BYU: Four Games the West Coast Conference Team Should Have Won
Last year, BYU was a powerhouse school in basketball that went to the Sweet 16. This year they could be that team again but it seems they just let things get away from them.
There is no Jimmer Fredette to pull them out, run up the floor and shoot a wild three-pointer, and make it.
Though everyone on the team can shoot a three-pointer, it seems no one picked up on Fredette’s work ethic or range, thus the three-point shooters they have are spotty, with a team average less than 33%.
The best of them shoot only 38% (Nick Martineau’s 60% doesn’t count, the coach didn’t let him play but in 17 games and shoot 6 times). They had no range, and well quite frankly were very unreliable.
On more than one occasion I've yelled “no, no, no don’t shoot that three, go to the basket.”
I have noticed that those around me have shared the same opinion.
Most notable among the failures of BYU this year is four particular games BYU should have won.
Here are my four that had BYU won, would have them in the lead in the WCC, and a sure tourney pick. The wins might even have them in the Top 15 alongside Murray State.
Game 1: BYU vs Utah State
Where was the coaching on this one?
An 11-0 run by Utah State in the second half blew the game open for the Aggies. Brandon Davies, who ruined BYU’s chance to get to a Final Four for the first time in school history last year had something to prove in that game.
He started slow and finished with 13 points. He looked winded and tired.
Really? The first game you are out of shape?
If you discount Davies because you can’t blame a whole game on one player, then you look to the bench and the support players.
It wasn’t there. Why not?
If BYU had won this game, it would remove a real black spot on their RPI rating and give them at least a chance to be ranked around 25. This is one game that got away that should not have been since Utah State has gone on to prove they are a very mediocre team at best.
The object of scheduling teams in the first 10 games is to build a winning record and confidence.
Those teams should be well scouted. You should know their offense and defense, the strengths of the players and their weaknesses. Like a boxer, you should know your opponents ability to both give and take a punch and where he is vulnerable.
The job of a coach is to at least be able to prepare you for that first game, and should get you to through the first five or ten. The fact BYU dropped this one means that the Utah State coach did a better job. Because the performance of the team after that showed they weren't as good as BYU.
Hang this one on Coach Rose.
Game 2: Baylor vs BYU
This game was all in the pocket of BYU, except for some minor things, like 6’ 9” Brandon Davies shooting a three-pointer.
It only added insult to poor coaching when a 5’9” guard blocked it.
With Davies so dominant in the paint on rebounds, and Carlino shooting 50% from three-point land, why did Davies have the ball in his hands, and why didn’t Carlino?
And we can add, why was 6’ 11” Perry Jones in the game? He had a bad knee injury at the one minute mark, for heaven’s sake. Why aren’t you messing with him and pounding him to death?
And then to let him come back in the game and make their final put back basket?
This falls around the shoulders of the coaches. Had BYU won this game it would be the “big win” they would need in the RPI to have been a solid Top 25 team all year long.
You can excuse some conference losses, but when you get a big team like Baylor on your floor and can run double-digit scoring runs on them two or three times in a game, you should be able to win assuming you can stop them from doing the same thing to you.
With BYU leading 64-63, Baylor ran away to 79-70 thanks to little or no defense on the three-point line.
That was coaching folks. That was players told they could lie off and let them shoot.
BYU really was dominant in that game and should have won. They did, after all, win the battle on the boards (44-31) and outscored Baylor 41-24 in the paint.
So why didn’t they win? Need we say it? Coaching and conditioning.
This was a real lost opportunity, and if BYU had won, they would have been solidly in the Top 25. The rest of the season would have complemented that moment; instead, BYU is still recovering from it.
Game 3: Loyola-Marymount vs BYU
Thursday, January 19th, BYU was poised to take firm control of second place in the WCC and insure a sixth trip to the big dance. They had beaten Loyola Marymount on their own home court and now Loyola was in BYU’s house.
