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BYU Basketball Power Rankings, Week 1: The reign of Eric Mika is upon us

The Cougars got off to a quick start with more than a little help from their dominant sophomore big man.

BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey

Welcome back to the BYU Basketball Power Rankings — the weekly feature where we rank each member of the hoops team based on how they’re playing right now.

This week’s rankings are inclusive of player performance during the first week of the season, which saw the Cougars sprint out to a record of 3-0 on the strength of a solid victory over a very good Princeton squad and two blowouts against overmatched opponents in Coppin State and Coastal Carolina.

(If you missed last week’s Power Rankings, you can catch up here.)

As always, everything you see here is purely reflective of my own opinions and biases. Now let’s get to the rankings...

14. Zach Frampton

Frampton’s just happy to be here. He hasn’t seen much time outside the closing minutes of blowouts, and that’ll likely be the way things stay for the rest of the year. Let’s all just agree to consider him to be Dave Rose’s Word of Wisdom-compliant human victory cigar.

13. Colby Leifson

Leifson played in two of the Cougars’ three games this week, shooting a rough 1-of-6 from beyond the arc. It should be no surprise to anyone that Colby is on this team to shoot. If he’s going to earn playing time moving forward, he’ll need to be able to come into games and hit open shots when BYU needs some instant offense — and 17 percent from deep isn’t going to cut it in that role. He’ll certainly be looking to improve on that number in the week ahead.

12. Steven Beo

It seems like nobody noticed at the time (I know I certainly didn’t), but Beo didn’t play at all against Coastal Carolina. I’m not sure if there’s an injury problem or if it was the coaches’ decision, but he didn’t enter the game after playing in both of the Cougars’ first two contests. We’ll wait to see if more information is released on his status, but Beo has been pretty quiet in the action he has seen. He has yet to score a point in a BYU uniform, and that seems very unlike him. Expect that to change whenever he finds his way back onto the floor.

11. Braiden Shaw

Another garbage-time special, Shaw has seen a couple minutes here and there, and has generally asserted himself well in the time he’s been given. He’s pulled down a few rebounds and scored some easy post buckets, which is about all you can ask for from your sixth big man off the bench.

10. Davin Guinn

Guinn has seen less time than I expected in these early season games, but has been fairly productive in the 7-10 minutes he received in BYU’s blowout wins. The thing I love about Davin is his incredible motor. When he’s on the floor, he’s going 100 miles an hour and giving his all on every play — which is obviously a lot easier to do when you know you’re only going to be asked to sustain it for a few minutes at a time. His fresh legs and relentless energy give him an advantage coming in against an opponent’s reserves as they tire (particularly at altitude),

9. Payton Dastrup

Here’s the thing about Dastrup: you can make jokes about his haircut (and it is certainly a unique style!), but the kid knows how to play. Sure, he’s definitely still rounding back into basketball shape after two years away — but the kid just got back from his mission a few months ago. Things will take time. But watching him play in these first few games, it became clear to me that Payton’s got a great feel for the game, and that’s something that’s hard to teach or develop. His instincts are good, and while he might be step slow right now, those natural abilities will undoubtedly serve him and the Cougars well down the line.

8. Jamal Aytes

Look who’s moving out of the basement! Aytes has had a tough go in his collegiate career so far. He’s spent much of it struggling with injuries that have prevented him from finding a consistent rhythm on the court. But things seemed to be starting to click for him against Coppin State and Coastal Carolina. Jamal turned in two solid performances, making the most of his 11 minutes in each contest. He shot the ball well (5-for-6) and showed off a nice baseline jump shot that reminded me of Noah Hartsock’s most deadly weapon. There’s still cause for concern about how he’ll match up defensively and on the glass against teams with more size down low, but for now, things certainly seem to be moving positively in Jamal’s direction — and that has to feel good.

7. Elijah Bryant

It’s fairly easy for even the most casual college hoops observer to see that Bryant isn’t quite 100 percent yet. While he’s been physically cleared to play following knee surgery, it’s clear he’s still working his way back into playing form, both mentally and physically. That can be a long and frustrating process, but Eli has to be encouraged by the good progress he saw this week. While the Princeton game was a little rough all around, he made great strides in the ensuing two contest — settling in, making better decisions, and looking much more comfortable in the flow of play. This resulted in a couple strong scoring and rebounding performances, and even though he’s still looking to relocate the accuracy on his jump shot, his recovery is definitely trending in the right direction.

