Florida played their best game of the year
BYU lost to the Florida Gators for a few reasons. First of all, the Gators played their best game of the year. They started the game hot, and, sadly, they finished the game hot, going 5 of 7 from the field in overtime. Four of their players scored between 16 and 19 points. The balance was too much for the Cougars.
Vernon Macklin was hot inside, while Chandler Parsons looked like the Mr Basketball he was in high school. Alex Tyus played the best game he played in his four years at Florida. Guards Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker, while they missed a lot of shots, still made just enough to keep BYU from shading inside.
Florida made sure they didn’t leave anything on the floor against the Cougars. This was evidenced by their terrible performance two nights later against Butler. They expended so much energy against BYU that they had nothing left for Butler. For the Cougars, it was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The Cougars ran out of gas
This happened for a few reasons. First of all, Jimmer Fredette was hurt and had an off-night. Fredette, like most great shooters, uses his legs to shoot. When one calf is hurt, as his was, it throws everything off. It’s harder to get balanced force coming from both sides of the body. And once you miss a few shots, you spend the rest of the night trying to compensate. Often, as on Thursday, the right adjustment never kicks in.
Secondly, we all knew that the suspension of Brandon Davies was going to hurt the Cougars eventually. “Eventually” happened on Thursday night. BYU missed his height underneath, and he may have been able to put the clamps on Alex Tyus.
Also, as we thought may happen, his absence affected team depth. Florida had too many athletes and too many chiseled bodies to throw in and out of this game. They wore BYU down and BYU didn’t have enough energy to finish the game when they needed to.
Officiating played a huge role in this game
First and foremost, the officiating was fair. They called it the same way for both teams on both ends of the court. The problem for the Cougars was that they called it like Stanley Cup Hockey. When you are the team that is prone to attrition while the other team has plenty of depth, the last thing you want to see is an officiating crew that “lets them play.”
It’s nothing against the officials; they did a fine job. It was simply unfortunate “luck of the draw” that the Cougars played an extremely physical game against the worst possible opponent at the worst possible time.
“Bruised and battered” is not how you want your star basketball player described at the end of the game, but Jimmer Fredette sustained contact on pretty much every play. Everyone across the country has seen the “stock” picture of Fredette with the bandage on his chin. Once again, it was called the same for both teams, but it simply wore out the injured Fredette.
This senior-laden team was the best edition of the Cougars in history, and Coach Rose is going to have to find some replacements pretty fast, that is, if the school manages to keep him from the greedy hands of bigger-budget universities. Jimmer Fredette, Jackson Emery, and Logan Magnusson have played their last games in a Cougar uniform, and Brandon Davies may or may not make it back.
We know Noah Hartsock, Charles Abouo, Kyle Collinsworth, and Stephen Rogers can play, but who is going to step up and be the go-to guy in Jimmer’s absence? There is a lot of height returning from missions the next two years, but the Cougars need to find a guard, wing forward, or both who can fill the void left by the graduation of Fredette and Emery.
The move to the WCC is probably coming at the right time. Gonzaga will be looking for revenge, and the Cougars will probably be undermanned next season. St Mary’s is showing signs of being a perennial tournament contender, but there are a lot of teams in the WCC that the Cougars should be able to beat.
- - The Cougars won more games than at any time in their history.
- They were ranked #3 in both polls before the Davies suspension.
- Jimmer Fredette broke Danny Ainge’s BYU career scoring record.
It was definitely a very good year. I am tempted to call it great, but they needed a Final Four berth to qualify for greatness.
Most of all, though, BYU exhibited class all year. A lesser man than Jimmer Fredette would have become arrogant over all of the attention he received. A lesser school than BYU would have ignored Brandon Davies’ transgressions until the tournament was over. And a lesser coach than Dave Rose would have played “Hack-a-Mack” on Vernon Macklin in the last three minutes of the Florida game.
But Fredette remained humble. And BYU honored their Honor Code. And Dave Rose refused to throw a 20-something kid under the bus to win a basketball game.
When you have that much class, the losses don’t bother you for long.
Maybe it was a great year, after all.
BYU In The Sweet 16
What a great weekend! BYU did what they had to do this weekend. They got the requisite amount of points from Jimmer Fredette, but they also got key contributions from the rest of the team. This is very important to moving forward from the emotional distress caused by the national media coverage of honor code violations.
