The most recent season of BYU Basketball's Dave Rose era ended where five consecutive seasons before it concluded: in the NCAA Tournament.
Including BYU's NIT bid in Rose's rookie season of 2005-06, BYU has set a new school record for most consecutive years with a postseason appearance, at seven--all seven years of Rose's tenure.
The six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances extend a school record set by Rose's 2010-11 team, and by winning a tourney game for a third straight season, BYU established a new school record; only once previously had BYU won tourney games in consecutive seasons, in 1950 and 1951.
Finishing with a 26-9 mark, BYU also set a new school record for most consecutive seasons with 20+ wins, at seven (previous record of six set from '89-90 through '94-95, and '05-06 thru '10-11). Prior to the Dave Rose era, BYU had consecutive 25-win seasons only once ('91-92 and '93-93); Rose's BYU teams have now won 25+ in six straight seasons.
BYU also established another school record: double-digit conference wins for a seventh straight season; the previous record of six was first set from 1989-90 thru 1994-95.
Rose's win-loss record of 185-54 gives him a 77.4% success rate, with his career win percentage trailing only Roy Williams, Mark Few and John Calipari among active Division 1 head coaches.
By any measure, Rose and the BYU Basketball program have raised the bar to its highest historical level, and I will submit that the achievements of the 2011-12 squad are as impressive as any of the results turned in by the groups immediately preceding it, for what was accomplished in the presence of considerable novelty and constant adversity.
After a dozen years as the winningest team in the Mountain West Conference, BYU moved to the West Coast Conference for the 2011-12 season. This new league featured a pair of traditional powers, both of whom were picked to finish ahead of BYU in the Cougars' debut season. In the end, that's exactly what happened, with BYU playing to its' predicted third-place finish, while Gonzaga and St. Mary's flip-flopped at the top, with the predicted-to-finish-second Gaels ending Gonzaga's 11-year stranglehold atop the league.
The teams and its venues (and most of the WCC officials) were all new to BYU, and while certain players and coaches had visited some of the buildings in the past, running through the conference for the first time introduced the Cougars to an entirely different winter routine.
BYU faced this unique situation having lost its three-year starting backcourt, which happened to include the consensus national player of the year in 2010-11. Without Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery, BYU would embark on its first campaign as a WCC member counting on a handful of key returners to steady the ship.
Forwards Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies, and wing Charles Abouo stabilized the new roster, but the anticipated return of forward Chris Collinsworth never materialized, while would-be sixth man Stephen Rogers was limited to only ten healthy games, with a torn meniscus on Dec. 15 terminating his role as a serviceable contributor; he played only 47 scattered minutes in eight games over the last three months of the season, and last made a shot for BYU on Jan. 16.
Waiting for point guard transfer Matt Carlino to become eligible on Dec. 17, Rose had three different players take their run at the point position, with Brock Zylstra, Anson Winder and then Craig Cusick all starting at PG in the games before Carlino's entrance. It just so happened that Carlino's introduction coincided with Rogers' exit, so the rotation Rose envisioned, with Carlino running the show and Rogers serving as the primary bench scorer and three-point specialist, never took the floor.
Collinsworth's continued knee issues and resulting absence, while perhaps predictable considering the nature of his micro-fracture surgery, were nevertheless a significant blow to Rose's projected personnel plans up front. He would now be forced to depend on return missionary freshman Nate Austin to occupy the primary backup spot in the post, with Ian Harward eased into a redshirt. Rogers' health situation soon deprived BYU of a different kind of option at the "four," while RM freshman forward Josh Sharp struggled to pick up the game in his first year back.
Rose traditionally likes to settle on a starting five and make rare deviations from that plan, but the situation at the point and shooting guard positions in particular had Rose playing Brock Zylstra (28 starts) and Anson Winder (15 starts) at the at multiple spots, with both players showing flashes of three-point brilliance, but also slumping for prolonged stretches.
Carlino's play at point guard was an early revelation, and although he seemed to struggle more as the season went along (especially with his shot), a 30-point night and a game-winning score at San Francisco in mid-February seemed to signal a turning of the corner. It was in that game, though, that he suffered a knee sprain, and while he claimed it healed quickly, Carlino was never the same after that game, averaging 8.7 points per game in the season's final seven games, while averaging 4.6 turnovers per contest (to go with 5.0 assists) in the final four games.
It was the game following Carlino's injury that BYU's late-season fortunes took a more dramatic downward turn. At Santa Clara, in a rebound fight under the basket, Noah Hartsock knee buckled unnaturally, and in a way that would have led many to conclude that his BYU career had ended.
While Hartsock would return to play a few more minutes in that game having seemingly dodged a bullet, the aftermath brought a more somber assessment and the worsening of ankle and calf injuries, and seven immobile minutes at Gonzaga were followed by a DNP on Senior Day. Hartsock turned in a hit-and-miss outing at the conference tourney, with a solid game versus San Diego leading to a less effective game against the Zags in the semis.
At the NCAA Tournament, following a week and a half of rest, Hartsock was spectacular in the comeback win over Iona at the "First Four," but the season-ender against Marquette taxed his recuperative powers, with knee and ankle injuries having worn him down.
The preceding section could very well have served as an explanatory postscript to a season ending short of the NCAA Tournament, but instead, BYU's players and and coaches rallied again and again, shaking off setbacks and disappointment with persistence always with the expectation of success.
For a third consecutive season, BYU played an entire regular season without losing consecutive games at any point, and although a shifting starting lineup is not his preferred modus operandi, Dave Rose was more often than not pushing just the right buttons to get what was needed on a given night.
