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The BYU-Utah football game overshadowed much of what the BYU Basketball team accomplished on the weekend, as the hoopsters beat South Florida and St. Mary's to win the South Padre Island Invitational.
Both games were won in remarkable fashion. On Friday night, BYU survived subpar shooting (32% fg, 39% 3pfg, 50% ft) to beat the Bulls in double overtime, with the game-winning jumper from Noah Hartsock at the horn. On the final play of a tied game, Jimmer Fredette (season-hi 32 pts) drew the defense before dishing to his open teammate, who hit one of his trademark smoothers from the baseline.
On Saturday night, BYU lost second half leads of eight and seven points and saw a last minute turnover turn a one-point lead into a one-point deficit. That's when Fredette went to work, calmly talking the ball upcourt before bumping off a soft screen to stroke the game-winning three-pointer, his first and only triple of the night. Charles Abouo added two free throws before a desperation Gaels three-pointer gave BYU a one-point win and the tourney title.
BYU leaves South Padre Island with a 6-0 record and now stands 2-0 on its eight-game foray away from the Marriott Center. Next up: a Wednesday night game at Creighton as part of the "Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge." The Bluejays are 4-2 after a Sunday night loss at Northwestern.
A stickler for finding his starting five and sticking to it, head coach Dave Rose has already used three lineups in six games, due to combination of injury and performance issues.
Chris Collinsworth, who started the first four games of the season, missed the weekend wins with an ankle sprain and bone bruise. Charles Abouo, who started the the first four games of the season, came off the bench in South Padre Island in favor of freshman Kyle Collinsworth. Center Brandon Davies has started three games and come off the bench in three games, while Noah Hartsock's only missed start came in the season opener as he made his way back from a camp injury.
Hartsock, Fredette and Emery remain locked in the starting five, and when C. Collinsworth gets healthy, he should retake his spot at power forward. The only question that needs answering is where Rose will go at the "three," between Abouo and Collinsworth.
Comparing the numbers of the two wings--
Abouo: 20.5 mpg, 7.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.3 spg, 35%fg, 27% 3pfg, 75% ft
K. Collinsworth: 23.3 mpg, 6.5, ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.7 spg, 48% fg, 0% 3pfg, 43% ft
Already, Collinsworth is seeing more floor time than Abouo, but while he shoots a better number from the field, the rookie is a driver and not a shooter. Collinsworth has yet to hit a three-pointer, and his free throw stroke is inconsistent.
Abouo has the ability to drive it or shoot it, although his shot is not there in the early season. He is a tenacious rebounder, and leads BYU on the boards. His free throws are generally reliable (1/6 v. USF notwithstanding), and he has a knack for keeping balls alive.
As a taller, longer player with better ball-handling ability, Collinsworth is the more versatile and disruptive player, as evidenced by his assist totals (second on the team) and steal numbers (third). His turnover number needs to come down a bit.
In the St. Mary's win, Collinsworth played 33 minutes and Abouo only nine, and that may be the best clue about where Rose is leaning, relative to who starts in the short-term if not the rest of the way. As he showed last year with freshman Tyler Haws at the same position, Rose is not afraid to ride a rookie. At the same time, it's a long season, and Abouo's previous two years in the program have earned him some capital with the coach; he will not be a forgotten man by any means.
That BYU is 6-0 with solid wins over Utah State and St. Mary's is a testament to toughness, because the Cougars are not yet excelling in areas that usually represent BYU's strong suit.
The Cougars continue to lead the MWC in scoring at 84.5 points per game, and in scoring margin at +22.5, despite shooting numbers that are very low for a BYU team.
BYU is last in the league in field goal percentage (42.5%), when it led the league and was 13th nationally last season.
BYU is 5th in free throw percentage (65.9%), when it led the nation last season.
BYU is 7th in three-point field goal percentage (32.4%), when it led the league and was second nationally last season.
Yet, BYU still leads the league in scoring, and has yet to lose a game. That is the sign of a great coach and a great program: when things aren't going the way they're supposed to go, you still find a way to win the game.
It has helped that BYU has played a handful of poor teams, but again, Utah State, St. Mary's and a Big East entry in South Florida are solid wins. BYU could have lost any or all three of those games, but didn't, and that counts for something.
So... if they aren't hitting their shots, how are the Cougars doing it?
For starters, they make every possession count. According to numbers guru Ken Pomeroy (kenpom.com), BYU leads the nation in turnover percentage, with only 13.2% of possessions ending up in a giveaway. BYU's turnover margin of +8.8 is almost double the number of the next best team in the MWC.
