LAS VEGAS — Tyler Haws is certainly rolling in the accolades, but do folks really appreciate the nuances of the BYU junior’s game?
That’s the question ESPN’s Sean Farnham asked. Farnham is part of the broadcast team that will cover the West Coast Conference basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas beginning this weekend.
“I’m very passionate about Tyler and I think he’s one of the most undervalued players in all of college basketball,” Farnham told me in an interview Tuesday.
Haws was named the WCC Player of the Year on Monday. For the second-straight season, he leads the league in scoring, ranking No. 6 nationally in that category. Haws will lead the Cougars into the quarterfinals Saturday at 3 p.m. MST against the winner of Portland and Loyola Marymount.
“The thing that has stood out about Tyler’s development and his game is his mid-range jump shot and being more creative with his finishes once he gets into the paint," said Farnham.
The analyst has worked up a segment on Haws’ game that will air during the WCC tournament on ESPN, breaking down how the league’s scoring leader gets his points — how he works through picks and screens to get open, and how he finds ways to score when he's covered and under pressure.
“It shows just how hard he works to put himself in a position to score," said Farnham. "A lot of times you think about scorers and the volume of shots they get off to score and Tyler shoots the ball quite a bit.
“His efficiency, especially in that six- or seven-game stretch where he averaged close to 30 points a game and shot 53 percent from the field, to me, I don’t think he got enough credit for (that) nationally. He should have been given more credit for how hard he played and how committed he is to getting better at his craft.”
On Jan. 23 at Portland, Haws scored a career-high 48 in a triple-overtime loss. He then rattled off games of 23, 38, 33 and 27 points.
In weeks leading up to that, and during that run, assistant coach Terry Nashif kept Haws hot by designing a myriad plays to throw at defenses to get Haws the ball, and hopefully, open.
Haws, in return, responded.
“BYU fans know this, but he truly is a player that they should appreciate and watch often because he is the kind of player that doesn’t come around very often.”
Farnham took the time to break down a few plays for his breakout segment during weekend coverage.
“On one play, he passes the ball, cuts and moves around three screens on one side of the floor. He basically goes in a complete circle and hits a legged off-balance, floater against Kevin Pangos.
“Another one I have is where he sets the screen and then pops out over the top — just the little things people don’t appreciate about the completeness of how hard he works to get open. Sometimes he works hard to get open by setting screens for others on his team.”
While BYU’s first tournament game will be seen on BYUtv, ESPN has the primary broadcast rights and will televise No. 1 seed Gonzaga’s quarterfinal game Saturday night against the winner of Pacific and Santa Clara and the quarterfinal game between St. Mary’s and Pepperdine. The network will air both semifinals Monday, and the final for both the men and women Tuesday.
The Cougars have a lot to prove in postseason play. BYU hasn't won a conference tournament championship in more than a decade.
The Cougars need to make it to the final game to prop up prognostications that they are an NCAA tournament team that will be picked and seated come Selection Sunday the following week.
But to absolutely guarantee that, the Cougars need to win the WCC tournament and lock in the automatic bid awarded to the winner on Tuesday.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.