The next Jimmer. Matty Basketball. #TEAMALLDAYERRYDAY. We’ve all heard the nicknames and catchphrases associated with junior guard Matt Carlino over the past few seasons. But now there’s only one thing we want to hear next to his name this weekend in the NCAA Tournament, winner.
I’ve always been a fan of Matt Carlino. On the Cougar Center Podcast, I’ve publicly said numerous times if BYU wants to be a team that advances in an NCAA Tournament setting, they need Matt Carlino to play at a high level.
We all know Carlino is a streaky player. But name one player that’s more likely to hit a clutch three-pointer on this team other than him? Who has the onions to attempt the big shot in a last second possession? Hell, name one other player that gets a national analyst like ESPN’s Seth Greenberg giddy like a schoolgirl over their style of play? No one. And that includes the ultra-smooth Tyler Haws. Carlino just has that star potential that no one else has on this team. That doesn’t take away from what Haws does. Haws is going to be one of the best BYU Basketball players ever when his Cougar career is finished next year. A lot of it has to do with the style of play between the two players. Haws can go off for 48 one night, and it’s the quietest, most efficient 48 you’ve ever seen. Carlino pops off for 30 and it conjures up those same feelings that we saw with a certain someone named Jimmer Fredette. He’s got that star appeal, and that’s what makes his career at BYU so frustrating. Everyone knows there is endless potential for him.
The injury to Kyle Collinsworth has been a significant blow to this team, because K.C. could produce in many different ways. But as a point guard, Collinsworth was a turnover machine waiting to happen. Just look at the last game BYU played in against Gonzaga in the WCC Championship. Carlino has had his moments with terrible turnover-to-assist games, but we are seeing improvement. Carlino is now at a 2.1 assist to turnover ratio. At the beginning of WCC play he was at 3.3.
Also, I like the prospects of Carlino feeding center Eric Mika a quality post-pass. That was nearly non-exisistent with K.C. manning the point. And now we’ve been wondering if Mika is in a slump. No, he hasn’t had a backcourt presence that can feed quality looks. Look for that to improve on Thursday against the Ducks.
The benching of Carlino by Rose served it’s purpose for a few games against San Diego & Pepperdine in early January. It humbled Carlino after BYU went through that five-game skid in December. But after those two games, it felt unnecessary. Carlino should have been starting.
Rose and staff fell in love with the Kyle Collinsworth/Anson Winder/Skyler Halford backcourt against mediocre WCC teams, in the comforts of the Marriott Center. While Carlino went through the third toughest non-conference schedule in the country. Not many BYU point guards have faced the type of schedule Carlino did. BYU still managed a respectable 8-5 record with close calls against ranked Iowa State, Wichita St, and Oregon. All of which are in the NCAA Tournament.
The benching to Carlino was eerily similar to the Riley Nelson/Jake Heaps situation in 2011 for the BYU Football team. Heaps faces Ole Miss, Texas, Utah, and UCF. While Nelson gets Utah State in the 2nd half, and San Jose State. All of a sudden Nelson is the better QB and #RileyJuice (I’m sorry folks) is born? Both were terrible as we know today, but at the time it was a bit reactionary based on the opponents Nelson was playing. Same sort of situation applied here in my opinion.
Now I will say, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see the emergence of Anson Winder at the shooting guard spot. His defensive talents have given this BYU team a lift on the defensive end where they have struggled this year. Not to mention his sneaky offensive outings against Gonzaga and Santa Clara. From what we’ve seen the last 10 games, Winder will be a significant contributor to next year’s team. Especially with K.C. recovering from an ACL injury. Ideally, I’d like to see Winder as a 6th man, but without K.C. that luxury isn’t there.
I’m of the belief that the best five players should be starting. Especially at a position like point guard. It’s the most important position in college basketball. Point guards needs volume. 28 minutes isn’t enough for a player to lead his team. I just don’t see how people could say BYU’s record in WCC play would have been worse with Carlino in the starting lineup. At worse, it’s the same.
If Carlino wants to be a leader of this team heading into next season with six seniors on the squad, he needs to take this opportunity in the big dance by the horns, and deliver. The precedent has been set this season for him the rest of his Cougar career; if there is any sign of struggle with Carlino’s game he will be relegated to the bench and become a role player. This weekend is Carlino’s opportunity to change his legacy at BYU and become a leader of this program. Like we all know he has been capable of.
Seize the moment Matty Basketball.