Loyal Cougars

Four reasons why BYU hoops will be better next season

Self-proclaimed BYU optimist Geoff Johnston knows why and how the Cougars will be better in 2014-15.

Despite losing an NBA player in Brandon Davies, the BYU men’s basketball team ended up being better than last season. The 2012-13 Cougars bowed out of the WCC tourney early with 21 wins and landed an NIT invitation. The 2013-14 Cougars were defeated in the finals of the WCC tournament and finished with 23 wins before being awarded a 10-seed in the NCAA tournament. The improvement this season was due to a combination of returning players improving and new guys contributing in a big way .

Here are four reasons why the 2014-15 team will be better still.

1. Hola, Seniors!

The team this year had zero seniors. That is a real anomaly for a BYU basketball team. The team next season is slated to have six seniors. (In this post we’ll assume all will be back despite the scholarship crunch Greg posted about recently.) Six seniors means there will be a lot of savvy, experienced guys on the court for BYU. That leadership and experience alone ought to buy BYU 2-4 extra wins. Hopefully those wins will come in the form of avoiding the four “bad losses” BYU suffered this season. That’s a decent leap ahead of 2013-14 already.

2. All 13 scholarships filled

BYU only had 10 scholarship players available this season. Next season, Dave Rose will have 13 scholarship players ready to go.

Several very talented kids are set to join the program next season. Sharpshooting Wake Forest transfer Chase Fischer will be eligible to play after sitting out a year due to NCAA transfer rules. Hotly-recruited-late low post man Jamal Aytes transferred from UNLV and will become eligible in December. And while freshman phenom Eric Mika will be speaking Italian to Romans on his mission, BYU will be bringing in two more big men in returned missionary Isaac Nielson and high school senior Ryan Andrus. Add to those guys the former Washington state player of the year, Jordan Chatman, who returns also from his mission, and you have a promising influx of new blood to help the team.


BYU didn’t take or make enough three point shots this season. Here is a chart of the threes attempted and the percentage made over the last several years:

Year – Attempts – 3pt%

2006-07 – 617 – .415
2007-08 – 764 – .363
2008-09 – 624 – .381
2009-10 – 700 – .417
2010-11 – 865 – .361
2011-12 – 679 – .343
2012-13 – 630 – .338
2013-14 – 498 – .355

In Jimmer’s senior year, when BYU advanced to the Sweet 16, BYU attempted 865 three pointers and connected on 36.1% of them. This season BYU attempted just 498 three pointers while connecting on a slightly-lower 35.5% of them. That resulted in BYU making 135 more threes in that 2010-11 season than in the just-completed season despite shooting a very similar percentage. With Fischer getting minutes along with Carlino, Haws, Winder, and the other guards, I am hoping to see the attempted threes number get closer to 700 again next season and the 3pt shooting percentage to top 37%.

4. Another year wiser

Besides the seniors on the squad next season, all of whom should be improved, BYU brings back everyone else but Mika as well. Hopefully Collinsworth will recover swiftly and pick up where he left off this season, vying for the title of the best player on the team. If his work to get back to playing shape after his mission is an indicator, there is every reason to believe he’ll work hard to get back the right way and be ready. Bartley and Worthington will return as well, both a year wiser and more experienced. I’m expecting both of them to be even more capable of making serious contributions next season.

Managing Expectations

I’m not predicting BYU will become a Final Four team next year, but I do think the team will be markedly better. That should translate into more than 25 wins, put BYU into serious contention for its first WCC regular season title and WCC tournament title, and lead to a better seed in the NCAA tournament. And if history is a guide, a better seed in the Big Dance probably should lead to a victory (or two) in the NCAA tournament. And when you consider that BYU has made it past the round of 64 only twice in the last 20 years, advancing past Thursday in the NCAA tournament would be progress indeed.

What say you? Why will BYU basketball be better or worse in next season? Sound off in the comments below.


  1. Adam

    March 26, 2014 at 9:08 am

    I’m with you, Geoff. I think BYU will be better next year, provided KC can get his knee better in time for the season opener. He is the most important player on our roster.

