in recent years has been glaringly average. BYU’s offensive line went through significant injuries last season, but blaming injuries on football woes is equivalent to blaming the weather.  I’ve always believed you can tell how well a team is coached by watching the offensive and defensive lines play. Both take discipline and a certain mind frame to do well. Watching Robert Anae make the offensive line his top priority upon being named Offensive Coordinator is significant.  Coach Garrett Tujague brings a fresh perspective to BYU. He’s a seasoned coach who finally gets his shot at a D1 school. Recruits D’Ondre Wesley, Josh Carter, Tim Duran, Edward Fusi and four-star recruit Brayden Kearsley bring talented fresh blood into Tujague’s scheme. The issue still remains on whether Coach Tujague can build a cold-blooded offensive line between now and the Virginia opener.

Scott: The offensive line is the unit I expect to see the most improvement from (if not the quarterback). If we look at the new faces on the 2013 team, we see a huge emphasis was put on the offensive line – and rightly so. Look at the coaching changes: Robert Anae (former offensive lineman), Garett Tujague (former offensive lineman), and student assistant Famika Anae (former offensive lineman). Also, the mere fact that Blair Tushaus, a starter from last year’s team, is transferring speaks volumes about where this unit will be in 2013 compared to what was acceptable in 2012. I expect them to be held accountable for their performance, causing a significant improvement.

NITWith a one and done in the West Coast Conference tournament where does BYU land in terms of this post season and where does this team rank on the all time BYU underachievement list?

Carl: They’ll get an NIT bid, but a 1st round win is anything but guaranteed.  A win will depend on the eventual matchup.  For underachievement, I think they had higher expectations for themselves; certainly they wanted to be in March Madness.  But I don’t consider this a major disappointment.  They never recovered emotionally from the Dellavadagger. PERIOD!  But how many wins were realistic before the season?  25?  Its 4 (quality wins) short.  Calculated by percentages, that’s 20% more wins.  I’d argue that BYU’s 2012 football team underachieved by more than 20%.

Matt: To answer the first question, they’ll play in the NIT and probably on the road.  Which means . . . one more game and we can tie a bow on the 2012-13 season for the Cougs.

As to the second question, I don’t consider this an underachievement this season.  No, I’m not writing this through blue-colored goggles, so let me explain.  First, when this season was getting started, Dave Rose expected to have Stephen Rodgers and Chris Collinsworth on the roster.  That is one more talented wing player and another big to help Brandon Davies.  Both withdrew from the team early into training camp and it was too late to replace them.  Talent and depth took a hit.  Second, Augustin Ambrosino and Raul Delgado were both JUCO transfers who had succeeded at the previous level and were expected to fill roles immediately.  And neither did.  Both played sparingly and never really turned into anything.  Third, because of the trouble with Ambrosino, the missing Collinsworth, and the head-scratching play of Nate Austin, Rose had to bring in a football player just to add depth and size to the team.  Not that Bronson Kaufusi was a bad player; it just shows you just how desperate Rose became. And lastly, Matt Carlino.  We’ve talked about him ad nauseum on this blog so I won’t do it again, but let me just say, Matt Carlino.

To sum it all up, to underachieve, Rose would have needed all this at his disposal and then still ended with 21 or fewer wins.  But he didn’t.  He lost players late, some players underachieved, but Rose’s team I would not qualify as underachieving.

Mike: Reading that BYU could now get a road NIT game…Ouch. I watched Dave Rose defend his ’12-’13 season last night on KSL. A 21 win season, Big win vs. Utah, a 21 win season, a win vs. the second to last place ACC doormat Virginia Tech, a 21 win season, Cusick’s last second game-winning shot and finally a 21 win season. BYU’s 21 win season included only 5 wins vs. 20+ win teams. (Santa Clara twice, Utah St, Weber St and Montana) 15 of the 21 wins came against teams with losing records. BYU’s best wins came against Santa Clara and Utah St who rank 85th and 103rd in the latest BPI. I really like Dave Rose but given BYU had two players named 1st team All-Conference, I’m having a hard time thinking of a more underachieving BYU basketball team or a worse 21 win team.

