A couple months ago, I wrote an article about things that I noticed about the football team that made me worry about the continued success of the team. After seven games, I feel that we have seen the basketball team enough, and in enough situations, to gauge what to expect from this year's team.
Worry #1: No back up point guard, or guards for that matter.
I know this one has been kicked around so much that many people may think I'm just beating a dead horse, but it is going to be a real problem against better teams. Now if you really think this is a made up concern, take notice that even Dave Rose does not have confidence in his back up point guards. The main back up is Skyler Halford. I know he played well in certain games, but you also have to look at the opponents he was playing against. Against San Diego State, the only guard used extensively off the bench was Anson Winder, who played 37 minutes. The other guards who played were Chase Fischer (42 minutes), Kyle Collinsworth (45 minutes), and Tyler Haws (48 minutes). Again, two days later against Purdue, the only guards used extensively were the same four guys with Anson playing 34 minutes, Chase with 38 minutes, KC with 40 minutes, and Haws with 40. Now, I bring this up because those are the two best teams the Cougars have played up to this point. You cannot have four guys playing three positions, twice a week throughout the conference schedule, without seeing someone go down due to injury or just fatigue interfering with their effectiveness. I would like to see someone step up and give those guys a break.
Worry #2: Defense
I feel that the BYU defense has been borderline atrocious to this point. They are giving up 77 points per game on 42% shooting from the floor and 35% from three. Now take into consideration that they played Southern Virginia and only gave up 48 points on 29% shooting. So if you throw that game out, which really was more of an exhibition game, they are giving up 82 points per game on 45% shooting. Those numbers are very worrisome as BYU is about to play the toughest stretch of their schedule with Utah State, Utah, Stanford, UMass, and Gonzaga coming up in the next month. If they are to make the tournament, then they need to win some of these games as they have already lost the two in Maui. And if they do not defend better, then they could really lose at least three of these games, if not all four.
Now there is one aspect of this team that really scares me defensively, and it is the bigs. Besides Nate Austin, none of the other bigs seem capable of defending for long periods of time without ending up in foul trouble. Isaac Neilson is too skinny, Corbin Kaufusi doesn't have a feel for the game, and Luke Worthington is just a foul machine. I'm not saying that they are bad players, but it worries me when I look at the schedule and see Cody Lalane (UMass, 6-10, 250, 13 ppg/10rpg), Stefan Nastic (Stanford, 6-11, 245, 15ppg/8rpg), Jakob Poeltl (Utah, 7-0, 235, 12 ppg/9 rpg), Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga, 6-10, 240, 15 ppg/5 rpg), Domantas Sabonis (Gonzaga, 6-10, 230, 12 ppg/7 rpg), Joel Bolomboy (Weber State, 6-9, 225, 17 ppg/11 rpg). Purdue exploited this weakness with their size and I can envision something similar happening in this stretch of games.
Worry #3: Late game situations
I have been thoroughly disappointed in the overall play on the offensive end of the floor during the tight games. The four straight three point attempts in the second overtime against San Diego State comes to mind immediately. I also did not like the execution in the late second half against Purdue. Instead of running their offense I felt that certain players became too anxious and took ill advised shots. The problem is not that it happened once or twice, but that it happened multiple times.
So, now that the Cougars have decent break to get ready for these games, the good news is that all of these are fixable. A bench player needs to get mad about the lack of playing time and work to try and get some more time. Now this would be in the form of playing defense and running the offense. There are already a number of guards who can score, just do your job and not hurt the team while you are out there.
The bigs need to be coached on how to play defense without fouling. Especially on not fouling while defending the pick and roll. And would someone please teach Kaufusi to not get walked up the lane every time someone posts up on him? That would eliminate some of his defensive problems.
And lastly, the late game situation is something that Coach Rose needs to go over and make sure players are doing what they are supposed to. Coach's make their money in close games and they do that by making sure their players are doing exactly what they want, and I'm pretty sure four rushed three point attempts in overtime is not what Coach Rose wants.
These are a few fixable things that can lead to the 10th NCAA Tournament appearance in 11 years.