Loyal Cougars

Why BYU basketball will be better next season (again)

Last March I wrote a post called “Four reasons why BYU hoops will be better next season“. BYU finished the 2013-14 season with 23 wins and I predicted that BYU would win “more than 25” games in 2014-15. As it turns out, BYU won 25 games this season despite losing its two projected starting big men early on.

With four seniors graduating after this year, including the incomparable Tyler Haws, I had to think hard about predicting BYU would get better for the third straight season. But I’ve decided to take a leap of faith and predict that the 2015-16 basketball team will win 26+ games and will at least make the field of 64 in the NCAA tournament.

Here are four reasons why BYU will be better next season:

1. Bringing balance to the Y. BYU’s young big men gave all they had in 2014-15, but they were just too inexperienced to provide any notable low post scoring. As a result, Dave Rose went primarily with a four guard lineup and all but gave up on the idea of low post players scoring. This severe imbalance in scoring between the back court and front court players made it too easy for opponents to game plan against BYU. Next season I not only expect the guards to continue to be dangerous scoring threats, but for the low post players to be markedly better scorers as well. Not only will Nate Austin likely be back to snatch up gobs of rebounds, BYU will also have power forwards Jamal Aytes and Kyle Davis playing next season, both of whom are reportedly excellent low post scorers. Add to that mix the return of Corbin Kaufusi, who will have a full season and full offseason under his belt. Add to that a wiser (and hopefully heavier) Isaac Neilson, along with promising incoming freshmen Jakob Hartsock and Braiden Shaw and BYU will surely be significantly improved in the low post next season.

2. The return of Kyle Collinsworth (and friends). Without Kyle Collinsworth BYU would probably be worse next season. Collinsworth will be the unrivaled star of the team and should continue to be the engine that drives BYU.  In addition to KC, returning guards Chase Fischer, Frank Bartley IV, and Jake Toolson should all be a year wiser and more experienced, and thus more useful to Dave Rose and staff.

3. Hot wings. There are several exciting guard/wing players that will make their debuts at BYU next season. Nick Emery is expected to come in and contribute early on, Jordan Chatman should be healthy and ready to earn minutes, Zac Seljaas is coming off a stellar season in high school and should compete for minutes at the 3 spot, and former Colorado scoring champ Cory Calvert should be back from his mission. We’ll see which of the new guys will earn minutes but all will certainly be fighting hard for playing time and that will only make the team better.

4. Getting defensive. It’s hard to imagine BYU not improving at least some on defense. And believe it or not, BYU’s defense did improve this season over the previous year. The 2013-14 team gave up a whopping 77.1 points per game compared to 73.2 per game for the 2014-15 squad. At the very least, BYU should be better at protecting the rim and rebounding next season. I predict BYU will hold opponents to less that 70 points per game on average next season — and hopefully a lot less.

 

You may be asking “How could BYU possibly replace the 50 points per game this season from the seven guys who won’t be on the team next season?” First, don’t underestimate Dave Rose’s offensive system. He recruits guys who can fill up the basket and puts them in positions to do so every season. Second, with any luck BYU’s defense will improve so BYU won’t have to replace all 50 points in order to win at least 26 games next season.

So there you have it — despite BYU losing the legendary Tyler Haws, I predict BYU hoops will better next season anyway. What say you?

 

10 Comments

  1. Wes

    March 19, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    I agree. Having very little interior defensive stoppers and rebounders hurt BYU a lot this year – that will change. The surprise to me, however, is how much our bigs (who were often already overmatched) had to step up and stop guard penetration, creating opportunity after opportunity for dump-offs or offensive rebounds for the opponent. I thought we would have better perimeter defense this year, and we did not.

    I love Dave Rose as a coach, but he needs to hire a coach who is a defensive specialist. I’m tired of seeing history repeat itself on the defensive end of the floor. Adding Emery will help, but the Cougs need more on D.

