It's appropriate that seemingly the first postdiluvian Cougar NCAA Tourney win came with a starting power forward named Noah. Dave Rose's program had a fantastic run last season and now BYU projects to compete for one last MWC Championship.
Record - 30-3 (13-3 MWC)
MWC - Second place finish; Semifinals of MWC Tourney
NCAA Tournament - 7 seed; Beat Florida 99-92 (2OT); Lost in Round 2 to Kansas State, 84-72
Key Wins: Florida, San Diego State (2), UNLV, Nevada, Arizona State, Arizona
Significant Additions: The Brothers Collinsworth; Stephen Rogers; Anson Winder
Losses: Tyler Haws (LDS mission); Mike Loyd Jr. (D&C 89); Chris Miles (Graduation)
Additions by Subtraction: Jonathan Tavernari; The Girl Who
Played With Fire Gave Jimmer Mono
Noteworthy Occurrences: Impending move to the West Coast Conference beginning in 2011-12; Commitment of recruit DeMarcus Harrison (recruited by UNC, Wake Forest, Florida St., Wisconsin, etc.)
Projected Depth Chart and Commentary:
Point Guard - Jimmer Fredette; Jimmer Fredette; Jimmer Fredette; Nick Martineau; Jimmer Fredette;
Shooting Guard - Jackson Emery; Kyle Collinsworth; Brock Zylstra; Anson Winder
Small Forward - Charles Abouo; Stephen Rogers; Logan Magnusson
Power Forward - Noah Hartsock; Chris Collinsworth
Center - Brandon Davies; James Anderson
This kid was possibly one bout of infectious mononucleosis away from lobbing alley-oops to Amare Stoudemire in Madison Square Garden this year. So, despite that illness maybe costing the Cougars a chance at the regular season MWC championship (New Mexico) and Fredette the MWC MVP award last season (Darington Hobson), at least they get him back for another year. If Fredette can stay healthy he has a good chance at leading BYU back to March Madness while simultaneously increasing his draft stock.
Remember when Rafael Palmeiro won a Gold Glove award despite serving as a DH for 135 games? David Foster's MWC Defensive Player of the Year wasn't a robbery of that magnitude, but it was comparable to Derek Jeter winning the Gold Glove over Elvis Andrus this week.
Emery is the best on-the-ball defender in the MWC and one of the best ball thiefs in college hoops. He is the ideal running mate to Jimmer because he is unselfish offensively and understands how to position himself off the ball. He was a bit streaky shooting from the perimeter last season, but overall he is a terrific shooter. Not Fredette terrific, but All-MWC terrific for sure. Expect a big senior season from Jax.
Abouo has both big shoes (Haws) to fill and bi-polar shoes (Tavernari) to fill. Many Cougar fans clamored for Abouo to get more playing time last season. Part of that was due to Abouo's enormous upside. Part of that was due to Tavernari acting out Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for most of his tenure in Provo. Abouo is the most physically gifted athlete on the roster. He is a solid rebounder on both sides of the floor and a decent defender, though a little reckless at times. But the area where he has really improved since first arriving at BYU is in his perimeter shooting.
Haws put up a ridiculous true shooting percentage last season as a freshman. Abouo won't get to the line as regularly as Haws nor be as good a shooter from the line - but he can hit the perimeter jumper. If he can shoot consistently from the outside and mitigate his foul-prone tendencies of the past, Abouo will see a lot of minutes this year. Abouo has All-MWC potential and his experience playing for the Cote d'Ivore National Team this past summer should have given him some greater perspective on what he can achieve as a Cougar.
Hartsock gets a lot of undeserved flack from Cougar fans for being just another white, unathletic, balding big man with lobster claws for hands. But unlike many of the albino crustaceans to pass through the Marriott Center, Hartsock actually has a jump shot. And his jumper is actually quite handy when Jimmer penetrates the lane and the defense collapses away from Hartsock. Hartsock isn't the most skilled rebounder either but at this point at least you know what to expect from him. And unlike last season when Miles got the majority of the minutes at the 5 next to Hartsock, he'll be playing alongside another kid with a decent jumper and above average mobility/athleticism for a MWC center - let alone a Cougar center. That should take some of the pressure off Hartsock this year and allow him to fill his niche in Dave Rose's program.
