It's a very, very hard thing to do. Dave Rose and the BYU Cougars just make it look easy.
Saturday in Portland, BYU recorded its 20th win of the season, for a seventh straight season--every season of the Rose era. Never before had BYU had won 20 or more for seven straight years, just as no coach had ever led BYU to seven 20-win campaigns--let alone seven in a row.
Rose's five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances from 2007 through 2011 were already a school record, and 2012 finds the coach and his Cougars driving hard for a sixth consecutive dance card. At 20-6 on the season, 8-3 in the WCC, and with almost as many road/neutral wins (9) as home victories (11), BYU is pacing to make Selection Sunday another good day for the Cougar hoopsters.
Consecutive home losses to Loyola Marymount and St. Mary's had some bracket builders putting BYU on the outside looking in, but last week's 2-0 performance, including a home win over then-#24 Gonzaga, has firmed up BYU's bubble. The grand poobah of prognosticators, ESPN's Joe Lunardi, has BYU dancing this week as an 11 seed . Lunardi also gives BYU a 60% chance of not only staying in the field but avoiding the First Round "play- in" game.
Jerry Palm's RPI rankings show BYU 41st, with a 6-4 record against the RPI's top 100. Of the teams ahead of BYU in RPI, only seven teams have more away wins than BYU's six (6-2, with five consecutive away wins), while only three teams ahead of BYU in RPI, only three have more than BYU's nine combined away/neutral wins.
The tournament selection committee puts significant weight on wins away from home; the Cougars have three remaining chances for enemy gym wins--three straight road games--at USF, at Santa Clara, and at Gonzaga in a much-anticipated rematch on February 23rd. It's conceivable if not likely that BYU will take an 8-3 or 9-2 true road record into the West Coast Conference tournament in Las Vegas, along with 24 or 25 wins. While the Cougars' overall resume could have used an additional marquee win or more to this point in the season, BYU is looking more and more like an NCAA Tournament team, along with league front-runners St. Mary's and Gonzaga. Here's where BYU stands nationally, including the latest Top 25 polls:
Top Three Teams in the WCC (national rankings)
|Team||AP Top 25||Coaches' Top 25||Palm RPI||Sagarin||Pomeroy|
BYU remains mired in a dreadful three-point shooting slump, having made only 17 of its last 101 3pfg attempts over the last six games, during which time BYU has gone 4- 2. Instead of harping on the role the long-distance woes played in the two losses, focus should be on the fact that BYU still found a way to win four of the slump's six games.
I believe that BYU's 40% 3pfg shooting through 20 games is a representative sample, and while a six-game downturn is troubling, I don't believe it can last much longer. Yes, Stephen Rogers' three-point proficiency has been missed, but players like Matt Carlino and Brock Zylstra remain effective marksman, their current struggles notwithstanding. Zylstra has this season recorded ten games with multiple three-pointers, and Carlino has threes in 13 of his 16 games, and multiple 3pfg on nine occasions.
Meantime, Rose has sharpened the emphasis on his team's inside-out game, with Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies leading BYU in field goals attempted/made and free throws attempted/made. Hartsock has scored 20 points or more five times in the last seven games and ten times on the year, while Davies has scored in double figures in 13 straight games, and was today named WCC Player of the Week for a second time this season--only the second league player to win the award on multiple occasions so far this year.
Here's how BYU shapes up in the national rankings, followed by BYU's updated PAP (Points Aavailable Percentage) numbers:
BYU's Ranking in National Statistical Categories, Top 50 (NCAA/Pomeroy stats as of 2/6/12; *indicates stats from kenpom.com)
|Scoring Offense||15th||79.2 ppg|
|Scoring Margin||16th||13.2 ppg|
|Rebound Margin||35th||+5.7 reb/gm|
|Steals Per Game||34th||8.5|
|Defensive Efficiency*||24th||90.7 rtg|
Points Available Percentages for BYU Players (as of 2/6/12)
|Rank||Player||Points||Points Available||PAP (%)||PAP last week (%)||PAP Up or Down from last week (%)||Rank last week||Rank Up or Down from last week|
Note: players must play at least 10 minutes per game to be ranked; not ranked are Josh Sharp (49.2), Nick Martineau (39.1), Damarcus Harrison (34.5) and Chris Collinsworth (0.0)
BYU's current team PAP is 49.0%; 2058 of 4200 possible points, down from 49.2% last week.
The Cougars get the mid-week bye this week, hosting Pepperdine on Saturday afternoon at the Marriott Center (3:00pm pregame, 4:00pm tip on KSL Newsradio/BYU Radio/BYUtv). BYU is 5-4 alltime against the Waves; 3-1 in Provo. The Cougars have won four in a row against Pepperdine, including a 77-64 decision in Malibu late last month.
The Waves stand second-to-last in the WCC, at 2-10. The Waves have lost ten of their last 11 games overall, and are the lowest-scoring team in league play at a paltry 57.4 points per game. Of course, Marty Wilson's squad plays to limit possessions and points, and ranks fourth in the league in scoring defense as a result (67.6 ppg).
Photo courtesy Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo