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BYU basketball: Zac Seljaas departs... Time to abandon small ball

Zac Seljaas is leaving to Iowa for two years. How will BYU replace him?

After one of Seljaas 7 threes against Central Michigan
After one of Seljaas 7 threes against Central Michigan
Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Today is a bittersweet day for BYU Basketball fans. Zac Seljaas reports to the Missionary Training Center and will spend the next two years in the Iowa Des Moines Mission.

Good for Zac putting off basketball, school and everything else to serve for two years. But his departure means BYU loses its top bench scorer and perhaps the only player on BYU's roster that could be considered a ‘stretch 4'. Cautiously, listed at 6'7 and able to knock down the three-ball at a ridiculous 50% clip, Seljaas possesses a unique skill-set that few can match.

As Keith Shirts mentioned in his post about BYU's best lineups, they often included Zac Seljaas. In fact, BYU's top 5 lineups in plus/minus per 40 minutes last year all had Seljaas at the 4. A position he began to play more and more as the season went on.

As is the recent trend in basketball, more and more teams are going small by having one big man with 4 shooters. This helps teams take advantage of hand-check rules that favor quick ball-handlers. Adding an extra shooter opens the offense up for more drives and kick-outs to open shooters on the wings. Defenses are forced to clog the lane and end up leaving shooters open. We saw this numerous times last year as Kyle Collinsworth would drive and kick to Zac Seljaas. The opponent was often forced to pick their poison.

But, as we look towards next season BYU is light on shooters that can guard the paint. Kyle Davis, Eric Mika & Corbin Kaufusi (when he joins the team after football season) are solid defensively in the post but they can't shoot. Every trip to the free throw line will be an adventure for them.

Jakob Hartsock is intriguing. Listed at 6'8, he showed flashes of a solid shooting stroke during his freshman year. However, he often looked over-matched defending in the post and when he lost his shooting touch he lost confidence and ultimately, minutes.

Newcomers Yoeli Childs and Payton Dastrup (both ESPN Top 100 recruits) will be fine additions to BYU's front line but neither seems to possess the shot needed to spread the floor from the 4 spot.

The solution? Don't have a stretch 4.

In my estimation the reason Seljaas at the 4 was so successful can be (at least in part) attributed to the exceptional distributing and rebounding skills that Kyle Collinsworth brought to the team while manning the point guard slot.

With BYU's all time leader in assists and rebounds moving on to bigger and better things, it is in BYU's best interest to utilize the front court talent they currently have on the roster and go with a more traditional approach. That's right, I want 2 bigs on the floor together, no more small ball.

A front line rotation that includes Eric Mika, Kyle Davis, Yoeli Childs, Payton Dastrup and Corbin Kaufusi should give BYU the rebounding edge. They will also be able to shore up the interior defensive and provide more rim protection.

Nick EmeryTJ Haws, Jordan Chatman & Elijah Bryant will play crucial minutes at guard and all are above average shooters. Collinsworth was a phenomenal basketball player but for all his achievements and strengths he never could develop a consistent outside shot.

BYU will miss having a reliable stretch 4 but they should be able to produce adequate floor spacing despite playing two traditional big men, by replacing Collinsworth with an excellent outside shooter.

Zac Seljaas had an outstanding Freshman season and will be greatly missed by teammates and coaches. As BYU Fans, we wish him the best on his mission and wait anxiously for the day he returns.

Until then, it's time for us to campaign that Coach Rose follows in Kalani Sitake's footsteps and abandon the "go fast go hard." mentality. No more small ball!