    Mika is a good player, and of course we’d want him to stay and play next year, but Aytes should be able to replace Mika’s scoring and rebounding. Neilsen will be shot-blocker and rim-protector, and Fischer will be a huge upgrade on the guard line over Halford. Not hard to see why we’ll be better next year.

    • Geoff Johnston

      March 26, 2014 at 11:34 am

      Good points all around. Assuming no unpleasant suprises in production from the healthy returning guys, team improvements will hinge largely on the production of rehabbed-Collinsworth, Aytes, Fischer, and Nielson.

  2. Jim Evans

    March 26, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    I believe you’re right on with your reasoning. Now, if they can improve defensively, en masse, this will make every game close, at least. This will be a fast, experienced, athletic team that will put points on the board, and if we can limit the other team’s points a bit, we’ll be very hard to beat.

  3. Wes

    March 26, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    The Achilles heel of this year’s team was the 4 spot. Now, Mika leaves, making the Achilles heels the 4 AND 5 spot. Especially with Collinsworth playing point, BYU’s problem will ever more so be their inability to get it done in the post. While at 1-3 we’ll be tremendous, 4-5 could be scary. Even with a healthy Collinsworth, this team will perform about the same as last year’s team – until Neilson gains some experience and he possibly elevates the 5, and Aytes starts to play and likely elevates the 4. If Aytes is everything we hope, then we should really get going and do well in conference – but I’m not sure we’ll do well in Mauii.

    35.5% from three is nothing to be proud of, and certainly something we don’t want to exacerbate by shooting more volume. I hope Fischer brings some great consistency from outside, and that justifies taking more threes. Part of this isn’t because we don’t have great shooters, but it’s because our offense hasn’t been very good at getting open looks. Hopefully we can fix that.

    • ralphjenkins91

      March 26, 2014 at 3:48 pm

      it was also the 2 spot and the bench. Carlino moved to the bench and slid over from the PG to share the playmaking duties with Kyle. We started to get steady contributions from him coming off the bench but the guys we had starting ahead of him all seemed to get off to great starts and played very aggressively offensively but after a week or two they all cooled off and got very timid on offense or went into terrible prolonged slumps.

      In the WCC tourney and NCAA tourney Matt went a combined 11-40 from the field and 3-17 from 3 pt line. When we really needed him the most he was his usual self, too dribble happy and he stifled offensive movement and flow.

      Skyler Halford went 0 fer the last half of the season and after a nifty start Anson Winder became reluctant to shoot or attack the rim. In the USF game that we won in the WCC tourney, he wouldn’t shoot late in the game even when he had open shots so Matt happily obliged and started dribbling out the shot clock and then throwing up 27 ft fadeaways. Also in the championship game loss to Gonzaga we needed a big game from Anson and Matt and instead Anson only took 5 shots the entire game and Matt shot his usual in big games, going 3-12.

      When you add that to the problem we had already playing 4 on 5 on offense with Nate Austin on the floor and it really put us behind. We’re never going to win important games when we’re playing 2 on 5 or 3 on 5.

      One bright spot late in the year was Rose’s desperate attempt to find some spark off the bench and his dusting off Frank Bartley and getting him back into the lineup. Frank was another who went into a slump shortly after becoming a prominent member of the SG rotation.

      Problem Rose has is he buries young guys on the bench once conference play begins and doesn’t give them consistent minutes or a consistent role so they can grow and develop and gain confidence. We saw this during Jimmer’s freshman year when he chose to start a severely limited PG in Ben Murdock ahead of Jimmer even though late in the year it was clear that the team played better when Jimmer was on the floor (we saw this in teh NCAA tourney loss to TAMU). Players like Bartley will make mistakes but they bring a ton of energy, enthusiasm and they change the energy on the floor for the entire team. I hope Rose gives him a bigger role next year.

      • Geoff Johnston

        March 26, 2014 at 7:32 pm

        I don’t think the 2 spot was that big of a problem this season. Winder stepped up nicely there late in the season and Ty/KC had is covered when Matty ran the point.

