We’re less than a week into the season and already BYU basketball has three games under its belt. Though the opponents were less than overwhelming (both D1 opponents currently land south of 290 in Kenpom) these first three games have been valuable. BYU played every player on the roster at some point and 10 players have averaged 10 or more minutes over the first three games. With three games worth of film to check out, here are a few things that stood out to me:
Alex pushing the pace
Alex Barcello has started this season on a tear so far and is obviously the leader of the team in many ways. One thing he led out on over last week’s games was dictating pace. This team is still ironing things out in the half court so in the meantime they are aggressively using transition opportunities to generate quality looks, as evidenced by this drive and score right after a made basket.
When he wasn’t pushing ahead on the dribble, he effectively looked ahead with the pass, getting the ball up early and generating good looks like this one, again, after a made basket.
Coach Pope’s teams have always looked to be opportunistic and get easy, early, points. Last year, though, BYU had the luxury of having three players who could manufacture points in the half court. While this year’s team will undoubtedly figure out who is most reliable, look for the pace to be ratcheted up in the mean time.
Posting up the wings
With the unfortunate news of losing Gavin Baxter for the season (ACL injury) and Wyatt Lowell still working his way back from being injured, BYU suddenly finds itself playing a little smaller by starting Caleb Lohner at the four and spelling him with Connor Harding and Gideon George. This hasn’t stopped the offense from using both of those players in the post and they have shown good pace and confidence operating with their back to the basket. Gideon misses the turnaround here but he definitely seems in-rhythm.
Connor has played less minutes at the four, but has seen opportunities to post up on the wing and has looked effective, like this up and under against New Orleans.
Look for BYU to continue to use its length by posting up wing players, especially Connor, who already has had some calls for him to get the ball down low in an action we used to run to get Jake Toolson catches.
Harward working the glass
Through three games Harward has more offensive rebounds (11) than defensive rebounds (10). His dogged effort on the glass will be a big boon to this team as it looks to generate extra opportunities in the half court. Harward is grabbing offensive rebounds in a multitude of simple but effective ways. First up, the tried and true spin move works well for him as his size allows him to create space to grab the rebound.
Next, bigs are often taught to continue their roll even if they don’t get the ball because it will often end up with them being in good position for the offensive rebound with their defender on their back.
In that same vein of positioning, after the roll BYU is looking for high/low actions a lot right now and staying in good position pays dividends again on the offensive glass.
And sometimes all it takes is relentless pursuit on every shot to eventually turn into a highlight.
The BYU bigs have so far been very consistent in crashing the glass, often coming in from beyond the arc, like this clips shows, to get offensive rebounds. Keeping up this effort on the glass will pay big off big time down the road, especially in games where more possessions can offset poor shooting.
Kolby’s defensive foot speed
Kolby has been an impressive steady presence down low, passing well out of the post and showing great pace with his back to the basket. I was impressed to see, though, that he seems to have markedly improved his defensive foot speed. Check out how agile he is forcing the contested shot here.
There’s a reason Kolby continues to start on this talented roster and it’s not just his efficiency offensively, he looks like he’s put in the work to be a solid defender in space.
While there were a lot of things to like about the first three games, one thing that I saw that worries me is the ball watching on defense. This team is eager to get into help position and be ready to rotate but it’s already bitten us a few times when our defenders lose track of their man.
Hopefully this doesn’t become a habit and the clips become few and far between.
Caleb Lohner’s feel for the game
One of the things to watch this season was where Caleb would end up in the rotation. Would he be ready to go and be in the top 7-8 or would he need another year? After a few injuries to other rotation players, he got his first start in his third game and it’s easy to see why. While his jumper is still coming along and he’s getting used to the speed of D1 players as a defender, there are a lot of pieces of his game that show how ready he is. One of the first things I noticed is how he generously uses a jump stop to avoid putting himself in a compromising situation. He’s moving a little to fast in this clip but I like the use of a jump stop to stay in control.
Often, that drift pass is a charge waiting to happen for younger players but he is in control and avoids the charge. Take a little bit of zip off the pass to the opposite wing and we’re in business but that will come as things slow down for him.
Still on the offensive side of the court, he’s showed good feel for high/low positioning, often stopping early enough to give himself and the passer room to catch and finish.
Defensively, he has a good feel for passing lanes, getting some run outs in the first few games but also playing the space right on this backdoor cut to get a deflection leading to a steal.
It’s gonna be great to see him progress this season and will be nice to see his jumper get more consistent as he starts to meet his potential.
BYU not only lost a lot of offensive prowess from last year’s historic team, it also lost some big time hustlers in Dalton Nixon and Zac Seljaas. Coming into this season, it was a question mark if that hole could be filled but already it looks like as a whole this team is ready to make up the difference. Through three games every rotation player has recorded a deflection and it seems like there have been charges all around. A couple players seem to be early front runners to fill the Nixon/Seljaas role right now: Richard Harward and Trevin Knell. Harward is definitely a bull in a china shop, relentlessly pursuing the ball and trying to generate extra possessions through his hustle. Check out how he gets on the floor here to create one last shot before the end of the half
Add to that his aforementioned rebounding effort and his four charges and he’s got a good bead on being that energy guy that elevates the team. When he starts knocking down free throws, he’ll be able to impact the box score even more.
Though Big Rich has been the more visible and louder of the two, Steve Pierce pointed out that Trevin has quietly put together a solid resume for a glue guy role as well. He’s been great from three at 43% and is tied for the team lead for steals with 4. Here’s a nice steal he manufactures with a heads up dig on the post.
He later helped close the final door on any UVU comeback with this nice charge late in the game.
Trevin is currently fourth on the team in minutes per game and if he can continue to provide this kind of steady impact, this team will be well on its way to the season they hope to have.