It was a great year for the ‘11-’12 BYU basketball team in what turned out to be a wildly overachieving season. Before it started, it was labeled as a “rebuilding” season by many critics, a year after losing stars Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery, and entering into a new conference. For a few months, they didn’t even have a regular point guard, either. Needless to say, the Cougars weren’t expected to go anywhere.
Boy, how the Cougars proved their critics wrong.
They completed their sixth straight season with at least 25 wins, the second longest streak in the nation only behind Kansas. They played a superb Baylor squad to the final shot, losing by only three to the eventual Elite Eight team. They stomped on the WCC’s elite team Gonzaga in the Marriott Center, who had previously won the last 11 straight regular season conference titles. They also sneaked into the NCAA tournament and pulled off the biggest comeback in its history, beating a quality Iona team 78-72 after facing a 25-point deficit.
Perhaps the most important highlight of last year, however, is how they set themselves up for success this year. By the end of last season, roles and rotations had been figured out, and players proved their talent and their worth to the team. After observing the success of last year, here are the five storylines heading into this year on why the Cougars will experience continued amounts of success
Recently in BYU’s basketball program, solid role players in their first three seasons turn into stars their senior years. They have learned to lead the team, upped their overall production, and established unique chemistry with their teammates.
Previous seniors that have stepped up and accepted the challenge have been Noah Hartsock (2012), Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery (2011), and Lee Cummard (2009). Brandon Davies shouldn’t be different.
His stats and production have gone up in each of his first three seasons, and he is expected to have a monster senior season. He should average a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double-per-game, and be the first weapon on offense each time down the court for the Cougars.
The Cougars had a stellar freshman class, with Anson Winder, Matt Carlino, Nate Austin, and Demarcus Harrison all getting quality minutes throughout the season and in the postseason. Each greatly contributed to the team by finding their role and playing within it.
Three of the four are returning to BYU next year, the only exception being Harrison leaving for an LDS mission. With a year of experience under their belts, each will make a more significant contribution next season, and collectively they will be the fuel for this team.
After a fabulous freshman year and a two-year LDS mission, Tyler Haws is back in business. In his first season at BYU, he put up over 11 points and four rebounds a game, and started 33 games, the most starts ever by a freshman.
This year, he will go one of two ways: He will either be the x-factor for this team, hitting the big shots in crunch time and being a consistent contributor, or he will slowly work his way back into form and eventually find his role on the team. Either way, he is a lock for starting the entire season, and is certainly a centerpiece for the future of the team.
The Cougars were always the top dog in the Mountain West Conference. From 2000-2011, they won six conference championships and made the NCAA tournament eight times.
Year after year, they thoroughly dominated on their home court and rarely struggled against inferior teams. BYU stormed into the WCC with the same type of attitude: own the conference and beat up on the teams that have a smaller student body and a smaller gym.
It didn’t quite happen, however. The Cougars had a successful but bumpy inaugural season in the conference, going 12-4 in conference play and finishing third.
There will be no surprises this year.
The Cougars now know exactly what to expect and prepare for against every team heading into their second season. They know the defenses and offenses of each team, the strategies of each coach, and how to play in smaller venues. Most importantly, they will know what it takes to beat St. Mary’s and Gonzaga, and will demand respect as one of the three powerhouses in the WCC.
Dave Rose is the second winning-est coach in BYU basketball history, percentage-wise, and perhaps the best coach they have ever had.
Year in and year out, he assembles a group of individually decent players, demands the best out of them, and produces a nationally revered team. In his seven years as head coach, he has a record of 182-52, including a 102-8 home record (!). In what was supposed to be a rebuilding season, his team managed to win 26 games.
With an upcoming season of returning stars and established players, Coach Rose has his work cut out for him. There is no doubt he will have his regular rotation figured out quickly, and his players in midseason form by the start of the season.
The Cougars will surprise many people this year. They will either win outright or tie for first in the WCC regular season, going 14-2, and will win the conference tournament. They will land a seventh or an eighth overall seed in the NCAA tournament and advance to the Sweet 16. They will extend their streak of 25 wins or more in a season to seven.
Most importantly for the Cougars, though, will be impressing Chicago high school star Jabari Parker. This year, he will be watching the programs he is considering very closely. Seeing the success of the Cougars, along with realizing that he could potentially be a legend in Provo, will give him enough motivation to sign with them, which is the ultimate goal for the Cougars going forward.