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BYU Basketball Season Review: The Carlino Conundrum

I have been fairly critical of Matt Carlino's freshman performance for the BYU Cougars. As I have examined his season since its conclusion, I believe much of my criticism may be unfair, based both on his actual performance and on what he really is.

What kind of wing player is Matt Carlino? He's not a traditional point guard, certainly. He's really a scoring guard, who best operates with the ball in his hand. Call it the Iverson-style PG or, to be more recent and more Cougar-like, the Jimmer-style PG.

I think my expectations of a PG are more of the John Stockton, pass-first guard who can also score when necessary. Carlino does not fit that mold (not yet anyway). And I think my expectations of a 2-to-1 or 3-to-1 Assists-to-Turnover ratio are not likely to happen. That's not Carlino's style, and certainly as the offense loses Noah Hartsock in 2012-13, Carlino's percentage of BYU's shots is likely to increase. Hopefully his assists increase as well, as more of the offense runs through him (without a corresponding spike in turnovers).

What does Carlino bring to the table? Quickness, outside shooting ability (which wavered at times his season), and the ability to get to basket and finish. All of these skills ebbed and flowed throughout the season, often, I believe, in response to BYU's opponent. Defensively he brings that same quickness, but like many young, highly-recruited players, he struggles with defensive fundamentals. His footwork can be poor, especially against quick or crafty perimeter players.

His advance statistics (taken from his Sports-Reference page) both confirm and contradict some of my assertions . Carlino was a below-average offensive player this season, and was the worst offensive regular for BYU according to Sport-Reference's ORtg stat. His effective field goal % (which adjusts for the fact that 3-points count for more) was a middling .476, good for 9th on the team.

Defensively, he looks better than my eyes give him credit. He's a slightly below average defender, but hardly awful (again, according to Sports-Reference's ratings).

These advanced statistics hardly tell the whole story. Carlino is a freshman, and he had some great games down the stretch, including a superb 30-point explosion against San Francisco. Greg Wrubell of KSL defended Carlino on our most recent podcast, and others have slammed me on Twitter for being too critical of a freshman point guard. He also transferred after a difficult partial season at UCLA and had to join the Cougars after the season was several weeks old.

So I'll finish where I started: Carlino is not a traditional PG, at least not yet. But he is a talented scorer and above average passer. He has the tools and the talents to be the best player on a very good team. The fact that he wasn't the player I was envisioning is hardly his fault. And while his freshman year had lots of ups and lots of downs, I agree with Greg Wrubell (and others) that he has the potential to turn into a great basketball player and be a huge contributor for BYU over the next three seasons.