Dave Rose's Great Point Guard Experiment

Ethan Miller

All those whispers about Kyle Collinsworth playing point guard next season appear to be true. This seems like a really foolish idea.

Not long after the conclusion of the 2012-2013 basketball season in April, strange winds started blowing out of Provo. These winds carried with them a most peculiar rumor — one revolving around then-soon-to-be-returned missionary Kyle Collinsworth taking the reins as a part-time point guard for the Cougars next year.

Today, we have our strongest confirmation yet of the veracity of those whispers from the lips of the whisperer himself — coach Dave Rose.

As reported by Jeff Call of the Deseret News:

BYU basketball coach Dave Rose is looking for more consistency out of the point guard position.

While 6-foot-2 junior Matt Carlino returns for next season, Rose welcomes back 6-6 sophomore Kyle Collinsworth, who recently completed a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Russia.

According to Rose, both will play the point in 2013-14. He said that there will be many times when Carlino and Collinsworth are on the court together. While Carlino and Collinsworth have different strengths and different styles, Rose said they will complement each other.

I'm not one to doubt Dave Rose — after all, the man has already given us 209 exceptionally good reasons to trust him — but this experiment already seems uncharacteristically foolhardy.

Please don't take that as a condemnation of Collinsworth's abilities. It is not intended to be one. He could very well turn out to be a exceptionally competent point guard. He's certainly a talented player, so it's not outside the realm of possibility.

However, my primary concern is not about whether or not Collinsworth could play the lead guard role for the Cougars — it's about whether he should.

Let's talk about reality for a second. If the 2013-2014 season started today, and BYU had to begin play with its roster as presently constituted, Kyle Collinsworth would be the team's fifth tallest player — at 6-foot-6. Furthermore, due to the loss of Brandon Davies to graduation and the Cougars' general lack of depth down low, he would also be the team's leading returning rebounder. (He averaged a solid 5.1 rebounds per game during his freshman season in 2010-2011.)

Think about that for a second. Let it sink in.

Now ask yourself this: on a team with only four legitimate "big men," where only two of those four (Nate Austin and Josh Sharp) have ever played a single minute of college basketball, and where those two experienced posts have both been plagued by foul trouble throughout their young careers — how in the world do you justify sticking a guy with good size and proven rebounding ability at the top of the key for roughly half of your team's possessions?

I guess I could understand that decision if BYU didn't have any suitable alternatives at the point — but anyone who has followed the team knows that is not the case.

Matt Carlino now has two seasons under his belt as a starting point guard at the Division I level — and while he certainly has his share of detractors among the Cougar faithful, he has steadily improved his game each year and we have no reason to believe that trajectory won't continue.

Carlino has proven himself to be a pesky off-ball defender who can score and assist in bunches on the other end, and his ability to do both while limiting turnovers should continue to improve as he gains experience. He has a very real chance to be an all-conference player next season. He's not going anywhere.

But wait, some of you may say. Didn't Rose say that Collinsworth would share the point guard responsibilities with Carlino? And wouldn't that mean that he's not trying to replace Matt, but rather find a solid backup point guard? Doesn't that sound more reasonable?

Indeed, it would — if there weren't already an abundance of other candidates for the vacancy. How about Skyler Halford, the hot new transfer who was just named a junior college All-American last season while playing point guard? Or how about Frank Bartley, the super-athletic incoming freshman with experience playing both guard spots? Shouldn't both of them warrant a long look before we start shuffling around our already-thin resources?

I would certainly say that they should — but I'm not unreasonable. I'm willing to concede that it would make sense to opt for Collinsworth over either Halford or Bartley and to risk weakening your frontcourt if we knew for certain that he would produce markedly better results.

Of course, the problem is that we don't know that for sure. Using Collinsworth as a point guard next year is as much of an experiment as trying the same thing with Brock Zylstra was two years ago — and we all remember how long that lasted.

The harsh reality is that, as talented as he is, Collinsworth hasn't proven himself as a Division I point guard yet. Sure, he was nominally the Cougar's back-up man during his freshman season — but that was also the year that Jimmer Fredette played 36 minutes per game and Nick Martineau stole another four.

That dynamic didn't exactly leave a ton of floor leadership time for young Kyle. As a result, he mostly played off the ball, as a small forward or power forward who used his athleticism to play tough defense, crash the glass, and get to the rim. Or in other words, he did exactly what BYU desperately needs him to do next season.

To be fair, Halford and Bartley don't have experience running an offense at this level either — but neither of them has the body or skill set to single-handedly bolster BYU's highly questionable frontcourt. Collinsworth does. And while it's entirely possible that he could prove to be a completely serviceable second point guard alongside Carlino, that outcome seems to be far from a guarantee at this point.

By continuing to toy with this idea of playing Collinsworth at point guard, Rose is essentially planning to trade a sure thing (all of the valuable things Kyle has already proven he can bring to the table as an off-the-ball player) for the seemingly unlikely chance that he might be able to capture basketball lightning in a bottle.

If you ask me, that sounds a lot like gambling — and just like the ill-fated Brock Zylstra experiment, we know how that activity usually turns out.

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