A Vegas Double Dip, and Schedule Stats


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The promoters of the HoopTV Las Vegas Classic moved the time of BYU's Orleans Arena game with Nevada next Tuesday, to allow Cougar fans to attend both the noon hoops game and then the Las Vegas Bowl game that night. Now, all the promoters need is for BYU fans to actually take advantage of the switch.

While the event organizers are primarily selling two-day packages for the basketball tournament, they have made Tuesday single-game tickets available to BYU fans, for as little as $15.00.

Simply go to this site, and input the letters "BYU" into the promotional code window, click on the Tuesday tickets link, and you can purchase tix for the BYU/Nevada game that day.

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BYU is 9-1 on the season heading into tonight's game with Eastern Washington, and while the Cougars' national rankings are good and the team is playing generally quite well, the question remains: how good is this team?

It's a valid question only because BYU's schedule strength has been among the weakest in the nation so far (currently ranked 287th by Jerry Palm and 298th by Ken Pomeroy). Counting Eastern Washington, only four of BYU's 11 opponents thus far have winning records, and only one has three losses or fewer (Arizona State, at 7-3). The combined record of BYU's opponents is 43-62, and BYU hasn't played a team currently in the RPI Top 100; the Cougars also have the lowest SOS of any team currently in the RPI Top 100.

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Among the disappointments are the Bradley Braves, who have had to deal with injury issues on the way to a 5-4 mark (including home losses to Western Carolina and Loyola-Chicago), and Utah State, which lost by 13 at Long Beach State last night to fall to 6-4. BYU is counting on Utah State playing well to keep the setback at the Spectrum from becoming a "bad loss" on the Cougars' resume, but the Ags have been inconsistent since the BYU game, and they may struggle to keep their front-runner status in the WAC.

The good news is BYU's schedule strength will pick up in the next couple of weeks. After tonight, the only team on the schedule with a current losing record is 4-5 Arizona (hosting BYU on December 28th). If BYU ends up facing Tulsa in Las Vegas, BYU will face four consecutive current D1 RPI Top 100 teams, after tonight.

By the way, four MWC teams are currently in the RPI Top 100; New Mexico (13), SDSU (31), UNLV (36), and BYU (89)--so as it turns out, the Cougars' most beneficial games (in terms of schedule strength) may end up being games they play in their own league.

What that will mean on Selection Sunday remains to be seen, but it makes the games with Nevada, Tulsa/Nebraska, Arizona and UTEP (all away from home) that much more meaningful, since the non-conference "juice" hasn't been there to this point in the schedule.

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Random player notes:

Lamont Morgan, Jr. doesn't play a lot of minutes (10.5/gm), but when he's on the floor, he's extremely effective. He has 19 assists to only seven turnovers, is shooting 69% from the field (9/13) and 75% from the arc (3/4). He has made his only two free throw attempts.

As a senior captain, he is able to lead without the benefit of major minutes; he's a great teammate and just the kind of guy a coach wants on his team. He deserves kudos for accepting and filling a role that doesn't get a great deal of attention.

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It's been an unusual couple of games for Jackson Emery. He sprained his ankle in the second half of the Arizona State win--a win BYU owed in large part to Emery, who went 5 for 9 from the arc in that game.

In the ensuing two games, a combination of foul trouble, the sore ankle and the Wagner blowout have put the Lone Peak product on the floor for only 31 combined minutes. In those 31 minutes, Emery is 2 for 12 from the floor, and 0 for 8 from distance. The Wagner game was the first game this season in which he did not attempt a free throw. Fouls are a cost of doing business considering his aggressive defensive approach, so he continues to be the most whistled BYU regular, averaging 5.3 fouls per 40 minutes played.

Emery continues to lead BYU and the MWC in steals (24), and his 46% arc accuracy rate is second in the league.

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Jimmer Fredette...

First five games:

20.4 ppg, 49% fg, 47% 3pfg, 6.2 apg, 1.8 to/gm

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Last five games:

15.0 ppg, 35% fg, 36% 3pfg, 4.6 apg, 3.6 to/gm

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Tyler Haws has shot 50% or better from the field in five consecutive games. Since opening 0 for 11 from the three-point line, he is five for his last 10. His string of four consecutive games in double-figure scoring is the longest current BYU streak; Jimmer Fredette's streak of 23 straight 10+ point games ended versus Wagner (9 points).

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Noah Hartsock has shot 50% or better from the field in every game this season. His comfort level and the coaches' reliance on him is now jumping exponentially:

First seven games:

14 fgm, 4.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg

Last three games:

15 fgm, 11.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg

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Hartsock's improved numbers are not solely a function of playing time, although it's certainly a factor. As a reserve, Hartsock averaged 19.2 mpg; as a starter, that number is up to 25.8. Yes, he's getting more minutes, but more importantly, he's gaining more confidence and his teammates and coaches are gaining confidence in him. His continued development will be integral to BYU's success this season.

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