Want to have a fun and impossible debate?
Ask someone who they think will be the game one starting line up for the BYU Cougars in 2016-17. Figuring out who you'd use as your starting five and the reasons why you made your decision is in my book going to be the most compelling BYU fan conversation over the next months. Tanner vs. Taysom is a LIGHTWEIGHT discussion in comparison.
This article is meant to help fans understand the challenges Dave Rose and his staff will face with their roster next season and how that will impact personnel decisions between now and the beginning of next season. While the day one starting lineup debate won't be solved, perhaps the overall scene will be made clearer to liven up the debate even further.
Who exactly is going to be on the team this fall?
BYU hoops committed 4 new players to the program. Connor Harding and Gavin Baxter are planning on serving their mission before enrolling in Provo. Meanwhile, Steven Beo has no current plans for missionary service and Yoeli Childs is not LDS. Beo and Childs will make their debuts in the upcoming season. They won't be alone.
Members of the class of 2014 who elected to serve missions before attending college will also make their first Cougar appearances. TJ Haws and Payton Dastrup.
Also returning to the team following their missions are Eric Mika and possibly former walk-on Graham Pingree.
In addition, Elijah Bryant will be allowed to play for the Y after sitting out 1 season due to transferring from Elon. Alan Hamson will also begin his career on the hardwood following a redshirt season.
All in all that is 8 (EIGHT!) new additions to the BYU roster. That's a lot. Especially when considering that the team returns 8 players from the 2015-16 roster.
The eight returning players are Jordan Chatman, Nick Emery, Jakob Hartsock, Braiden Shaw, Jamal Aytes, Davin Guinn, Corbin Kaufusi, and Kyle Davis.
That's 16 players for 15 roster spots. Meaning that personnel decisions will be made at the end of the bench. Competing for the final spot will be the walk-ons, Davin Guinn and Graham Pingree. Guinn has played at guard this season. Pingree is a 6'8" forward. Based on the amount of forwards BYU has on scholarship, I would guess that Guinn would beat out Pingree for the last spot.
Perhaps the most likely result for Guinn and Pingree is that Dave Rose will put both players out to the Jordan Ellis pasture. In favor of gaining an open roster spot. (Hold that thought.)
It appears that the Cougars will have only 3 upperclassmen on their roster next season. (And you thought BYU leaned on the young guys this past season.)
Here's a look at projected look at the natural or preferred positions and class year of the members of 15 man roster:
|PG||TJ Haws||Jordan Chatman, Elijah Bryant|
|SG||Steven Beo||Nick Emery||(Davin Guinn)|
|PF||Yoeli Childs, Payton Dastrup||Jakob Hartsock, (Graham Pingree)||Jamal Aytes||Kyle Davis|
|C||Alan Hamson||Braiden Shaw, Eric Mika||Corbin Kaufusi|
BYU won't have a single player that is a natural small forward. That blank row really stands out and it should. The 2016-17 BYU basketball roster has a pretty significant hole.
At its surface, the lack of a SF may not appear to be a significant problem. Nick Emery played most of this past season at the 3 on offense, but would frequently switch with Kyle Collinsworth in man to man defense. Both TJ Haws and Jordan Chatman could play small forward as well. Maybe the 6'5" 210 lbs Elijah Bryant can operate like Collinsworth did this past season by switching from the 1 on offense to the 3 on defense. However BYU tries to remedy this gap in the roster; against certain teams with skilled wings, BYU is going to be vulnerable here.
Knowing Dave Rose's coaching and lineup tendencies after 11 seasons of watching him, it is unlikely that Rose will look to one of the post players to move out of the paint and around the perimeter. This summer may see experiments with Jamal Aytes, Jakob Hartsock, Yoeli Childs and Payton Dastrup trying out the 3. Maybe one of them will pleasantly surprise, but I wouldn't bet on it.
The most likely outcome will be one of the guards to fill in at the 3. This will cause match-up problems against certain teams. This isn't a new challenge. Every game the BYU coaching staff has to account for match-up problems. That is part of the art of coaching.
The worrying complication the Cougars will have to deal with by playing a 3-guard lineup is attrition and depth.
BYU has 5 guards. 3 of whom will be to be on the floor at all times. Meaning 5 guards are responsible to play 120 total floor minutes every single game. Over the course of a 35 game season, that's A LOT of minutes to fulfill. For the BYU guards, it is time to put in some major cardio and a strict adherence to the prescribed programs of basketball strength and conditioning coach Bob Medina.
Another problem with 5 guards accounting for 120 minutes every game? It doesn't allow much room at all for foul trouble.
The lack of depth at small forward (and guard in general) is magnified even more in the unfortunate scenario where one (or more) of the 5 guards has an injury. If that were to occur, it would likely murder BYU's 2016-17 season. 4 players can't play all the minutes for 3 positions. Coach Rose would be forced to make significant mid-season changes to his team's identity and style of play by bumping one of the front court players to play small forward.
Perhaps now is the moment as you stare at your screen where you've felt the absence and departure of Jake Toolson the most.
Toolson would have been a key player for next season. Jake is exactly the kind of player that would fill in and relieve pressure from BYU's small forward dilemma.
Think about Cory Calvert. Calvert left BYU mid-season to transfer. The assumption being that Calvert was unhappy with his lack of minutes in the Cougars rotation. Had he been more patient, he would have definitely played next season. If he played well, he could have chipped away at minutes that were only theoretically going to someone else. Same goes for Cooper Ainge.
One thing is for certain. Dave Rose and his staff are concerned about the lack of guard/wing depth too.