        Seemed to me that Frank played a lot more 3 and 4 than 2 this season. But I agree that it was nice to see him step up late like he did early on.

        This coming season all of those guys will be back along with Fischer and Chatman. The 1-3 spots will be very strong.

      • Justin Whiting

        March 28, 2014 at 12:57 pm

        I completely agree about the 4 on 5 on offensive problems. Once teams figured out that there was at least 1 or 2 people on the floor for BYU that basically would never take a shot, it is much easier to key in on the 3 or 4 remaining shooters. Carlino clearly didn’t play well in the tourneys, but I especially look at the way Oregon destroyed them to see how the lack of 5 players that can shoot totally killed them. Oregon’s answer was to have one guy stick on Carlino like glue the whole game and make him not get open looks, which basically leaves 2 offensive guys playing. (I think the same thing would have happened with Collinsworth playing point guard, so I don’t fault Matt on this one.) I remember Josh Sharp having the ball with no one even close to him and instead of taking a couple steps to put up a shot, he just sat there and then passed it back to Carlino. Nate Austin is a great rebounder, but he is a HUGE liability on offense. Josh Sharp is the same. If both of them stick around, they need to figure out how to get some offense. If not, it will be very hard for Carlino or anyone else to get any good shots up and improve, especially from 3 point land. Nate Austin had so much promise of being a good shooter when he first started, but he has no offense anymore. He should walk all over most of the teams in the WCC because of his height. Bottom line, any team that plays good defense can shut down a team if only 3 or 4 guys will shoot the ball.

    • Geoff Johnston

      March 26, 2014 at 7:27 pm

      I agree that the 4 spot was a weakness, but mostly on offense in the half court sets. The 4’s this year were ok defenders and above average rebounders. I expect the 4 to be even better next season if Aytes is as good as advertised.

  4. David Walton

    March 26, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    The challenges for next year are: Very soft in the middle. Need a big man to step up and show some toughness with Mika gone. Overall team defense has to improve. The zone has got to go.

    • BigCougar

      March 26, 2014 at 3:55 pm

      the zone is a nice change of pace defense to disrupt the dribble drive teams but it’s not a defense we can play the entire game. Good passing teams with athletic bigs end up picking us apart with good interior passing and we don’t rebound well in the zone.

    • Geoff Johnston

      March 26, 2014 at 7:35 pm

      We won’t know how soft or hard the middle will be until we see how guys like Aytes and Nielson play. I expect Worthington to make nice strides over the offseason so he can provid beef at the 5 spot when needed. He was underrated by many fans as a defender this season to begin with. Nielson and Andrus both seem kind of skinny but hopefully they will prove to be able defenders and scorers. Austin is a terrific rebounder but I’m hoping his scoring confidence increases his senior year.

  5. Kurt

    March 26, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    The biggest achilles heel this year? Actually two things: 1) poor FT shooting from key players who get to the line a fair number of times (read: KC… but also others); and 2) no one on the team had any confidence to shoot the ball outside of Haws, Collinsworth, and Carlino. Nate Austin has the ability to shoot, somehow he has to develop the confidence to be an offensive presence. It makes it way too easy to guard BYU when the opponents know they only have to truly guard (and double) 2-3 players at any given time on the floor.

    • BigCougar

      March 26, 2014 at 4:00 pm

      great point about the confidence. I just don’t get it either. We had guys get a chance to start or play significant minutes and come out on fire then in a couple weeks lose their confidence and stop shooting. It happened to Bartley, Halford, Winder, etc and when it wasn’t players losing thier confidence then it was Carlino not able to throw the ball into the ocean and hit it.

    • Geoff Johnston

      March 26, 2014 at 7:38 pm

      Hopefully KC will improve his free throw shooting this offseason. He’ll be able to practice those long before he can run or cut.

      I agree that it was a bummer to see Austin afraid to hit open shots. BYU can’t afford to play 4 on 5 in their half court offense.

  6. Geoff Johnston

    March 27, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Looks like comments are up and working again.