There are three strong indicators early on that BYU men’s basketball will have another 25-win season, and return to the NCAA tournament for the seventh consecutive year. As an analyst I can confidently make those predictions, but as a former coach I know that staying healthy and confident, executing and focusing on one game at a time is a must! This team has the potential to be very good.
Indicator #1: Confidence-Building Schedule
There are 15 pre-season games. Nine of those on paper look like wins. The remaining six are in question. They include Florida State, Notre Dame or St. Joseph's (Neutral Site, NY), Baylor and Iowa State on the road and two in-state games vs. Va. Tech and Utah State. 3-3 is a realistic record for those six games. A 12-3 non conference record seems very doable. The WCC is still top heavy with Gonzaga, BYU and Saint Mary’s. The rest of the league is in a rebuilding mode. I like the Cougs at 13-3 and contending for a WCC Title.
The WCC schedule once again will not help BYU’s RPI. BYU’s RPI could be greatly enhanced by wins in N.Y. or on the road at Baylor or Iowa State. 25 wins has become a benchmark for the program, and I just don’t see things changing in the foreseeable future.
Indicator #2: Promising Post Presence
Brandon Davies is the most skilled offensive post player in the West. He can score on either block, with a full package of back-to-the-basket and face up moves. He runs the floor and has great hands. He has range to 20” and will demand double teams, which creates opportunities for all of his teammates.
The remaining four “Bigs” collectively will also contribute to a young, athletic and solid front line.
6’11” sophomore Nate Austin has a great motor, rebounds out of his area and shoots the 15-19” jumper with confidence. Low post moves and post defense are areas that need improvement.
6’7” sophomore Josh Sharp may be the most improved player in the program. He is undersized, but defends well, rebounds out of his area and plays with great energy and intelligence. As his perimeter shooting improves, so will his role on this team.
6’8” junior “Augie” Ambrosino may be the X-Factor on this year's team. He has the ability to stretch the defense with three-point shooting, and can put it on the floor and score off the bounce. Game experience and confidence are the keys for his success.
6’11” freshman Ian Harward may be the most under-the-radar player in the program. He runs the floor well, and over time I think he has the potential to be best low post defender on this team. He also has a primary low post move: over the right shoulder jump hook. His minutes may be limited because he is playing behind Davies, but he also has a big upside, and gives Coach Rose one more option down low.
Indicator #3: Improved Guard Play
BYU’s guard play will be better with everyone having another year of game experience, summer development and the addition of a JC transfer and returning starter just off of a mission.
Sophomore and point guard Matt Carlino is a better defender and seems to better understand his role in transition offense. He still has a tendency to hunt shots early in the shot clock, and leave his feet to make passes. That being said, he is talented, and can break down defenders off the dribble and create scoring opportunities late in the shot clock.
Senior wing Brock Zylstra can shoot it well when his feet are square and ready. He’s played in a lot of big games, and will be counted on to be a much more consistent shooter. Early on he seems to playing with a lot of confidence and demonstrating strong leadership. 6’6” guards also really give additional length to Coach Rose’s zone defense.
Senior combo guard Craig Cusick is the “glue” guy on this team. His leadership, high basketball IQ, competitiveness and ability to shoot the threes make this BYU team better. He may not be on scholarship, but he is a very valuable part of the program.
Junior two guard Raul Delgado is a JC transfer who comes to BYU as a three-point shooter who also defends with a mental toughness that BYU lacked last year. He will need time and experience to develop that consistency and confidence under the lights.
Freshman point guard Cory Calvert was the 2012 Colorado 5A MVP and State Champ. Cory has a solid understanding of the game. He pushes the ball in transition and makes good decisions. He always makes the extra pass, which makes everyone better. Cory alsohas deep three-point range. He needs time to adjust to the collegiate game, but he will make a major impact in the program during his four years, and is capable of providing solid play off the bench this year.
Sophomore combo guard Anson Winder is still recovering from an ankle injury, but when he is healthy he can defend quick guards and knock down the three ball. He had a solid freshmen year, and will give this team much needed depth.
Sophomore three man Tyler Haws returned from his mission in April and got in great condition. His return greatly improves BYU’s guard depth. Tyler is a big-time difference maker. He, like Brandon Davies, makes everyone around him better. His attitude, work ethic, basketball IQ and leadership is off the charts. He moves as well without the ball as anyone I’ve seen in the college game. He reads and uses screens, creates mid-range shots off the dribble, is a three-point threat and a 90% FT shooter. He has an “old school” game that will have a major impact in this program for the next three years.
He will still have to adjust after being away for two years, but don’t be surprised if he is an All WCC player in his first year back.
When we look back on the 2012-2013 season, these indicators of scheduling, promising post play and improved guard play will be the focus of every analysis of this year's BYU team success.
Have a great day!