The stage was set. If they won this game, even with the preceding losses they would get into the Top 25 and make their mark in the new conference. BYU would be a force to be reckoned with playing in the Marriott Center.
But Loyola was having none of it.
They came in ready to skin a cat and went after BYU on the boards, and from three-point range. They went at them inside, and outside.
Loyola Marymount wanted this game, and wanted it more than the Cougars.
Hartstock held up his end with 28 points, but Davies only added 14 and was out muscled underneath with only nine rebounds.
With 5:55 remaining in the game, Loyola-Marymount had a two point lead, 61-59. But BYU turned it over and had their heads handed to them for the next 11 points. When the scoring settled down and BYU regained its composure, the score was 72-59 and all but over.
As a spectator, you can’t be heard above the crowd as you scream, “Call timeout,” and you want someone, anyone to put a stop to the carnage. You see it slipping away, you watch the players get discouraged and become almost hopeless as they fire away, hitting rim and backboard but no net.
You slap your legs and throw the popcorn on the guy in front of you in desperation wondering, Where the heck is the coaching? You wonder, Don’t these kids on the floor see they are being out hustled and out muscled and tossed around like bean bags?
You sit back and ask yourself, Do these kids know their way to the weight room?, as you watch a strong muscled and powerful team simply out hustle, out run, and out last your team.
To his credit, Anthony Ireland had 27 points, shooting 6-6 in that 11-0 run. There was nothing BYU could do but foul him and hope he missed.
Loyola-Marymount took one from BYU that they never should have gotten.
Game 4 St. Marys vs BYU
Having been stung by Loyola-Marymount and having come back to beat Virginia Tech on their home court, one might think the Cougars would be raging and ready for St. Mary’s.
Not so much.
BYU came out and held their own for, oh say two or three minutes. It was clear from the start the Cougars were tired, out of shape, didn’t match up and relying on long-bombs.
Unfortunately there were no Hail Marys landing for the Cougars.
Another pitiful night of three-point shooting and all around play left them wondering, Who were those guys?
What is even more stupefying is that four nights later the Cougars took on #24 Gonzaga and beat them by 10.
Watching that game, you wondered where the Courgars from the game just days before were.
But the BYU of a few days before was simply out of sync.
You kept wondering, and this went for the whole season, just who was going to start at guard? Just what would the lineup be?
Carlino, Zylstra, Harrison, Winder, all at times played well, all at times turned the ball over or needed their glasses before attempting three-point shots. Shooting three-pointers were an on-again off-again proposition all season—and mostly off.
But, had the BYU that faced Baylor, or Gonzaga, showed up, this one wouldn’t have gotten away, and it shouldn’t have.
The Season That Could Have Been
All-in-all, four games, just four games.
But if BYU had pulled the fat out of the fire on those four games, their record in the WCC would be 14-2 and they would be in first place. They would get a double bye for the conference championship and be sitting in the Catbird's seat on their way to their sixth consecutive big dance at the NCAA tournament.
They would probably be a fifth or sixth seed, maybe better.
Add in the other two wins and BYU would be no worse at 24-3 than 10th in the Top 25 and a chance to be a No. 3 or No. 4 seed.
Two of the losses were by three and seven points, just one turnover and a bucket would have turned the first one around, and a turnover and two buckets in the other.
What is even worse than the “what ifs” is that BYU had the talent to win them.
It seemed watching them all season long, they didn’t have the wind, drive, determination, and guts to be a championship team.
The leadership quality and media power of a Jimmer Fredette was missing. They seemed to be coasting along, expecting to win, instead of digging it out and making it happen.
They played team ball, but every team needs a leader to make them better.
This year, there wasn't anyone there to do it, and the coaches didn't develop anyone into that leadership position.
Well, there is the tourney ahead, let’s hope they can pull it out there, and if they don't win, so be it.
But let's hope they don't just give one away that ends the season. It was too good to waste.