If you're hitting the panic button after BYU's second loss of the season this past Saturday, here are some words of wisdom and comfort. Don't.
The sun will still rise on Monday morning and likely, find the Cougars still in the top ten and if not, not far out of it. This was a wacky weekend in basketball seeing Duke, UCONN, Villanova,Syracuse, and Missouri all lose. With several teams ahead and the teams just behind them losing, I don't see the Cougars moving much, if at all in the rankings later today.
Furthermore, Jimmer is still Jimmer. The kid was dead tired Saturday afternoon and still poured in 32 pts, 5 boards, 7 assists, and 3 steals. Despite being cold at times Saturday, the kid is still a superhero. Don't expect there to be a hangover Wednesday against Wyoming.
That being said, what follows is a game by game preview of the rest of the Cougars season, of which every game is winnable.
Here we go.
We begin with The Cowboys this coming Wednesday. I wish I could say that Wyoming's basketball team was outperforming their football team, but that would be a stretch. The Cowboys are the very definition of "hapless"
With their leading scorer averaging under 20 ppg, and the #2 and #3 barely scratching double digits, anemic is too kind a word for Heath Schroyer's offense. The former BYU assistant is going to watch a beat down by a Cougar team with a gargantuan chip on it's shoulder.
Defensively, The Cowboys look a little better, but not much. To be frank, I don't think anyone wants to have to see Jimmer Fredette following a tough loss.
Jimmer notches 30 pt game #17, Cougars win by 25, and the Cougars get their mojo back.
After safely dispatching the Cowboys and saying a joyous goodbye to the thriving metropolis of Laramie Wyoming the Cougars will return home to face one of the toughest games for the rest of the season. February 5th's rematch with Lon Kruger's Rebels will only be eclipsed by BYU's trip to San Diego a few weeks later.
UNLV is going to play their hearts out. Tre'von Willis was simply embarrassed at the Thomas&Mack on January 5th and will be more than anxious to prove he can make Jimmer's life difficult in his own house. The Rebels were also torched by Jackson Emery that night and will look to shut him down from distance as well.
This game is pivotal to the Cougars success the rest of the season. If they win, then this team is truly scary. If they don't, then a few things need figured out before March comes around.
Its going to come down to Davies, Hartsock, and Emery. Emery needs to keep Willis from lighting it up, much the same way he kept D.J. Gay from going off. Davies and Hartsock MUST, I repeat MUST stay out of foul trouble. If the Cougars can't shut down the Rebel post, this will be a rough one.
Still, I don't think UNLV manages to make it past the Cougars in The Marriott Center.
The Cougars trip to Colorado Springs shouldn't bring any surprises. The Cadets, while scrappy have proved to be woefully streaky and inconsistent this season and are just 3-4 in Conference play with one of those wins coming in overtime against TCU. There's a reason they call it the "Falcon Fade"
Don't go to sleep on leading scorer Michael Lyons or Tom Fow but given the fact that the Falcons are one of the worst rebounding teams in the Conference, BYU's big men should have a solid game. Air Force played their hearts out and made it interesting when they played in Provo in January but in the end they proved they can't hang with the Cougars for a full 40 minutes.
If I were Jim Boylen I would call in sick on February 12th. I suggest Laryngitis. Despite marked improvement over the last several weeks, The Utes are still the team that Jimmer Fredette quite frankly, owns. Some of the best performances of his career have come against a helpless Ute team, the pinnacle of which was last month's 47 point shooting clinic Fredette taught at the Huntsman Center. I'm pretty sure repeated showings of game film of Fredette's master stroke in that game is what is responsible for the Ute's recent three game winning streak.
This game is in Provo, it is Jimmer and Jackson's last against arch rival Utah and it just won't be pretty.
Cougars by 30, Jimmer with 40+
These are good times to be a Horned Frog. That is, if you play football. Jim Christian's team is improved this year but still boasts a 1-7 record in conference play and 10-13 overall. When TCU visited Provo in January, it was one of the least exciting basketball games I have ever seen. BYU seemed content to let TCU stay in the game while TCU didn't really seem to believe the game was ever really in reach. With his biggest fan (the opposing coach) watching the game, expect Jackson Emery to have a good night.
Cougars by 15.
Aside from San Diego State, The Colorado State Rams might have the best front line in the conference. Andy Ogide and Travis Franklin are keeping the Rams in the longshot discussion for a tournament appearance if the chips fall just right.
The Rams gave BYU one of their toughest contests of the season in January. They will be hungry to get the monkey off their back after losing to BYU for I don't know how many times straight. Again, this one comes down to pivotal play from BYU's own front line. If Davies and Hartsock can't get it done on the defensive post, Tim Miles' Ram's are going to be hard to put away. BYU is also going to have to keep sophomore 3-point stud Wes Eikmeier contained.
As tough as it might be, one of two things needs to happen in this game. BYU needs to blow them out or lose. They either need the momentum from a blowout, or the motivation from a loss going into their trip to San Diego that will likely determine the regular season conference champion.
BYU by 13.
Succinctly, this game means everything. Specifically, The MWC Championship and seeding in the NCAA tournament. BYU can still lose both this game and make the Tournament through the MWC Tournament or an at large bid. However, ask Dave Rose which one he prefers. If the Cougars win this game, they are assured the Conference Title.
It is not going to be easy. It will be harder than their 71-58 win over the Aztecs in January. D.J. Gay probably won't go 0-7 again. Malcom Thomas probably won't have another off night, and Kawhi Leonard will probably get yet another double double.
The Cougars allowed Steve Fisher's team to control the tempo in Provo. They cannot afford to do that again. Jackson Emery cannot have a four point night. Hartsock is going to have to man up in the post and Brandon Davies is going to have to at least repeat, if not eclipse his performance in the first part of this series.
The X Factor?
BYU'S leader, the country's leading scorer, and POY front runner.
If Jimmer Fredette can have another spectacular road performace, which has become his trademark, I think the Cougars squeak this one out.
They call it getting Jimmered for a reason.
If my predictions are correct, BYU will enter this game in Provo with a 27-2 record and a 7 game winning streak. Boy wouldn't the Lobos love to ruin two of BYU's winning streaks in the same year as BYU heads out the door for the WCC?
Yes, yes they would.
However, don't count on it.
BYU got burned once already by going into a game tired and figuring they could do just enough against a streaky Lobo team. Not this time, not on their home floor and not with the Conference Title locked up. The Cougars will need to stay sharp for the impending MWC Tournament. Which they badly want to win.
Cougars by 15+ and the Lobos get Jimmered.
See part one.
BYU wins and Heath Schroyer asks for his old job back.
Lest you mistake me for a homer, I recognize that these predictions are not, exactly, scientific. I am a big believer in the "Any Given Saturday" rule. BYU could completely collapse after their frustrating loss to New Mexico.
Jackson Emery could never find his shot again.
Hartsock and Davies could get dominated on the inside. They certainly have at points this season.
Jimmer's scoring average could drop through the floor.
However, the best indicator of future results, are past results. The Cougars don't need a new formula. They just need to keep refining the old one. Earlier I predicted they would win the MWC and appear in the Elite 8 in March.
I stand by that.
It would just be Jimmerific.