This week we will be giving you an in-depth look at the BYU Basketball team for the upcoming season. It’s a four-part series that we will call, the BYU Basketball Summer Prospectus.
Despite some of the bad losses BYU suffered last season, the Cougars were still a team squarely on the bubble heading into the WCC Tournament. A shocking loss to San Diego in the WCC Quarterfinal put any hopes of a seventh straight NCAA Tournament appearance to bed. Can this year’s team get back to the big dance and start a new streak?
Based on the roster as it is today, BYU could get back to the NCAA’s. There isn’t enough proven depth on this team but there is talent in the starting lineup to be one of the 68 teams in the field.
A lot will rest on BYU’s schedule. Everyone knew when BYU moved to the West Coast Conference in 2011, the Cougars would need to bulk up the non-conference slate to be in the at-large pool for NCAA bids. The WCC’s RPI isn’t high enough to get BYU an at-large position, based on what we’ve seen in the first two years BYU has been in the league. The schedule is expected to come out next week. Games we know about already in non-conference:
- November 9th, Weber State
- November 11th, @ Stanford
- November 25th, Texas (CBE Classic)
- November 26th, Wichita State/DePaul (CBE Classic)
- November 30th, vs. Utah State (Energy Solutions Arena)
- December 7th, vs. UMass (Springfield, MA)
- December 14th @ Utah
- TBD @ Oregon
- TBD Iowa State
If BYU gets 22 to 25 wins they are going to be in a prime position for an at-large bid. How high would the seed be? That’s a different question. Will the non-conference games that we know as of today be enough to move BYU up the seed line? The past two years a team from the WCC has found themselves in the First Four games. Two years ago it was of course BYU taking on Iona.
In year three, can BYU win the West Coast Conference?
Many people including myself didn’t expect BYU to have some of the struggles they’ve had in the WCC. I knew it was a good league, and there was historic programs up and down the standings, but it has been very competitive for BYU. As a whole, the WCC continues to be a league on the rise. Now can BYU rise in the standings and become a championship contender?
Both St. Mary’s and Gonzaga are heading into transition seasons. Which opens the door for BYU. The Zags are still the class of the WCC, but St. Mary’s could be experiencing a dip from their usual success this season. The Gaels lost BYU killer, Matthew Dellavedova, and they face scholarship losses over the next three years due to improper recruiting. BYU has a young team. Not one senior is on this year’s squad. The time is now for BYU to make a move and get into the upper echelon of the WCC power structure.
Through two seasons, BYU is 1-8 against Gonzaga and St. Mary’s. That has to change. The annual WCC Tournament Championship game between the Zags and Gaels needs to change as well. Speaking of the WCC Tournament, BYU will be seeking its first tournament title since 2001. That’s one thing Dave Rose has yet to achieve in his terrific career at BYU.
The key for BYU to win the WCC will win all their home games. They can’t have head-scratching home losses to teams like San Francisco and Loyola Marymount again and expect to win the title. If they can win all of their games in the Marriott Center and go 5-3 on the road, they will win the regular season title and be on the #1 seed heading to Vegas for a chance at the tournament title.
Defense Wins Championships
Does anyone remember former BYU assistant coach, Heath Schroyer? Schroyer was an assistant under former Head Coach, Steve Cleveland from 1997-2001. I always remember Schroyer yelling non-stop during games while the Cougars were on defense. Those teams laid the groundwork for the type of program BYU was eventually going to become today. Year after year, BYU always had great defensive teams under Cleveland and now Dave Rose. Last year’s team however didn’t live up to the expectations of a BYU Basketball team on the defensive end of the court.
Since those Schroyer years, BYU Basketball had always played a tough, physical man-to-man defense. Last year, due to lack of talent and depth, the Cougars were stuck in a lot of 2-3 zone sets. Being stuck in a zone cost the Cougar Cagers in many games last season. They need to get back to man-to-man defenses. Do they have the athleticism and talent to do that? I would say yes.
Another question that many are asking heading into camp is, who will be the lockdown defender that Cougar fans have grown accustomed to having year after year? Whether it be Travis Hansen, Jackson Emery, Mike Hall, or someone else, BYU has had guys that could shut down an opposing teams top scorer. Look for return missionary, Kyle Collinsworth to be that guy for the Cougar cagers this season.
The progression of Matt Carlino
As I said in the player breakdown yesterday, BYU goes as far as junior point guard Matt Carlino takes them in 2013-2014.
When Carlino announced he would be transferring to BYU from UCLA, it was a huge deal. He was considered BYU’s “next Jimmer”. Sports Illustrated did an article on Carlino shortly after his impressive debut against no. 6 Baylor in 2011. What I’m trying to say is that Carlino has all the talent to be an elite player at the point guard position and lead BYU back to Sweet 16 runs and beyond.
It will be crucial for Carlino to not turn the ball over. He needs to take care of the ball a lot better this season. Also, Coach Rose needs to have patience with him. At times last season there was too short of a leash with Carlino as Rose would turn to senior Craig Cusick for stability on the court. Carlino’s confidence won’t build on the bench after missing a few shots early in a game. The temptation will be there with Kyle Collinsworth on the roster, but Carlino needs to be the guy at point for BYU. Is he going to launch some ill-advised bombs from 30 feet? Probably. But his playmaking ability outweighs the risks he brings to the court.
If Carlino can become a nightly 11 to 16 points per game and six assists with limited turnovers, BYU is an NCAA Tournament team and a WCC Champion. We know what Tyler Haws will get. Teams can focus on Haws, and he is still going to get his. Carlino on the other hand is the definition of the term ‘X factor’. When he is on, the Cougars go far and win big ball games.
Keep building momentum
Last year’s run in the NIT was a pleasant surprise to a season that by all means was short of expectations. The expectation for BYU Basketball is NCAA Tournaments and conference championships. Those expectations weren’t met so it wasn’t a successful season. But the NIT run gave players on this year’s team valuable confidence and momentum heading into this season.
There might have been struggles on the court at times last season, but off the court BYU Basketball has been on fire. The Cougars pulled down the 14th best recruiting class in the country according to ESPN, and for 2014 BYU has the 12th best class according to 24/7 Sports. Get those shades on folks it’s looking very bright out here.
The 2013-2014 Cougar Cagers could be a very good team and surprise many. A good year this season could lead to huge things for the 2014-2015 season. Add in Wake Forest transfer Chase Fischer, return missionary guard Jordan Chatman, and possibly Top 100 recruit Payton Dastrup from Arizona, the Cagers could be a Top 25 team again very soon. And more importantly back in the national spotlight. Which is what BYU needs to continue to place their name amongst the elite in College Basketball.
Look for part four of the BYU Basketball Summer Prospectus tomorrow as we discuss Head Coach Dave Rose.
Topics: BYU Basketball, BYU Cougars, Chase Fischer, Dave Rose, Gonzaga Bulldogs, Jackson Emery, Jordan Chatman, Kyle Collinsworth, Mike Hall, Payton Dastrup, San Diego Toreros, San Francisco Dons, St Marys Gaels, Travis Hansen, Tyler Haws, West Coast Conference