Thankful for Hoops Season...



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The post-regular season football interval allows us to turn our attention more fully to the BYU Basketball team, which has opened 5-0 for a second straight season.

The Cougars swept a four-games-in-five-nights stretch last week, culminating with a harder-than-expected win over Cal Poly Saturday night (a game I missed while up at Rice-Eccles).

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I stopped by campus today for short interviews with Lee Cummard and Jimmer Fredette, and you can hear them by clicking on their respective audio links in the "Cougar Cuts" box to the lower right. You can also hear the season debut of the Dave Rose Show by going to the show link in the BYU Sports menu. Randolph Fairbairn is the show's weekly host.

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If BYU wins at Idaho State on Saturday night, the Cougars will open 6-0 for the first time since starting the season 7-0, in 1991. The BYU record for wins to open the season was established by the 1987-88 squad, which started 17-0 before losing at UAB.

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Forward Noah Hartsock has been on crutches this week after suffering a sprained ankle in Saturday night's victory. He is expected out at least 7-10 days and would be considered doubtful for the game at Idaho State. In Hartsock's absence, expect Lee Cummard to play minutes at the "4" when Jonathan Tavernari is on the bench, while Charles Abouo will see even more minutes at the "3," spelling Cummard when he is on the bench, and now playing alongside Cummard when he is up front.

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By the way, "all hail Lee" for his strong start to the season. In just under 30 minutes per game, Cummard is averaging 19 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, a block and a steal. He is shooting 65% from the field, 44% from the arc and 92% from the stripe. For a player at his position, 65% shooting is ridiculous.

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Of the eight BYU regulars playing at least 10 minutes per game, six of them are shooting 71% or better from the free throw line. The player taking the most free throws (Chris Miles) is shooting only 43%, but the players taking the second, third and fourth most are shooting 80% (Fredette; 12/15), 92% (Cummard; 12/13) and 92% (Abouo; 12/13).

Jonathan Tavernari's 50% free throw number is misleading, since he has taken only four free throws. Last season, JT led BYU from the line, at 87%.

As a team, BYU is shooting free throws at a 71% clip, already better than 5 percentage points higher than last year's finishing number of 65.5%. If Miles can pick up the pace (and I think he will), BYU could conceivably be a 75% team when all is said and done.

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BYU is one of three MWC teams still undefeated a week and a half into the season. UNLV is also 5-0 after a road win at UTEP, while Wyoming has opened 3-0, pending its Wednesday night home game with Texas State.

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Checking the conference stats after Sunday, Cummard is 2nd in scoring, 7th in field goal percentage, 2nd in free throw percentage, 10th in three point percentage, 6th in rebounding, and 7th in blocked shots.

Fredette (2nd) and Jackson Emery (5th) are both in the top 5 in assists per game.

Tavernari is 10th in scoring, 7th in rebounding, 7th in steals, and 5th in 3-point field goals made per game.

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As a team, BYU leads the league in rebounding margin (+11.6), and is 2nd in scoring margin (+23.0), 2nd in field goal percentage (51%), 2nd in scoring defense (55.0), and 2nd in assists per game (19.4). The Cougars are 4th in scoring offense (78.0).

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And, oh yes, BYU has a nation's best 51-game homecourt win streak, including 27 straight nonconference home wins (8th longest current streak nationally).

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While Cummard (19.4) and Tavernari (15.8) are separated by only 3.6 ppg in their scoring averages, their PAP numbers are separated by a wide gap. As a reminder, the PAP (points available percentage) is a representation of a player's points scored, compared to the number of points available to him by the type of shots taken (e.g., 4/6 2pfg + 3/4 3pfg + 9/11 ft = 26/35 possible points, or a 74.2% PAP number).

Cummard has scored 97 of 149 possible points, for a 65% PAP number--mirroring his high FG%. Tavernari has scored 79 of 199 possible points, for a PAP number of 40%--actually lower than his 42%FG rate.

Another measure of scoring efficiency is points per shot (points/FGA + (.44 x FTA), and Cummard is at 1.48 pps, while JT's number is 1.00.

Who should shoot more? Jackson Emery (1.51) and Charles Abouo (1.45). Who needs some more time in the gym after practice? Lamont Morgan (0.81). The team has a 1.19 pps rate.

Chris Miles has a decent enough pps number at 1.24, but that and his PAP number (60.4%--significantly lower than his 65.7 FG%) are hurt due to his poor free throw shooting.

Generally speaking, the most productive and efficient big men should have PAP numbers in the mid-to-high 60% range, while the most productive and efficient guards/wings should always be above 50%, and the best are in the mid-to-high 50s (for example, Cummard's PAP number was 59% last season, while Utah State's Jaycee Carroll was 56.3%). Tavernari's 2007-08 PAP number was 41%, due largely to the high number of 3pfga compared to overall shots taken.

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