Commentary: What might have been for BYU basketball in 2011

By Nate Gagon

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, Dec. 2 2013 5:56 p.m. MST

BYU's Jimmer Fredette, Kyle Collinsworth and Charles Abouo leave the court for a time out as the possibility for a victory slips away as the BYU Cougars take on the University of Florida in at the New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, Louisiana on Thursday, March 24, 2011. This is the first Sweet 16 NCAA tournament appearance for the Cougars in 30 years. Mike Terry, Deseret News

Mike Terry, Deseret News

Editor's note: This is the first in a three-series commentary on BYU basketball. Part 1 takes a look at what could have happened with the Cougar basketball team in the 2010-11 season.

In 1856, American Quaker John Greenleaf Whittier penned “Maud Muller” that spawned a famous quotation. The poem ends with these words: “For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: It might have been!”

After BYU lost to Florida in overtime on March 24, 2011, to barely miss out on the Elite 8, Cougar head coach Dave Rose said: “We just needed to make a few more shots. I mean, if we make a few more shots, get another rebound or two here, we’re talking about a different story.”

Like a national championship story. It might have been, it legitimately might have been.

But here’s the twist: Perhaps the “might have been” didn’t have as much to do with what happened on the court as it did with those who didn’t take the court that game — Tyler Haws, Brandon Davies and Michael Loyd Jr.

Rose said his guys “just needed to make a few more shots” against the Gators. He was being modest. In truth, they needed to make just one more shot, and they had some choice opportunities.

Freshman star Kyle Collinsworth missed a free throw with 44 seconds remaining that, as things played out, would have won the game. College basketball megastar and eventual national player of the year Jimmer Fredette made only 11-of-29 shots, including 3-of-15 three-pointers. Noah Hartsock, Jackson Emery and Charles Abouo combined to shoot just 8-of-26 from the field.

Yet, despite all that, Jimmer and the guys were a single point away from ballin’ into the Elite 8.

Now, envision this: What if the 17 minutes played by Stephen Rogers versus Florida had been played by Haws? Or if the 23 minutes played by Logan Magnusson and James Anderson had been played by Davies? Imagine if Fredette, Hartsock and Collinsworth, who between them had only 11 minutes of rest in a 45-minute overtime game, would have had some fresher legs because Haws, Davies and Loyd Jr. would have been there to help shoulder the load?

They would have made that extra shot. They would have gotten that extra rebound. It probably wouldn't have even come down to that. There would have been no talk of what-ifs in Rose's postgame press conference.

BYU would have been in the Elite 8.

A game against eighth-seeded Butler would have been next. Not to say Butler would have been a cakewalk, but it is not very often a team gets to play a No. 8 seed to punch its ticket to the Final Four.

With a win over Butler, the only thing left in BYU’s path to the title game would have been 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth. If playing a No. 8 seed to get into the Final Four would have been a rare opportunity, what would playing a No. 11 seed to get into the title game be?

With a victory over VCU, Jimmer and the Cougars would then have taken on Kemba Walker and third-seeded Connecticut for all the marbles. Connecticut, which ultimately won the title, had a good team, but the Huskies were also one of the most vulnerable national champions in a long time.

The title game between Connecticut and Butler was considered by some as so revolting, so historically unpleasant, that it was genuinely painful to watch. The teams combined to shoot 26 percent from the field with only 31-of-119 shots finding the net.

It was like listening to Miss Teen South Carolina talk about finding the U.S. on a map, only without the attractiveness and humor.

Even Walker, the Robin to Jimmer’s Batman in college basketball that year, was unimpressive in going 5-of-19 from the field with no assists.

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