The recent play of the BYU Basketball team has been a beautiful thing. The style of play that Dave Rose has cultivated is an exciting brand of basketball that is high octane, run and gun, getting a lot of shots, and a lot of three point attempts, and it is a dying brand in college hoops these days.
What is key to having such a tempo and creating the looks you want? Interestingly enough, in order to run the type of offense Coach Rose wants, it is dependent on how well the defense plays.
It is easier to run quick sets and get good looks when you have an advantage. Those advantages happen more often when BYU has a live ball turnover or a defensive rebound with a quick outlet pass that gives them an advantage of running towards opposing players who are trying to stop them while being out numbered.
So what has been the biggest difference in the current 6 game winning streak? The defense! Previous to the winning streak, BYU was giving up 72.88 points per game. During the streak? It is now down to 64.6. That eight-point difference is an incredible turn around. To put it in perspective, if they played this level of defense all year, it would put them just outside the top 100 defensive teams in the country. Currently they rank in the 300's for points allowed per game.
How has this happened? It is apparent that BYU is playing with a greater intensity on the defensive end. You see it in the movement of the players, how quickly they close to help, and how hard they go after rebounds. There is an x-factor that has been involved. Josh Sharp has started all six games after not logging any minutes in BYU's last loss, while Corbin Kaufusi has shown tremendous growth in his play.
While their numbers might not blow you out of the water, it important to point out that successful teams are not just full of box score stuffers. Each successful team has players who understand their role. Not everyone can score, but every player has to be willing to do the work that leads to winning. The team as constituted relies on a combination of Tyler Haws, Kyle Collinsworth, Anson Winder, Chase Fischer, and Skyler Halford to score. Halford is an excellent example of a player who played his role, even when he was called upon to change his role when injuries occurred to other guards.
That said, Sharp is averaging 2 points and almost 5 rebounds per game during the streak, while Kaufusi is chipping in almost 4 points, 5 rebounds, and over 2 blocks per game. Kaufusi looks more sure of himself and is actively looking to block almost every shot. This does take him out of position sometimes, but it also forces defenses to be aware of where he is when they go into the key.
Obviously, there are many other factors that go into this winning streak. For example Halford has shot the lights out in the last six games (56%), the continued great play of Kyle Collinsworth (17 points, 9.6 rebounds, 6.6 assists), the steady play of Chase Fischer (10 points), and the continued greatness of Haws (19 points) have all helped trigger this 6 game winning streak.
When it all starts to come together, it shows how very dangerous this BYU team can be in whatever tournament they are invited to.