6. Kyle Davis

There are a lot of people out there that like to give Davis a hard time. That’s fine. He’s not perfect. He certainly does some frustrating things on the court. But if we’re being fair (and I’d argue we should be), Davis had himself a pretty fine week. Sure, the Coppin State game wasn’t his best offensive performance, and he’s turning the ball over a bit too much for a big man, but he gave Dave Rose a bunch of solid minutes. He’s generally making positive plays down low and doing a great job of rebounding the basketball. He’s a more willing passer and more mobile defender than we’ve seen in the past, and that’s welcome progress that signals a better fit within the Cougars’ system. So before you fire off another snarky tweet about him missing a layup or some such thing, it’s worth considering the bigger picture: Kyle Davis isn’t perfect, but he’s doing just fine.

5. Yoeli Childs

But while Davis has been doing a fine job, he hasn’t been the team’s best power forward through three games. That honor goes to Yoeli Childs, who’s been far from flawless so far but flashed so much awesome potential that BYU fans’ mouths have to be watering. Yoeli might be a freshman, but he doesn’t rebound like one. He’s averaging 8 boards per game right now, including a monster 15-rebound effort against Coppin State. He’s also shown he’s capable to slam home virtually anything he catches around the basket, while showcasing some nimble lateral movement on defense that’s uncommon of a man his size. All of this adds up to a very strong debut for the young Bingham product — and there should be plenty more where that came from.

4. TJ Haws

It’s entirely fitting that TJ Haws came out and scored 20 points against a good opponent in his first collegiate game and nobody seemed to bat an eye. It’s the Haws way (his brother Tyler was always a silent assassin), and frankly, TJ’s skill level is so high that we’ve probably come to expect those monster nights far earlier than we have any right to. But that doesn’t mean Haws isn’t going to give them to us nonetheless. The boy gets buckets. He did cool off slightly against Coppin State before going ice-cold versus Coastal Carolina, but TJ contributes in so many important ways (even when he’s not scoring) that BYU needs to have him on the floor as much as possible. There’s a reason he’s been one of the top two players in minutes played in each game so far.

3. Nick Emery

Nick Emery is just a solid citizen. You know he’s going to step up to the plate and deliver for you night in and night out — and that’s why you love to have him on your team. Even though Nick hasn’t been as dialed in from deep as usual in the earlygoing, he’s still found plenty of other ways to contribute. I’ve especially been impressed by his newfound willingness to constantly attack off the dribble, often finishing strong through contact. That’s not a tool that he had in his belt in quite the same way a year ago, and it’s a great sign that an already very polished player remains dedicated to taking his game to the next level. As a team leader, that sets a great example for his young charges.

2. LJ Rose

There’s something about LJ Rose that just makes you feel calm — like, when he’s on the floor, everything is going to turn out OK. That’s probably mostly because, to this point, it has. It’s hard to overstate the impact that Rose’s veteran presence has had on this young BYU team. He’s a skilled ball-handler with the cool head and peerless vision needed to handle defensive pressure and distribute to open teammates. LJ is a pass-first guard in the purest sense of the term, and while he hasn’t scored a ton (although, to be sure, he’s gotten his when the opportunities have presented themselves), his selflessness has certainly set a tone that has been embraced by the team as a whole — and made them that much better.

1. Eric Mika

When you average 21 points and 11 rebounds in your first week back in action after not touching a basketball for two years, you get the No. 1 spot on the Power Rankings. It’s basically required by law. Mika has been so dominant in the Cougars’ three matchups, it’s hard to find anything new to say that doesn’t sound like pure hyperbole. None of the opponents has been able to match his size, his aggressiveness or his athleticism, and he has feasted on their defenses accordingly. While the road will certainly get more difficult from here (marked with more athletic, sizable big men that Eric will need to figure out how to solve), if Mika continues on this type of tear for the rest of the season, he may not be hanging around Provo much longer. After all, only 19 players since 1993 have averaged 21 and 11 for an entire season — and most of those guys wound up in the NBA. I don’t know about you, but Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin seem like pretty good company to keep.