This past season was far from how Rose would have drawn it up, and while it is true that most teams deal with personnel issues at some point of a campaign, the 2011-12 season was Rose's most challenging from a roster health standpoint. Indeed, in each of the last three seasons, BYU has been faced with key injuries or absences on the eve of postseason play: Tyler Haws' orbital bone fracture on Mar. 11, 2010, Brandon Davies' suspension on Mar. 1, 2011, and Hartsock's injury on Feb. 18, 2012.
Despite the unexpected challenges of this past season, BYU continued strong, marching into March, and ended with all of the aforementioned accomplishments listed at the beginning of this commentary.
Playing in the "First Four" was another novelty for the Cougars, and the singular nature of the experience was underscored with the largest comeback in NCAA Tournament history: overcoming a 49-24 deficit to stun Iona 78-72 in the tourney's First Round, and becoming the toast of college hoops at very start of March Madness. Appearing in Dayton as one of the "last four in" actually gave BYU an first-rate opportunity for exposure and a not-soon-to-be-forgotten tour de force, and the Cougars took advantage, in a most memorable way. It was a fitting final win; a unique victory in a unique season.
BYU loses three players from the 2011-12 team in seniors Hartsock and Abouo and soon-to-be LDS missionary Damarcus Harrison, with two of the three scholarships going to Tyler Haws and incoming JC guard Raul Delgado.
Haws' pre-mission freshman season was one of the most impressive in recent memory, as he averaged 11.3 points per game on 50% shooting from the field, 37% accuracy from the arc and a record-setting 92% clip from the free throw line. Haws grabbed 4.2 rebounds/game, with a third of his boards coming on the offensive end; in fact, he finished second on the 2009-10 squad in offensive rebounds.
Delgado just finished his second season at Western Nebraska Community College, during which he led his team at better almost 19 points per game, adding 3.7 apg, 3.3 rpg, 1.8 spg, 1.8 to/game, while shooting 48% FG, 44% 3PFG and 77% FT. Delgado has a memorable 45-point scoring night in early November, during which he hit 12 of 23 shots from the arc.
BYU's three-point shooting was an ingredient missing from the 2011-12 team; the 34.3% accuracy rate was the lowest of the Rose era. It was the first time in seven seasons under Rose that BYU did not have multiple players shoot 40% or better from the three-point line (minimum 10 attempts); in fact, BYU did not have a single such shooter this past season.
Number of BYU players shooting 40% or better on 3PFG
|Season||# of players||Players (percentages)|
|2005-06||3||Brock Reichner (48.2%), Fernando Malaman (42.3%), Lee Cummard (40.0%)|
|2006-07||4||Lee Cummard (43.5%), Austin Ainge (47.9%), Mike Rose (46.6%), Sam Burgess (48.4%)|
|2007-08||2||Lee Cummard (47.2%), Sam Burgess (42.4%)|
|2008-09||2||Lamont Morgan, Jr. (41.2%), Charles Abouo (42.9%)|
|2009-10||5||Jimmer Fredette (44.0%), Jackson Emery (43.1%), Mike Loyd, Jr. (42.2%), Charles Abouo (40.7%), Lamont Morgan, Jr. (69.2%)|
|2001-11||2||Jimmer Fredette (40.0%), Noah Hartsock (43.3%)|
Certainly, Haws and Delgado should help BYU's three-point performance next season. Should Rogers return with a good knee, he will be counted on to serve as a three-point specialist. Zylstra will be a senior who has already had multiple big nights from distance; he'll be looked to for more consistent outside shooting. Carlino clearly has range and the ability to light it up from outside, but he ended the season on a 16-for-70 slump from the three-point line; he will undoubtedly work hard in the offseason to refine his three-point touch. Early-season three-point phenom Craig Cusick ended the year on a 3-for-5 3PFG performance against Marquette, while Anson Winder had his moments from long range, with multiple three-pointers on seven separate occasions, including a memorable 6-for-7 night against Buffalo.
BYU will continue to be a high-scoring team (77.9 ppg this past season), but will need to become a more efficient team in 2012-13. Rose's 2011-12 squad was his fastest in terms of tempo (possessions per game), but also his least efficient on offense (points per possession).
BYU's Points Per Game, Tempo and Offensive Efficiency in the Rose Era
|Season||PPG||Tempo (possessions/40 min)||Offensive Efficiency (points per 100 possessions)|
Note: tempo and offensive efficiency stats courtesy kenpom.com
We know that Haws and Delgado are in, while Hartsock, Abouo and Harrison are out, leaving Harrison's scholarship currently unspoken for. It could go to Cusick, who has been a non-scholarship player, but who had a significant role in 2011-12, finishing third on the team in assists (74), with only 25 turnovers, while playing 16.8 minutes per game.
It would also not be unusual to see other personnel considerations develop in the offseason, as players and coaches alike assess health and playing time situations and make decisions regarding their future in the program. Last spring, James Anderson was somewhat of a surprise departure, freeing a scholarship that was then awarded to Josh Sharp, and these kinds of things are quite common, on a yearly basis.
Forecasting a starting five for the 2012-13 team, at least four players have an inside track or are locked in: Carlino (PG), Haws (wing), Austin (PF) and Davies (C). I would guess that a pool comprised of Zylstra, Winder, Rogers and Delgado produces the other starting wing, be that player a shooting guard or small forward.
By position, BYU shapes up like this, as of the current time--
PG: Carlino, Cusick, Martineau
Wings: Haws, Zylstra, Winder, Rogers, Delgado
Centers/Forwards: Davies, Austin, Harward, Sharp, Collinsworth (?)
Rose will have a variety of options for constructing next season's starting five, but regardless of the chosen combination, the expectation will be the same as it was before and during this past season: win the league, and dance the Dance.