Cougars on the Cusp



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A win over Arizona State on Saturday would move the 10-0 BYU Cougars into the Top 25 next week. This week's two major polls show the Cougars up three spots in the Coaches' poll, to 26th, and up a spot in the AP Poll, to 29th.

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This past Saturday night's win over Portland makes BYU one of only 14 undefeated teams in Division 1, and for as much talk as there has been of BYU's schedule strength, the Cougars are 22nd in the Sagarin ratings, and there are four undefeated teams (Stanford-40, Minnesota-63, Illinois State-64, and LSU-90) with Sagarin ratings worse than that of BYU.

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The fact IUPUI took Arizona State to overtime (and arguably should have won in regulation) has to give the Cougars a shot in the arm heading into this weekend's game in Glendale. Playing at a neutral venue (US Airways Arena in Phoenix) on Sunday, the Sun Devils had minimal fan support and struggled to put away an inferior foe. A much better BYU team (which will attract many LDS fans in the Phoenix area) stands to give ASU a much sterner test on the weekend.

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I'm sure Lee Cummard hopes to break out of his mini-rut as he returns to his home state. Since going 12/13 from the floor at Weber State, Cummard is 12 for his last 32 from the field. Of course, he's also averaging 12.7 points, 5 assists and almost 6 rebounds per game over that span of time, so he knows how to contribute. If Lee is in a slump, a lot of players only wish they could slump that badly.

As for the other player picked as a preseason MWC co-Player of the Year, well, UNLV's Wink Adams seems to be playing himself out of consideration.

Compare:

PPG: Cummard 18.2; Adams 14.2

FG%: Cummard 60%; Adams 33%

3PFG%: Cummard 48%; Adams 16% (one for his last 26)

FT%: Cummard 86%; Adams 70%

Assists per game: Cummard 3.2; Adams 2.9

Rebounds per game: Cummard 6.2; Adams 5.2

Combined blocks and steals: Cummard 16; Adams 18

Assist to turnover ratio: Cummard 1.7; Adams 1.6

Minutes per game: Cummard 29.7; Adams 31.7

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The season is only ten games in, but a supposed two-man race is already a runaway.

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In the latest NCAA stats, BYU is second nationally in FG% (52.2), 5th in scoring margin (+22.3), and 7th in assist to turnover ratio. BYU is also in the Top 20 in scoring offense (15th), assists per game (14th), and turnovers per game (18th). Of the 17 stat categories ranked, BYU is in the top 100 in 16 (exception: blocked shots per game: 138th).

In the separate category of won-lost percentage (not one of the 17 categories I count), BYU is of course tied for 1st with the 13 other undefeated teams.

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Surprise! The team picked to win the MWC is the worst shooting and rebounding team in the league. UNLV is 9th in FG% (42%), 9th in 3PFG% (31%), 8th in FT% (67%), and is the only team in the league with a negative rebounding margin. Somehow, the Rebels are 8-2.

BYU leads the league in scoring offense, scoring margin, FG%, assists per game, rebounding margin, and assist to turnover ratio. Preseason favorite UNLV does not lead in any MWC stat categories, and is 5th or worse in 12 of 19 categories ranked. BYU is top 4 in every category but two: FT% (5th, 71.2%), and offensive rebounds (8th; 9.1/gm). But again, when you're making as many shots as the Cougars are, there aren't as many offensive rebounds to go around.

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Jimmer Fredette is an MWC co-Player of the Week this week. From the MWC:

"Fredette is a first-time player of the week honoree and is the second Cougar this season to earn the award. Lee Cummard was named player of the week on Nov. 17.

A 6-foot-2 guard from Glens Falls, N.Y., Fredette averaged 20.0 points per game while shooting 72.7 percent from the field (16-for-22) and 87.5 percent from the charity stripe in helping BYU to wins against Boise State (94-56) and Portland (91-76) last week. He started the week scoring a career-high 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting, while tying a career-best with four steals vs. Boise State. Fredette also tallied two assists vs. the Broncos. Against Portland, Fredette scored 17 points (6-for-7 from the field), while also collecting three rebounds, three assists and two steals."

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I ran into former BYU Cougar WR Ben Cahoon on the way home today, and we talked about his signing with the Montreal Alouettes for another season--his 12th as a CFL pro.

Last month, the Alouettes advanced to their 6th Grey Cup final since Cahoon's arrival, and Ben led the league with 107 catches this past season (1,227 yards, 7 touchdowns; 8th straight 1,000-yard season).

His new contract includes an option year, but the season to come could very well be Ben's CFL swansong. He heads into his 12th season with 11,556 career receiving yards and 61 touchdown catches.

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The BYU Football team resumes bowl practice tonight at 6:00pm (last open practice in Provo), so check back later tonight for uploaded post-practice interviews, in the "Cougar Cuts" box to the upper right.

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