Remember how BYU may elect to part ways with their walk-ons to have an open roster spot? Dave Rose is looking to add a graduate transfer.
According to a New Mexico Lobos website TheLoboLair.com, BYU has contacted New Mexico about graduate transfer Cullen Neal:
All the following schools asked for permission to speak with Cullen Neal. Left off 25 or so (no shot). #GoLobos pic.twitter.com/3JZHql9mJO— The LoboLair (@TheLoboLair) March 23, 2016
Neal has two year of eligibility left. Neal is a divisive figure within the Lobo fanbase. Loved and hated with passion among the fanbase for his explosive potential and its frequent inconsistency. Neal's shooting splits are 37/35/75. Think right-handed Matt Carlino. Except when Neal announced his transfer, he and his family received death threats.
Now before you get too excited or upset at the prospect of righty Carlino heading to Provo, remember that most graduate transfers aren't looking to contribute from the bench. And, ya know, agree to abstinence.
As Neal plays the point, I don't see how he could feel confident about the volume of minutes he could received at BYU. The Y has several good options at the point guard position. As for how Neal matches culturally, who knows?
Even still, BYU's coaching staff has to try and they are. That's encouraging news for BYU fans.
I would be very surprised if Cullen Neal joined the Cougars. While he's talented, I'm not convinced he is the answer to BYU's problem. Neal is a point guard. BYU needs a small forward.
Allow me to introduce you to an interesting solution. Canyon Barry.
Canyon Barry is 6'6" 205-pound wing from the College of Charleston Cougars. Barry averaged 19.7 points per game with 3.4 rebounds per game before having a season-ending shoulder injury. Barry has averaged 12.8 points per game with 3.9 rebounds per game over the course of his career. The son of NBA legend Rick Barry, and like his father, Canyon uses an underhand "granny shot" at the free throw line where he shoots 87.5%. (Can you imagine the ROC giving the "Whoosh, GRANNY!" cheer?)
Canyon has a 4.0 GPA and will graduate this summer from the College of Charleston. He has stated that he is interested in using his final year of basketball eligibility to pursue a master's degree in nuclear engineering, mechanical engineering or physics. For the record, BYU has graduate programs for mechanical engineering and physics.
Barry's hometown is Colorado Springs, Colorado. Maybe Canyon would be interested in playing ball closer to home.
On top of that, BYU not only has a spot for Barry on their roster, they have NOBODY ELSE on the team that plays his position. Barry would be a great fit into the Dave Rose style of offense. Perhaps this would work out really well for both parties?
Beyond Canyon Barry, there are several graduate transfers who are eligible to play next season that BYU could use as a wing like Harvard's Patrick Steeves, Arizona State's Savon Goodman, or Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Austin Arians. More student-athletes will announce that they are graduate transfers in the coming weeks.
The question is whether or not Dave Rose will be able to land BYU Basketball's first ever graduate transfer. Almost every program in America is trying to grab an experienced, proven player to add to their roster. It'll be tough to get a player that would instantly help BYU's small forward problem.
If BYU doesn't add to their guard or wing depth via graduate transfer, BYU is likely looking at Davin Guinn -- who would occasionally have to play outside of garbage time.
Meaning that while next season marks the long awaited arrival of several 4-star top recruits, BYU will likely have to rely on a 2-star guard and a walk-on guard in Beo and Guinn at times during the season.
The long awaited reunion of all the Lone Peak National Championship stars finally happens next season. Joining them are several other top recruits and promising prospects. The enthusiasm and anticipation for this particular upcoming season has been high since 2013. The hype has merit, but it may be worthwhile to temper expectations concerning 2016-17.
The sentiment of BYU being "better next year" has been flung around like a frisbee. Despite losing a terrific guard line with prolific 3-point shooting in Chase Fischer and the best rebounder and assist generator in school history, who happened to be one of the very best all around players in the history of college basketball in Kyle Collinsworth, the majority of BYU fans feel that next season will result in greater success than this year's run to Madison Square Garden in the NIT and 3rd place in the WCC. Fans will insist that BYU will not be in the NIT next season, but in the NCAA Tournament. That could be right, but it certainly shouldn't be the prevailing populous prediction that it currently is. Especially when a team only has 3 upperclassmen. And a gaping hole at the small forward position.
While the small forward issue may be solved over the summer via graduate transfer, it doesn't solve BYU's lack of savvy veteran leadership. Inexperience has a way of manifesting itself regardless of the amount of talent a team possesses.
Even still, next season's team will be a riveting watch. The hope and expectation of where this talented generation of Cougar ball players can take BYU one day will begin to show moments of captivating potential. Each game will build upon the next, giving signs of a brilliant bright future as all of these skilled young men working to find synergy with one another. Gaining the experience necessary that allows the development of a lethal level of consistency in their performances on the court. The 2016-17 season is just year 1. They will have 3 together. I'm watching next season to witness the beginning of the climb.
As for who I think starts? As things currently stand, I'd start Elijah Bryant, Nick Emery, Jordan Chatman, Kyle Davis, and Corbin Kaufusi. But I'm far from convinced that this is the right answer. But I primarily like this group's prospects defensively. This lineup will be able to score in a variety of ways, and I like the overall experience at this level. This group has a chance at being the starting 5 on day one, but I'd be shocked if they were the starting 5 in March.
The only player that I'm totally convinced will be a starter next season is Nick Emery. Outside of Emery, the other 4 spots are up for grabs. It should make for a great, competitive, and fascinating off-season. At the same time, the amount of youth and unknowns about next season signify that this summer will be Coach Rose's most difficult off-season in his head coaching career.