Welcome back to Round 2, BYU--it's been a while. Exhaling after what was the most electrifying opening day of an NCAA Tournament ever, we now look forward to the unexpectedly expected match up between the Cougars and Wildcats Saturday night. As fans, we asked for it and now we've got it. No looking back.
I must say, after watching BYU shoot lights out Thursday, BYU's chances of upending K-State are looking brighter. They are obviously comfortable shooting in that arena, shooting 49% from the field and 43% from the arc. Hold on, am I now expecting a two-game Tourney win streak from the Cougars after 7 straight losses? Not so fast. No. Uh uh. And there's a one-word answer as to why: REBOUNDING. Defensive rebounding to be more precise. I'll give Hartsock, Miles and Davies a break on the offensive side (well, scoring 99 points means you're making a heck of a lot of shots), but there were times Thursday when it looked like Florida's big men were doing rebounding drills in practice--which led to a 9-point lead in the first and a big comeback in the second for the Gators. Way too many second chance points. THE KEY TO SATURDAY IS REBOUNDING. If the Cougars can somehow control Dominique Sutton and Curtis Kelly and keep them off the offensive glass, I like BYU's chances--so do ESPN's Joe Lunardi, Doug Gottlieb and Jay Bilas.
The reason: BYU's a better field goal shooting team (49% to 45), a better 3-point shooting team (42% to 35) and a much better free throw shooting team (78% to 66), and they match up very well in every position except at center. They have a small backcourt with guards measuring 6'0" (Pullen) and 6'1" (Clemente) and two forwards (Sutton and Kelly) maxing out at 6'6". KSU's center, Luis Colon, creates a problem at 6'10" but he's relatively ineffective at both ends. Having said that, K-State is extremely fast and very aggressive defensively--and very impatient offensively. Pullen and Clemente drive their offense, but turnovers and unwarranted shots seem to be a consistent issue. Stopping Clemente--KSU's primary threat--looks to be an IDEAL task for speedy and sneaky Jackson Emery, who we should see glued to Clemente all game.
The bottom line: This Cougar squad is so ready to prove themselves in the national spotlight and ease the pain of late-season losses to NM and UNLV. They also realize they'll be playing for a spot in Salt Lake City, in what would be a true home game. If Emery can shut down Clemente, and if Davies, Miles and Hartsock can minimize damage on the boards, BYU will win the game. If they can't, it could get out of hand really...fast.