Scott: To think that BYU is going anywhere other than the NIT is either incredibly pessimistic or incredibly blue-goggled. It’s hard not to think this year was a huge underachievement. We had Haws and Davies, the recipients of several accolades this year. You’d think that would be enough to get to the NCAA Tournament. We just weren’t able to get consistent play from anyone else. I think Matt Carlino is a great talent, and he is learning and improving, but he just didn’t have the consistency to take us to the Dance. I definitely had higher expectations than the actual 2012-2013 results, but how much underachievement is there in a 21-win season? Underachievement implies a high talent level to begin with, and outside of Haws, Carlino, and Davies, I’m not sure there was really a talent level that could actually underachieve.

BYUIn the “its never too early category” based upon all we know about BYU right now, what is/are your expectation(s) for next season’s basketball team in terms of wins, final West Coast Conference Standing, and will they get back to the Dance?

Carl: They’ll need a big man presence next year.  If they develop Kaufusi, Sharp, or another, 25 wins is not out of the question. They’ll be hungry and motivated.  I’ll guarantee March Madness and a second place finish in the WCC.  In fact, BYU will finish 1 or 2 in the league through 2020.  St. Mary’s has steep sanctions that begin next season and I don’t see any team, other than San Diego rising up any time soon.  2014 BYU 26-6, 2nd place WCC 14-2, March Madness 11 seed.

Matt: I’ll refrain from picking a record, but I think that with SMC’s sanctions, coupled with the loss of Dellavedova next season, it will be a two horse race in the West Coast Conference between BYU and Gonzaga.  But the Cougs will need to find a few marquee wins and hold the home court or it won’t matter come Selection Sunday because they’ll get left out again.

Newcomers will make a difference, but they are newcomers to a team that already struggled this past season with chemistry.  They will sorely miss Davies and unless a big man we’ve already seen takes it to a new level, it will be tough sledding in the middle.  And not to sound disparaging, but I hope there is no room/need for Kaufusi next season.  Its really hard to make any predictions right now.  Ask me again after football is in full swing.

Mike: Wait until next year already? So difficult to tell what BYU will be next season. Zero Brandon Davies, a couple star Lone Peak top recruits, an older Matt Carlino. One has to hope Dave Rose will figure out this strange chemistry before next season. As long as BYU plays in the WCC they will scare 20 wins and be in the running for a conference championship. I’m hopeful we’ll see the season we wanted to see this year.

Scott: A huge part of our core was pretty young (in academic years, not in actual age). Tyler Haws, Matt Carlino, Anson Winder, Josh Sharp, and Nate Austin are all sophomores and will be juniors next season. I believe they will improve. Haws will be stronger, Carlino will play smarter, and Winder will be healthier. If Sharp can improve as much as he did from last year to this year, he should be a real addition to the team, but he and Nate Austin definitely need to bulk up a little.

We lose Brandon Davies, Craig Cusick, and Brock Zylstra, and, depending on who you talk to, some of those players are easily replaceable. Incoming freshman Eric Mika sure seems like the real deal, and he might be solid replacement for Davies, but I don’t think it is fair to Mika for fans to expect no drop off from Davies as a senior to Mika as a freshman. Additionally, BYU will also get Kyle “I was a solid contributor on a Sweet 16 team” Collinsworth back next year.

Without knowing what the 2013-2014 schedule looks like, I think BYU has the potential to get back to the NCAA Tournament and back to the 25-win mark. It will come down to how much improvement Dave Rose will get from his returning players, how Mika plays at the next level, and how quickly Collinsworth is able to get back into shape after finishing up his missionary service.

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Another New Football Series and Another New Coach

BYU LOGO

BYU VirginiaBYU and Virginia add another two games to the series to be played in 2019 and 2020 as announced this week by BYU.  In addition to the home-and-home set to be played this season in Charllotesville and next year in Provo, they will games in the month of September in Charlottesville in 2019 and Provo in 2020.  The Cougars and Cavaliers have hooked up three times before.  The first time was in Birmingham, Alabama for the All-American Bowl, which the Cavaliers won 22-16.  In 1999 and 2000 the teams hooked up for a home-and-home series which was split.  Virginia owns the all-time record 2-1 on the Cougars.

