Friday, April 18, 2014

BYU basketball report card: Cougars give UMass an early Christmas (5 items)

By Nate Gagon, For the Deseret News

Dec. 8, 2013

In a matchup of top 10 RPI teams, BYU, ranked ninth, put up little resistance on the road against No. 1 Massachusetts Saturday afternoon. The Cougars never got closer than seven points the final 15 minutes and trailed by double-digits for a majority of the second half before ultimately losing, 105-96.

Christmas appeared to have come early for the Minutemen in the form of the BYU defense.

The Cougars were like a blue-clad Santa Claus that just kept giving UMass whatever it wanted. Chaz Williams, who had 32 points and 15 assists, and his teammates were happy to take advantage. Sometimes 'tis better to receive than give it turns out.

There’s no question BYU is a good offensive team, but too much of the time it seems the Cougars are so concerned with playing fast transition offense that they lose track of everything else — like playing defense.

Here are the grades for each BYU position group and other aspects of the game.

Nate Gagon is a published sports, music, and creative writer. He is also a wholehearted father, grateful husband and ardent student of life. He shoots roughly 94% from the free throw line and can be reached at: nategagon@hotmail.com or @nategagon.

1 of 5. BYU GUARDS

How do you quantify really soft and really bad defense? Steals are not necessarily a great indicator, but Tyler Haws, Kyle Collinsworth and Matt Carlino did not have a single one between them.

Haws shot the ball extremely well in the first half, largely keeping the Cougars within striking distance, but again he had little impact in other areas of the game. Haws finished with 25 points on just 16 shots, three rebounds, two turnovers, four fouls and just one assist. Haws is averaging about 1.5 assists per game.

Collinsworth struggled mightily in turning the ball over five times and hurting BYU on several other possessions with poor shot selection.

Carlino had a nice stretch to start the second half and finished with an impressive stat line of 23 points on 18 shots, six assists and just one turnover. His impact on the game did not quite match the stat line, however.

BYU coach Dave Rose has apparently decided Anson Winder is now the third guard off the bench. Skyler Halford got more than double Winder’s minutes and Frank Bartley IV had four times Winders' minutes.

Grade: C-

2 of 5. BYU BIG MEN

How do you quantify really soft and really bad defense? Blocked shots are not necessarily a great indicator, but BYU’s big men did not have a single one in the game.

Eric Mika had a pretty solid offensive game with 18 points on 11 shots while knocking down 6-of-7 free throws. He led the team in rebounds with eight. Like the team as a whole, however, Mika was not anywhere near effective on defense. This seemed to be, at least in part, due to foul trouble with Mika picking up four fouls, limiting his playing time and aggressiveness.

Nate Austin fouled out and played only 19 minutes due to quick foul trouble. He did not attempt a shot or a free throw and had just five rebounds.

Luke Worthington played seven minutes and did not record a single statistic other than two fouls and one turnover.

Grade: D

3 of 5. BYU COACHING

Of course, Rose knows his team better than anyone else.

To the outside observer, however, it certainly seems clear that the zone defense is not working. The defensive performance was one of the worst of Rose’s tenure. Could a man-to-man have really done any worse? At least a man-to-man defense allows a coach to hold individual players more responsible for his defense and gives a player an opportunity to play with more toughness and passion.

If BYU's man-to-man defense would have truly been worse than the generous 105 points it gave up to UMass Saturday — so much so that the Cougs did not even attempt to play it — then it seems like an admission that the team is severely limited in some ways.

That is not a good sign for the rest of this season or next season.

Before the season Rose talked about having the athletes to deploy a man-to-man defense. If there was not some advantage to this, why would Rose bring it up?

Grade: D

4 of 5. UMASS

Make no mistake, BYU’s bad defense had quite a bit to do with the UMass offense. The Minutemen are undefeated and ranked No. 21 for a reason.

At the point, Williams was unreal in scoring 32 points on just 14 shot attempts, while dishing out 15 assists with only one turnover.

As a team BYU had 15 assists and 11 turnovers.

By no means was Williams the only Minuteman who impressed, however. They had five other players in double figures and had an incredibly well-balanced offensive attack. They had 29 assists as a team.

UMass did not exactly overwhelm the Cougars on defense, but again, quite a bit of BYU’s statistical damage came after the game was virtually over.

UMass is legit.

Grade: A-

5 of 5. CROWD

UMass had a good, passionate crowd. Fans were getting on the Cougars and the officials hard when they didn’t agree with something.

Technically, this was a neutral site game play at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass. It was the equivalent of a UMass home game by location and turnout. UMass is located in Amherst, Mass.

Grade: B
1. DRay
Roy, UT,
Dec. 8, 2013

After watching less than a half, I couldn't watch anymore. Obviously something was slowing down the Cougars, perhaps fear of losing? For me, the team-emotion was submissive, lacked genuine fire of desire. This is gut-check time for this team. Will they fix the problems?

Don't know how Coach Rose's team gets called for so many tiki-tack fouls while the other teams get away with mayhem...the first half skirmish that resulted in 3 technical fouls called, that was all backwards, and I think this must weigh on the players psyche, knowing they will get beat up, then doubly punished by refs for just looking like they might try to defend. Some may say I'm not objective here, but I think the evidence proves me correct, just look at the replays, objectively.

2. BlueHusky
Mission Viejo, CA,
Dec. 8, 2013

Got whupped. A bit slow. Good opponent. Nuff said.

3. idablu
Idaho Falls, ID,
Dec. 8, 2013

I think the author her pretty much nailed it. This was the worst defensive performance by BYU I've seen in a long time, and Rose's failure to adjust the defense until the second half hurt. A man-to-man could not possibly have been worse. It was certainly worth a try. Obviously part of the problem was several players getting in foul trouble early which forced the Cougs to back off defensively. There is some validity to Dray's post above.

With our 2 bigs in foul trouble why is Rose so reluctant to give Sharp more playing time? He actually started in several games last year and contributed in many. I don't get it.

Although Collinsworth and Bartley put up some points their forced shots and turnovers (especially Collinsworth) really hurt the team.

4. Pearl94
Riverton, UT,
Dec. 8, 2013

Another good BYU football/basketball team that can't win against top 25 teams. It is tough to be a die-hard fan of a team that teases it's fan base with good play but rarely ever beats really good teams.

5. Meckofahess
Salt Lake City, UT,
Dec. 8, 2013

Kind of hard to say what is going on with this team, but commentators like DRAY are correct in their assessments I believe. BYU lacks some fire at times. We saw some good fire in the second half against Utah state and the outcome reflected that (not saying USU is UMASS but they are a pretty good team too). I kind of get the idea that the Coaches of BYU football and basketball are expected not to get too emotional or fired up. One could argue that a certain demeanor is expected by the leadership of the University and the coaches know they must fall in line. While I am not voting for a bunch of tirades by the Coaches, I would not be against them showing forth a little passion now and again to try to "get the boys" going when the going gets tough. As I said in a previous post, perhaps the best way to not get too disappointed with our BYU teams is to simply lower our expectations. I dislike resorting to that approach, but it might be the most realistic approach at the end of the day? Alas, our Coaches and teams are what thy are - a bitter pill to swallow :(. Go Cougs!