The Wofford game on Thursday wasn’t much of a yardstick. The Cougars got a lot of contributions from players other than Fredette, but this was Wofford they were playing. Yes, Charles Abouo, Noah Hartsock, and Logan Magnusson scored in double figures, notching ten points each. Yes, Kyle Collinsworth nabbed eleven rebounds.
But you couldn’t help feeling that this was just a superior team taking care of business against a plucky but outclassed team that wouldn’t have finished over .500 in the MWC.
The game against Gonzaga, though, was a major eye-opener. For the Cougars to win against top-notch competition, it is going to have to go like it did Saturday. Here is the scenario:
Jimmer Fredette hits his first few shots. The other team keys on him, and this opens up the floor for everyone else. And everyone else comes through. Then the floor is opened back up for Fredette, who administers the finishing touches.
This is how it has to happen, and this is how it happened in Saturday. In a way, it was what happened against Wofford, but against much better competition.
Once again, three other players scored in double figures. Noah Hartsock scored thirteen, and demoralized Gonzaga with three for three shooting from beyond the three-point line. Jackson Emery scored sixteen points, and every one he scored seemed to be crucial. Stephen Rogers came off the bench to score ten. And Kyle Collingsworth picked up seven rebounds to go with six points.
Most of all, Jimmer Fredette only took 23 shots to score 29 points and added five free throws for a total of 34. Fredette scored 1.26 points for every shot from the field. When he is over a point per shot, BYU is usually going to win.
Now, the Cougars go to New Orleans to play Florida. If they beat Florida, they get the winner of Butler vs Wisconsin. Florida is a winnable game, but it will be no cakewalk. The Gators may be far-removed from their two consecutive National Championships, but their team is full of players who were once elite recruits and has finally found its own identity.
The Gators who won the National Championship had a core that was tall and athletic. They turned out to be so talented that they almost made winning look easy. The current Gators are built in the mold of head coach Billy Donovan. They don’t have a roster full of first round NBA draft picks, but they are a very gutty, scrappy team. They play with passion and a lot of “basketball sense.” The Cougars can win this game, but they are going to have to play as well as they did against Gonzaga on Saturday. Anything less will result in an early exit.
If they beat Florida, cheer for Butler to beat Wisconsin. Wisconsin is a matchup nightmare for BYU, as Pitt would have been. They are too big and strong inside, and would exploit the lighter and smaller Cougars. They are also a very patient team that runs a lot of clock on offense, plays stifling defense, and can easily disrupt the tempo of a team that relies on outside shooting.
Wisconsin wins ugly, but they win. And their style of game fits NCAA Tournament play extremely well. Butler, on the other hand, is a matchup that the Cougars can win. They don’t do anything great, but do a lot well. They are a well-balanced team, but they don’t present the almost-insurmountable matchup problem that Wisconsin would.
What BYU Must Do Against Florida
The Florida game is going to have to be almost a carbon copy of the Gonzaga game for the Cougars to win. Fredette will need to hit a few early and hope that Florida doubles him or plays a zone that focuses on him. This will open up the floor for other players.
Then, Hartsock will have to hit from outside and Emery will have to slash his way to the basket once the court is opened up. Kyle Collinsworth will also have to continue to rebound as well as he has, and another great set of contributions from the bench players would be a major bonus.
Fredette will once again have to average more than one point per shot. He should get to the line against Florida, who like to play pretty tight on defense, but the points per shot statistic will be more important than his total number of points.
Will BYU’s Depth affect their Performance this week?
So far, Kyle Collinsworth has played admirably in place of Brandon Davies. However, there isn’t anyone to fill his slot on the bench as well as he did. This could be a problem, but may not. So far, the Cougars have done just fine.
If this was a tournament like most conference tournaments, where you play three or four games in a row with no rest days, the effect of Davies’ suspension on team depth could be a major detriment, as it may have been in the MWC tournament. It is very possible that BYU simply “ran out of gas” against SDSU while playing their third game in three days.
In the NCAA Tournament, though, you play two games a week with a day’s rest in between. There is plenty of time to rest and heal nagging injuries. Also, everyone is running on adrenaline in both games, and fatigue doesn’t really seem to factor in as much as it would in conference tournaments.
A Quick Prediction…
The Cougars will beat Florida in New Orleans on a last-second shot by, who else, Jimmer Fredette. If Butler beats Wisconsin, BYU will be able to get by them and into the Final Four. If they have to play Wisconsin, though, it will probably be a long flight back to Provo.