Defensive end Bronson Kaufusi joined the team for the first time this spring as basketballKaufusi draws to a close.  He recorded a sack in his first action on the line.  Offensive coordinator Robert Anae indicated that Monday’s session was much better than last week’s practices but the defense won the day in the 11-on-11 drills by holding the offense scoreless.  Kaufusi will rejoin the basketball team when they have a tournament invitation after this weekend.

BYU running back Michael Alisa

Kevin Graham insists that the best battle to be watching in spring practices right now is at running back.  While I disagree, he maintains that with the mandate to look at everyone with “fresh eyes” on the coaching staff, they are allowing for senior-to-be Michael Alisa to make a case for his role as he returns from injury.  Visibly different runners, Jamaal Williams and Alisa maintain they are taking this serious but keeping it friendly as well.  Alisa calls Williams a “dancer” while he defines himself as a “slicer.”  And Williams has better hands out of the backfield, but we saw his poor attempt as pass-blocking on display in the San Jose State game late last season.  Added to the mix, Adam Hine has been mixing into the first team reps as well. Check out Kevin’s article here.  Do you agree or disagree?

Former Cougar tight end Andrew George is taking on a new coaching role with the team asAndrew George a graduate assistant.  His assignment will be to coach the tight ends and help with the receivers.  This will free up OC Anae to help Garett Tujague with the line as well as be available to visit with each position on the offense to make changes where needed.  He indicated that the tight ends will be used in a “flex” format, meaning the tight ends will be lined as receivers and not in the traditional, hand-on-the-ground tight end position next to the offensive line.

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March Madness . . . AI Style

March Madness

Its time again for the Big Dance fans.  Selection Sunday in the 17th and then it is on!  We’ve got a bracket here for you.  Follow the link to the ESPN page and get all set up.  If you can’t get the link to work, the name of the group is “Academically Ineligible.”  The password is A_I_Madness.  Please do me the favor of signing in with your Twitter handle (if you have one.)  But don’t worry, if you don’t have one, you should still sign up.

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ATI 2013.09 – Spring Practices and WCC Play

Ask the Ineligibles

Robert AnaeBYU began spring practices on Monday. There is so much new with an entirely new offensive staff, Bronco Mendenhall granting the title of defensive coordinator to Nick Howell, and a new quarterback.  With so many story lines going on right from day 1, what is your biggest expectation when spring practices conclude on April 5?

Carl: Aside from no major injuries, I’m looking to see the cohesiveness of the coaching staff. Do they look like individual coaches performing their responsibilities or do they look like a single unit working together?  Any cancers that start at the coaching level will hinder the 2013 season. I also know that will be hard to quantify or see.  You might actually have a better shot finding money in your couch than learning the true chemistry of the coaching staff.  I’ll be looking for clues in interviews.

Matt: 1 – I want there to be no injuries to any key contributors. 2 – I would like there to be a chance for newcomers and previous season “scrubs” to show they are worthy of two- and three-deep rotations in the fall when the season starts. 3 – I want the coaching staffs to gel and become single-minded with a strict understanding of their roles in the system, whatever they may be.

Mike: An accurate QB depth chart would be my expectation.  I’m reading the entire practice dynamic revolves around finding a QB. From pads to no pads, I’m hopeful Bronco/Anae can at least let us know who will be in the running to start come fall.

Hill IIAfter two full seasons of indecision and the results that followed, why is BYU not selecting a bona fide starting quarterback?

Carl: Every day BYU doesn’t select a number one quarterback is a day missed at giving full reps to the guy.  It’s baffling to have this self-fulfilling cycle continue.  Indecision yields crappy offense.  How simple is that?  So simple Cool and the Gang want to go through it again!  If Taysom Hill is the guy, he’s the guy.  Let the others work on down the line and let their work as back-ups prove their worth like most systems do.

Matt: I don’t think that it really is a big deal.  2010 – The staff named “co-starters.”  Umm, that didn’t work.  2011 – Jake Heaps was the starter for most of spring and certainly exiting spring.  Again, fail.  2012 – Riley Nelson is the undisputed, unquestioned starter for all of it and look where that got the team.