With a full year under his belt, Davies should be comfortable now in Rose's system. That doesn't mean he'll suddenly leap to the level of an NBA prospect though and 2010/11 will be full of growing pains. Cougar fans can take comfort in knowing that whenever Davies makes mistakes it will still be prettier than James Anderson (see aforementioned reference to Maine's iconic critter). Davies is as intriguing a player as any on this roster because you still don't really know his ceiling as a player. If he somehow channeled his inner Provo Bulldog and transformed into Mekeli Wesley with more rebounding then the MWC Championship would be a lock. Unfortunately, Davies is still young and learning and we'll have to wait and see.
Chris Collinsworth - Collinsworth is going to really annoy the opposition this year. After getting stabbed in the back in Australia this kid is ready to "open a can." All he does is bring extraordinary amounts of energy and rebounding. He runs the floor extremely well for a big man off the mission. Think of the Nuggets' Chris Anderson with less shot-blocking and less idiot. A very nice addition this season and possibly a starter at PF off and on this season.
Kyle Collinsworth - Chris's kid brother can flat out ball. The only reason he may not have as large an impact as Haws did as a freshman last year is because Collinsworth isn't likely to see too many minutes at the 3. Haws was not a ball handler and Collinsworth could very well be Fredette's primary back up at the 1. Some scouts have said Collinsworth has NBA potential because of his combination of size and ability to dribble/pass. He will lessen the blow of Mike Loyd immensely and could similarly take on a larger role come tournament time.
Stephen Rogers - Abouo's primary competition for minutes at the 3. Rogers is a big time scorer but not always an efficient one. His defense will largely dictate how much he plays as he is long and has the potential to defend multiple positions like Abouo. He has drawn a few comparisons to Lee Cummard in that he is another lanky scorer from Arizona. If Rogers hopes to make a large impact at BYU he'll try to emulate Cummard in every way possible.
Brock Zylstra - Zylstra is an additional option for Rose in spelling Emery off the bench. Kyle Collinsworth will get the majority of the bench minutes at both guard positions but Zylstra has proven to be a lethal perimeter shooter when given the opportunity. If he could somehow morph into Mike Rose from several years ago that would be a terrific discovery for the Cougars.
Others - James Anderson, Logan Magnusson, Nick Martineau and Anson Winder will also come off the bench. Of those four, Anderson will receive the most minutes simply because of the lack up depth down low. Anderson can block a few shots but hasn't shown capable of much else. I would probably rather have this James Anderson. Of course, I also wish the Giants had Jason Werth instead of Aaron Rowand and Felix Hernandez instead of Barry Zito. But they still won the World Series. If BYU wins another NCAA Tourney game I think I'll call James Anderson the most genuis recruit in Cougar history and take him out for lobster no matter how ironic.
I was fairly decent with this last season. But rather than break down the entire schedule I'll just highlight a couple of important contests. Games against Fresno State and Utah State to open the season in Provo shouldn't be overlooked. Playing at South Florida (and possibly St. Mary's) later in the month in Texas should also be interesting. The Vermont game in Jimmer's hometown should be exciting. Playing Arizona at home in December is an essential game to win - especially because the Cougars travel to UCLA a week later. The UCLA game, however, is in Anaheim at the Honda Center, which clearly lessens a homecourt advantage for the Bruins. UTEP won't be as good as they were last season due to a couple of graduations, plus that game is at the Marriott Center. Altogether, BYU has 14 non-conference games and they can win and need to win 12. That's losing the game in Anaheim and one other game. Maybe that's at South Florida.
New Mexico won 14 MWC games last season and won the conference. It will take at least 12 wins to win the regular season title and an automatic tournament birth. BYU was able to beat the Aztecs twice last season but that will be a challenge to duplicate this season as they will be improved. UNLV will also be improved but New Mexico will not be after losing both Hobson and Roman Martinez. The Lobos will still be hard to beat at the Pit however.
If the Cougars can win another 12 games in MWC play they should be in the NCAA Tournament with likely a 25/26-7 record. But if they want another 7 seed (or higher) they'll have to either win the regular season title or win the MWC tournament. That would likely put them around 28-29 wins - same as last year headed into March Madness. That would be a terrific way for Fredette (and Emery and Magnusson) to finish in Provo.
Here's to Jimmerella hopefully putting on that glass slipper come March.