BYU's assist/turnover ratio of 1.6:1 leads the MWC, and its steal percentage of 7.4% is 44th nationally, according to Pomeroy.
Steals are a hustle number, and so are rebound totals.
BYU is in the top ten nationally (Pomeroy) at clearing defensive rebounds, while its offensive rebound totals and percentage lead the MWC by a wide margin.
Another number that speaks to hustle or effort is pace/tempo, and Pomeroy's latest stats have BYU 17th in adjusted tempo. Dave Rose teams play fast, and they force opponents to be alert and consistent.
Then, there's just good old-fashioned defense, and BYU has held teams to under 40% from the field and under 30% from the arc--numbers that will win you a lot of games and help to smooth over any offensive shortcomings.
BYU's offensive efficiency is ranked 22nd nationally despite the shooting woes, and its defensive efficiency is 14th nationally, because the Cougars are scrapping their hearts out, simple as that. Dave Rose knows the offense will come around, but until then, there are games to win, and the Cougars have gotten the job done, six times out of six.
The Mountain West Conference is off to an amazing start to the season at the top of the league.
BYU, UNLV and SDSU are all 6-0, with New Mexico at 4-1. That's 22-1 at the top, with the remaining five teams having combined to go 14-10.
Top 25 polls are due out late today, but we could see the three undefeated teams all nationally-ranked this week. BYU and SDSU were already ranked (BYU in the AP, SDSU in both), while UNLV played games on national TV all weekend in winning the 76 Classic.
Jerry Palm's conference RPI ratings had the MWC 4th nationally as of Sunday, with BYU's RPI at 25, and the top four MWC teams all in the top 40.
Ken Pomeroy has BYU as the 14th-rated team in the country, according to his rating formula.
Something I didn't see coming, not after the recruiting battle to get Stephen Rogers over the summer: Rogers is averaging fewer minutes per game than Logan Magnusson, Brock Zylstra and James Anderson. Rogers and backup point guard Nick Martineau are tied for fewest minutes with 49 on the season.
Rogers is a total enigma right now. A good shooter and scorer at Mesa CC and a former signee at Arizona State, the lanky wingman is shooting 23% from the field, 0/7 from distance and 57% from the free-throw line. He's got to get his head straight, because Dave Rose and the Cougars could really use him to help spread the floor, and he's a decent rebounder.
Speaking of playing time, Fredette's minutes are up from 31.1 last season to 32.5 this season. Emery's minutes are flat, Hartsock's are up from 24.4 to 29.7, Abouo's are up from 12.9 to 20.5, and Davies' are up from 13.5 to 16.0.
The biggest percentage jumps are for Magnusson, Zylstra and Anderson who went from the most minimal of contributors to significant role players through six games this season.
Magnusson played 3.9 minutes per game last season; 11.2 this season.
Zylstra played 3.2 minutes per game last season; 10.0 this season.
Anderson played 3.7 minutes per game last season; 9.8 this season.
A productive Rogers whould have been taking some of the Magnusson/Zylstra minutes, while an injured Chris Collinsworth would otherwise have cut into some of the Anderson minutes (with Hartsock and Davies splitting most of the post PT).
As it stands, Coach Rose is trying hard to get something out of the bottom of his lineup, but right now, there's not a lot there. None of the last five guys on the 12-man roster (Zylstra, Anderson, Rogers, Magnusson and Martineau) are shooting better than 38% from the floor, and have combined to go 7/28 from the arc, while shooting a collective 16/33 from the free throw line.
Rose has his top seven guys figured out, but he's traditionally a 9-10 player coach, and finding players 8-10 from among players 8-12 is the challenge right now.
BYU's current bench is a downgrade from last season, when Tavernari, Davies, Loyd, Abouo and Morgan were the first five off their chairs.
As of today, it's Abouo and Davies, and... then no one with the productivity of last season's top bench alternatives. It's a potential red flag, or just an indication that Fredette and others in the "top seven" may need to be ready for some longer hours this season.
Jimmer Fredette is a co-MWC Player of the Week for his efforts in BYU's three wins last week.
It is Jimmer's eighth weekly award.
A reminder and an invitation to join me at Legends Grille tonight at 7:00pm for the first radio broadcast of "BYU Basketball with Head Coach Dave Rose".
Fans are encouraged to attend, with seating available on a first-come, first-served basis. Chef Wayne Griffin will have good eats to buy, along with free offers on a weekly basis.
Jimmer Fredette will be tonight's player guest, plus we'll be joined by a second member of the coaching staff, in addition to taking live questions from the audience.
I hope to see you tonight!