My point is this is a new system.  This is a new coaching staff.  Besides Taysom Hill, who has any real experience?  I get that many Cougar fans want to hear that Hill is the guy now; heck, I do.  But what does it hurt to let the participants all have an equal shot with the coaches?  It doesn’t.  They’ll each show their wares, the coaches will get to see not only who is the best choice to start, but also be the primary back up.  And then when the mini-camp is all said and done, the players will break into their own groups and the guy that ends up throwing to Cody Hoffman throughout the summer is likely going to be the guy anyway so they’ll develop any chemistry that we all think needs to happen now anyway.

So why the big rush to get a quarterback named for a handful of “practices?”

Mike: I would suggest the past seasons of indecision coupled with a drastic change in scheme would lead BYU to be very specific in terms of whom they name as the starter.  Taysom seems to the fan favorite but is he going to be able to throw 30+ times a game if needed vs. BYU’s toughest schedule?  I’m assuming Anae’s offense will resemble his previous offenses throwing at least 60% of the time.  Love hearing the “Clean Slate” approach where everyone on the offensive side has a shot to start.

WCC 2013 TournamentThe Cougar basketball team gets a relatively easy draw for the 5th game of the West Coast Conference Tournament in the form of the winner of the San Diego/Pepperdine game.  Will BYU win and if so, do they have a shot at all of redemption against the Gaels the next night?

Carl: Yes and yes.  Although San Diego and Pepperdine are far from cupcakes for BYU this season, winning the first will bode well for BYU facing St. Mary’s.  Yes, they will have a shot at knocking off St. Mary’s; I’ll put my odds at 60/40 yes.  To get the trifecta and beat Gonzaga to punch a ticket 85/15 against.  I want to pull for our Cougars, but nothing on the resume screams a hot streak is coming.  Still, I was wrong to pick against BYU in the bowl game.  I was wrong to pick against Arkansas State in their bowl game.  Both of those poor choices landed me on the paying side of a 5 Guys Burgers lunch instead of the receiving side.  What’s a guy to do!?

Matt: San Diego caught BYU ill-prepared and unfocused.  They aren’t good enough to get a BYU team that is better focused and ready.  They’ll know not to look ahead to Saturday night because if they are, the Toreros will get their spot and BYU will go home with their heads hanging low.  BYU will win.

As for the Gaels, my heart really wants to pick them.  It almost has my head convinced.  I really want to believe in the idea that all things being equal, it is very hard to beat a team three times in one season. But this is BYU and they are 1-8 against the Gaels and Zags since coming to the WCC.  BYU is not only facing a very good team on Saturday, they are also facing a mental block with Matthew Dellavedova’s name on it, and I’m not talking about his mouthpiece.  The Gaels just have experienced winners on their team and BYU doesn’t.  Better luck next season BYU.

Mike:  I read a Greg Wrubell tweet that suggested BYU has a 4% chance of winning the WCC Tourny.  Honestly, that sounds high.  Regardless of what happens vs. San Diego/Pepperdine its unlikely BYU will go any further.  Strangely this struggling BYU team has two first team ALL-WCC players with a good supporting cast.  How they are a distant 3rd in this conference is mind boggling, but they are.  St Mary’s on a neutral court will be a tall order.  I’d love to see a magical run thru the WCC postseason and into the NCAA Tournament but won’t be holding my breath.

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West Coast Conference 2013 Tournament Bracket Day 2

The West Coast Conference 2013 Tournament began last night at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.  As you well know, BYU needs to win this tournament in order to get a ticket to go dancing on March 17 on Selection Sunday.  You can see the updated bracket below and when you’ll need to tune in to check out the games.

WCC 2013 R 2Game times (all Pacific):

Game 2: March 7, 6 PM, BYUtv
Game 3: March 7, 8:30 PM, BYUtv
Game 4: March 8, 6 PM, ESPNU
Game 5: March 8, 8:30 PM, ESPNU
Semi #1: March 9, 6 PM, ESPN2
Semi #2: March 9, 8:30 PM, ESPN 2
WCC Championship: March 11, 6 PM, ESPN
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