Imagine this scenario at UCLA, UNC, Duke, or any other “basketball factory.” The basketball team is ranked third in the country, it is getting toward the end of the season, the NCAA tournament is a week away. The campus is rife with optimism, and a number one seeding in the regional is possible.
Then, the news breaks. The team’s leading rebounder is suspended for a violation of the school’s honor code. Did he cheat on an exam? Did he plagarize a term paper? No. He reportedly got a little too friendly with his girlfriend.
As we all know, this didn’t happen at UCLA, Duke, or UNC. It happened here in Provo. The national press are having a field day with this story. Although the decision has quite a few supporters, many are incredulous that a school would suspend a key player this close to the tournament for something that wouldn’t be a violation at almost any other school.
There are a few core issues here, and a few possible ramifications.
Brandon Davies is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He knows what that means. He knows that the honor code at BYU is not based just on philosophical or legal principles, but that those principles are a very large part of his spirituality.
If BYU was just another school, it would be fine to sweep the violation under the table until after the season, and then slap Davies on the wrist. However, BYU is not just another school. Brandon Davies knows, as much as anyone, that he let down his teammates, his school, his faith, and most of all, himself.
In his heart of hearts, Brandon Davies knows that the decision was the correct one.
You can’t lose 28.2 minutes, 7.3 rebounds, and 11.3 points without some repercussions. On the surface, you can replace the numbers, but you can’t replace the depth. It is very likely that Davies’ suspension has just turned the #3 Cougars into a team more suited for the mid-teens. That may be enough to turn a #1 seed into a #3 or a #4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
In the current millennium, or the last 10 tournaments, 8 of them have been won by #1 seeds. The only lower seeds to win the tournament were #3 seed Syracuse with Carmelo Anthony in 2003, and a late-blooming, powerhouse #3 seed Florida in 2006.
Whether this is a result of #1 seeds having a slightly easier path to the Final Four or just an indication that the NCAA tournament committee usually gets their seedings right, the numbers don’t lie.
If the Cougars can win the MWC Tournament in convincing fashion, they may still get a #1 seed. If the numbers are there, the committee can’t penalize the Cougars for suspending a player for an honor code violation. It would give the NCAA publicity that it neither wants nor needs.
Victories over New Mexico in the semis and SDSU in the finals should be enough to produce a #1 or #2 seed. A loss to either, though, will probably doom the Cougars to a lower seed, thus diminishing their chances to bring an NCAA Championship to Provo.
The Davies incident probably won’t have a net effect on recruiting, but it may change the dynamic a little bit. As I mentioned earlier, recruits know exactly what they are getting into when they choose to attend BYU. Most students, including athletes, who decide to attend BYU are LDS members.
To fellow LDS members, BYU is a school where students can congregate and enjoy the company of like-minded people who they can trust to adhere to the same spirituality, ethic, and honor code as they do. That trust and spirituality is absent from almost any school in the country. BYU is the best school for LDS members to attend if they want to feel safe in their environment and congregate with those with whom they share the most in common.
On the other hand, BYU isn’t the average experience for a “typical” student expecting to exercise his newfound “freedom” from parental control by indulging him or herself in “typical” college student shenanigans, many of which are contrary to the BYU honor code.
Usually, then, an invisible line is drawn. BYU usually gets the best players from the LDS community without recruiting a lot of kids from “the outside.” Consequently, most BYU athletes are LDS members, and most LDS members would prefer BYU as their first choice if they are offered.
So, the effects on recruiting should be minimal. Any coach recruiting against BYU will be able to negatively recruit by mentioning Brandon Davies, but kids who aren’t looking for discipline and ethical behavior aren’t going to choose BYU anyway.
The national writers have had their fun; some have been supportive and some have laughed. But at the end of the day, BYU is still BYU, and it will always be BYU. If a parent wants to know that his or her child will be in a safe environment where the likelihood of him getting in trouble is reduced, there aren’t really any better choices than BYU.
So, while negative recruiting may convince a few players that BYU is not for them, it’s probably all for the better. Because really, a player who won’t adhere to the honor code is not going to succeed at BYU anyway, and both the school and the player may be happier if that player chose elsewhere.
BYU has always been a school that is better understood by insiders than by the general public. It was founded on principles that are eternal, and those principles cannot be sacrificed for the sake of a basketball game or a basketball tournament.
The Brandon Davies suspension was unfortunate, but necessary. It is my hope that Davies can learn from the experience and become a better man because of it. If that happens, the suspension will turn out to have been a success by any standards: inside or outside of BYU and the LDS community.
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