No one can ever replace Tyler Haws. It's important to get that out of the way up front. He's too good and does too much for this BYU Cougars team to even reasonably consider the possibility of a single player attempting to replace his production.
And yet, BYU coach Dave Rose may very well be tasked with trying to plug a gaping, Haws-sized hole in his team for a few games. Put simply, there's no good way to go about doing that. It's not like you can just slot another guy into his spot and expect him to do all the things Tyler does. That's not realistic, nor is it fair to either player.
To be sure, Rose may not have to deal with this problem. It's entirely within the realm of possibility that Haws' ankle could respond well to the aggressive treatment he's been undergoing and he could be available to play against Stanford on Saturday — a must-win game for the Cougars, who are in desperate need of victories over quality opponents.
But while a speedy return is possible, that doesn't mean it's likely. Chances are, Haws misses at least the Stanford game and returns sometime the following week against either UMass or Gonzaga. That timetable would leave Rose searching for a way to win perhaps the most important game of his team's season to this point without his star scorer.
For that to happen, someone is going to have to step up — or, more realistically, a couple someones. As noted, no single player can replace Haws' production and leadership of this Cougar team, but a by-committee approach might get close enough to keep BYU afloat for a game or two.
Who will Rose call on to help fill the void? There are a couple strong options — and, again, the Cougars will probably need some combination of all of them to top the Cardinal.
1. Anson Winder
It's hard to ask Winder to do much more than he's already doing. The fifth-year senior has been a revelation so far this season. With increased minutes, he has already more than doubled his per-game production in several key statistical categories (including points, rebounds and steals), while also increasing his efficiency (his per-40 minute numbers are through the roof, year over year). He has been the team's rock on both sides of the ball, turning in consistently great performances every single night.
But if BYU is really going to weather this storm, Winder is going to have to continue his strong play — and do so over even more minutes. He currently averages around 26 minutes per game, but with Haws out and Winder the obvious candidate to slot into his starting role, that would likely increase to somewhere north of 35. It's not always easy for a player to increase his playing time while maintaining his efficiency, but Winder has thus far proven capable of doing it — and Rose will have to ask him to do it again.
They need his 3-point shooting. They need his dribble penetration. They need everything in between. Basically, the Cougars need everything Anson Winder can give them, and in much greater supply than ever before. That's a tall order — and we're about to find out if he's up to it.
2. Chase Fischer
There's no doubt that Fischer has the talent to compensate for a large part of Haws' lost offensive production. His perimeter-oriented game could serve as a respectable short-term stand-in, albeit with a much more limited arsenal of weapons at his disposable. The key issue for Chase is (and has been) consistency.
Many of you are probably already nodding your head. There's no doubt Fischer can fill it up. We've seen him do it on multiple occasions. He packs some serious scoring punch — when he's on. The problem is, he's not always on. And when he's off, things can get a bit ugly.
Now, no shooter is hot every night. That's not a reasonable expectation. But Chase has seemed to alternate between good and bad nights almost constantly, with his best outings coming against vastly inferior opponents. That pattern needs to change quickly if BYU wants to beat Stanford.
With Haws unable to serve as a 3-point threat in his own right, Fischer must be able to keep the Cardinal honest, preventing them from collapsing into the paint and clogging driving lanes for Winder and Kyle Collinsworth. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that each of Chase's long-range bombs are also worth an extra point, too — and when you're trying to find 24 additional points per game somewhere, that goes a long way.
3. Jake Toolson
And here's the wild card. It's a virtual certainty that Rose will entrust Winder and Fischer with increased minutes on the guard line. But those guys have to rest at some point, so some portion of Haws' playing time will (of necessity) fall elsewhere. That's where Jake Toolson enters the equation.
Rose likes Toolson. He's intrigued by what the freshman marksman could bring to the table. He spoke openly during the team's time in Maui about wanting to find a way to get Jake going and help him gain confidence so he could play a larger role. And yet, Toolson has played in just seven of the Cougars' 11 games, averaging 9.3 minutes in those contests (mostly in blowouts). So that hope hasn't really come to fruition yet.
Of course, there's no time like the present to try again. Somebody is going to have to pick up some of Tyler's extra minutes, so why shouldn't the coaches take a chance on a high-upside option like Toolson? There's no doubt the kid can score the ball — he has connected on a team-high 53.3 percent of his 3-pointers this year, an insane number for a first-year player. If you're trying to find a way to make those extra 24 points per game materialize out of thin air, you have to at least give Jake a look.
Now, it's completely possible that — like many freshman before him — he will wilt under the pressure and fail to perform. There's some risk involved here. But it's a pretty acceptable gamble. I mean, what's the worst case scenario? Rose throws Toolson a couple minutes and he self-destructs? He can always sub him out and put in Skyler Halford or Frank Bartley IV — both decent players, but neither of whom have demonstrated the raw scoring talent that Toolson possesses.
At least Rose will be able to say he tried all of options — and as long as a player of Haws' caliber remains sidelined, Cougar fans can expect many such experiments. After all, there's no easy way to fill an unfillable void.