Welcome back to the BYU Basketball Power Rankings — the
weekly occasional feature where we rank each member of the hoops team based on how they’re playing right now.
If you’re a fan of these rankings (Hi, Mom!), you’ve probably noticed that we haven’t done one of these in a while. So we’ll try to get back on the horse this week, with rankings that are inclusive of player performance in the Cougars’ most recent games against Colorado and Illinois.
We’ll only rank players in coach Dave Rose’s rotation — meaning those who played more than five minutes in either of the two games being considered. And as always, everything you see here is purely reflective of my own opinions and biases.
Now let’s get to the rankings...
Out of the rotation: Payton Dastrup, Davin Guinn, Zach Frampton
Injured: Elijah Bryant
10. Braiden Shaw
Shaw hasn’t gotten many minutes, and he doesn’t do a whole lot with the ones he gets in terms of raw production, but he does play hard. You can tell he’s always giving his full effort out there — which is exactly what you should be doing when you only play 5-7 minutes per game. If nothing else, he gives you another big body and five more fouls to throw out there when Eric Mika or Yoeli Childs find themselves in foul trouble. That’s worth something.
9. Jamal Aytes
Jamal’s kind of in the same boat. He could end up being the beneficiary of Kyle Davis’s injury limitations, but he hasn’t gotten consistent minutes yet. Rose is mostly using him as a stopgap measure if Childs or Mika gets into foul trouble — just trying to burn some clock until he feels comfortable reinserting his star bigs. And in that role, Jamal has been mostly fine. The biggest challenge he faces is that there’s a big dropoff from Childs to him in terms of rebounding the basketball, due to primarily to the two players’ difference in length and athleticism. If he can’t secure enough rebounds when he’s out there as one of BYU’s two bigs, it’s going to be tough for him to find time.
8. Kyle Davis
Davis’ knee injury was a huge blow to this team. He’s trying to push through it and do what he can, but he’s clearly been severely limited. He played 11 minutes against Colorado, before lasting only three against Illinois — and he didn’t look anything like his usual self in either outing. Props to Kyle for playing through the pain and trying to do the best he can for his team, but it’s time we accept that anything the Cougars get from him the rest of the way out is gravy. He’s just not going to be able to play the role everyone (including himself) had envisioned, and that’s too bad for everyone involved.
7. Steven Beo
Beo got a ton of time against Colorado, which was a big sign of trust from Rose — and he ultimately paid it off by hitting perhaps the most important shot of the game, a clutch three down the stretch at a key moment. He faded into the background a bit against Illinois and didn’t really assert himself, which is to be expected of a freshman, I suppose. But with Elijah Bryant still on the IR, there are guard minutes to be had and Beo is well positioned to get them, but he’s going to need to take them.
6. Colby Leifson
Leifson basically had Beo’s Colorado game against Illinois. Rose rewarded him with more time than he was used to seeing, and he eventually paid it off by hitting two big threes to keep BYU’s frantic comeback attempt alive. Because of a lack of lateral quickness, he can struggle at times defensively (particularly in man-to-man situations) — but that weaknesses was mostly negated by hiding him in the corner of a 2-3 zone during much of the Cougars’ big run. But ultimately, Leifson is a shooter — that’s why he’s here. He’s only adding value if he’s hitting shots, and he hadn’t been doing that for virtually the entire season. He started to against Illinois. Now we’ll get to see if he can keep it up.
5. LJ Rose
And now we’re into the starting five, which Coach Rose has leaned more and more heavily in recent weeks, particularly as the injury bug has struck and drastically reduced the strength of his bench. As I wrote last week, LJ is an important player for this team. His willingness to distribute and his vision to find open teammates is irreplaceable. But he continues to struggle with his shooting, which limits his effectiveness on the floor. He did break out a bit with two key shots (one three and one two with a foot on the line) in the closing moments of the Illinois game, so hopefully that is a sign of things to come.
4. TJ Haws
It was a tale of two games for TJ. Against Colorado, Haws was on fire, connecting on 4-of-5 three-point attempts for 16 points, while also handing out 4 assists and grabbing 5 boards. Yes, he also turned the ball over 4 times, but it was mostly a very strong all-around performance. Fast forward a week to Illinois. TJ looks totally discombobulated, scoring 10 points on a woefully inefficient 12 shots, including 1-of-7 from deep. He also had 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals, so he was doing work elsewhere, but the shooting was enough to raise the ire of Cougar fans. Many complained that both he and Emery had taken too many shots — or at least too many tough ones — and that Rose needed to rein them in. To which I say: Meh. Yes, Haws has been in a bit of a funk shooting the ball (Colorado excepted). And he does settle for tough shots (especially deep ones) a bit too often, and that can be corrected. But saying that he or Nick should stop shooting just doesn’t make much sense to me. As we’ve seen, there’s not a ton of depth on this team, so it’s not like there are many (if any) better options. Mika can’t shoot every time, so someone has to keep defenses honest by taking and making outside shots. Despite his recent struggles, TJ Haws is still one of your best options to do that.
3. Nick Emery
Nick has had many of the same challenges as TJ, although he’s been a bit better of late. He shot 3-for-8 from deep in both of this week’s games, good for 38 percent. If he were to continue that over an entire season, that would be a fairly respectable clip. Nick has also done a better job of getting to the basket recently, but he needs to work on finishing in traffic. This can be tough, since he’s much smaller than many of the defenders who will be occupying the paint, but he needs to adjust accordingly. Rather than driving right into the teeth of the defense, perhaps a little floater or 5-foot bank shot might give him a better chance at success. Nick is a key leader for this team and BYU can’t succeed without him, so Cougar fans better hope he continues to find some consistency on the offensive end.
2. Yoeli Childs
Put simply, Childs has been a revelation of late — especially considering he’s a true freshman. He posted his first career double-double against Colorado (11 points, 12 rebounds) and then got dangerously close to doing it again in Chicago. When Yoeli’s in the game, he absolutely owns the glass on both ends, and he’s shown some nice post moves for someone so young. He has incredible upside. The only things holding back right now are his propensity to commit fouls (which will likely be mitigated as he gains more experience) and his free throw shooting, which actually looked much better against Illinois. If those two things keep looking up and he continues to improve his game as expected, we could be looking at one of the all-time great Cougars in the years to come.
1. Eric Mika
Speaking of all-time greats, Mika is getting closer and closer to cementing his status in BYU lore. The guy is just an animal, and nobody seems to have an answer for him. Even when slowed by a nasty bout of food poisoning, he still managed to go for 17 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists against Colorado — and that was one of his worse games. He of course followed that up by going for 25 and 8 against Illinois and almost single-handedly winning the game for the Cougars. There is just not much more you can say about him: Eric Mika is one of the best big men in the country, and maybe also one of the best players. He’s truly incredible, and he’s putting a struggling, injured team on his back and carrying them as far as he can. Enjoy the show — while there’s still time.