    • Geoff Johnston

      March 19, 2015 at 9:06 pm

      Hard to know how much of the troubles containing dribble penetration is coaching vs. personnel. BYU hasn’t had perimeter defenders as good as Jackson Emery and Charles Abouo since those two graduated. It appeared to me that Winder was BYU’s best perimeter defender and he got gimpy about halfway through the season.

    • Wahului

      March 20, 2015 at 2:53 pm

      Fully agree. The offense has come along nicely, but the attitude and seeming belief that BYU cannot play adequate defense because of inferior athletes, lack of speed, short shoelaces yadayadayada is not true and has to go away. BYU has enough quickness to stay between their man and the basket; call, fill and switch for picks, and play man defense. Every player can get himself in good enough condition to play man defense full time, all game. I cringe every time I hear someone suggest that they need to save their energy. Go join the chess team if you need to save your energy. There’s no “D” in Brigham Young University, so everyone has to bring his own. Do it and everything works better. Make it happen, BYU!!

  2. witty89

    March 19, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    Seeing how much Kyle Collinsworth improved his free throw shooting this past offseason, it will be really interesting to see how he develops with a full, healthy offseason to work on his game

    • Geoff Johnston

      March 19, 2015 at 9:08 pm

      KC’s mid range game looked pretty good in that WCC final. If he could shoot close to 40% from three I’d like his chances getting drafted to the NBA

  3. mjmill

    March 19, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    I agree. KC is going to have a monster senior year. Jackson Emery is going to be a freshman star that will thrive in Rose’s system. Chase Fischer will be even better as a senior, and the impact Jamal Aytes and Kyle Davis will have on the interior will be enormous. Should be, as you said, a much more balanced team next season.

    • Troy

      March 20, 2015 at 12:39 pm

      Jackson Emery had eligibility restored ? Wow .. or maybe you meant Nick.

  4. cy1951

    March 20, 2015 at 9:36 am

    Unfortunately, the Cougs will have to rely on a freshman, Nick Emery, to average double figures during his first season in D1 ball. Where else will the points come from? Fischer is a feast or famine shooter. We have not seen Aytes or Davis so do not know if they can score the ball against quality opponents, or play good inside D or rebound. kaufusi will be much better, but he will still be raw on offense. And KC has to not only develop a reliable jump shot, but be able to knock down 3s, too. Tall order, but if he can do it, he will be WCC POY, 2d or 3d team All-American, Wooden finalist, etc. But Emery is the key. If he can score against D1 players, the Cougs will be good. If he struggles, the Cougs will fight St. Mary’s and another school for 2d place in WCC again, win 23 games at best, and be a bubble team all over again. Not bad, but no better than this year. We will find out just how amazing THaws was — and how you can’t replace the automaton-like precision of his 20 points per game.

    • Geoff Johnston

      March 20, 2015 at 10:24 am

      While Aytes has not played at this level, the reports are bullish on him. We have seen Davis score more than 9 ppg in Stew Morrill’s slower system so it’s no stretch to think he can average double digits for BYU. Add to that the returning and incoming guards and wings having more available shots and I think BYU’s offense will not suffer all that much next season. I certainly don’t think it will all be on Emery to cover for Haws.

    • Wes

      March 20, 2015 at 11:55 am

      This is a good warning though – to temper expectations until we see them perform on the floor. Aytes and Emery are both unproven scorers at the college level. But we’ve seen Davis perform relatively well for a sophomore. He’ll have had almost two years of maturity added to that, and reports are that he’s hard to stop in practice (granted, it was hard for our posts to stop anyone this year).

      That said, I still have really high hopes for Seljaas, Emery, AND Davis filling the Winder/Haws scoring void. Fischer will still be the wild card. Offense has never been the problem with Rose’s teams, and my expectation that this team will be better flows from the expectation this team will defend better. If you get two or three true bigs who can hold position underneath, change shots and rebound – then that changes your defense remarkably. Then someone needs to teach the guards how to stay in front, and then our team is very different.