Guest commentary: BYU men's basketball program on track for future deep runs into the NCAA Tournament
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
This men's basketball season may feel like a disappointment for most BYU fans.
Missing the NCAA Tournament while losing to teams like Long Beach State, Harvard, Portland, Pepperdine and Pacific, despite having the NCAA's all-time leader in triple-doubles leading your team as a senior, certainly comes across as a missed opportunity.
Don't fret, though, Cougar fans — this is exactly where the program was supposed to be at this point ... and there are better things on the horizon.
Much, much better things.
In December 2013, I wrote a 3-part series on BYU men's basketball for the Deseret News. Part 3 of that series was a detailed look at the Cougars' future through 2019, complete with analysis of projected lineups and season predictions.
Forecasting the current 2015-16 season back in 2013, I wrote: "BYU will make the NIT postseason tournament as a No. 2 seed, where it will win at least two games."
For those who may not know, BYU made the NIT postseason tournament as a No. 2 seed, where it just won its second game against Virginia Tech Friday night.
What does this tell us?
It tells us that whatever I write will come true, of course.
So, with that as our premise, what else do we know about BYU's future based on that 2013 article?
Well, for one thing, the Cougs, stocked with serious talent and depth including (at least) five ESPN Top-100 players, will win the national championship in 2019.
BYU will get an invite to the Big 12 Conference in the spring/summer of 2017.
The Utes will win the Pac-12 in 2017-18.
Weber State, Utah State and Utah will also make the NCAA Tournament in 2018-19, with Utah narrowly losing to BYU in the Sweet 16.
Now wait ... can Larry Krystkowiak cancel a game against BYU if it's in the NCAA Tournament?
The Cougs are a Sweet 16 team next season, a Final Four team the year after and national champs in 2018-19.
In 2018-19, BYU's roster should include the following players, barring injuries, transfers, draft departures, etc.:
— Senior point guard Nick Emery (No. 9 point guard, No. 45 overall 2013 recruit per ESPN): If you saw his game against Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament two weeks ago (27 points, five rebounds, four assists, three steals) you know this freshman is the real deal.
— Senior C Eric Mika (No. 3 center, No. 28 overall 2013 recruit per ESPN): Showed tremendous athleticism while averaging 11.8 points and 6.4 rebounds in 25.6 minutes per game as a freshman in 2013-14 before going on an LDS Church mission. He returns to the court next season.
— Junior SG TJ Haws (No. 11 shooting guard, No. 51 overall 2014 recruit per ESPN): Will be a true freshman next season after returning from an LDS Church mission.
— Junior PF Payton Dastrup (No. 11 center, No. 95 overall 2014 recruit per ESPN): Will be a true freshman next season after returning from an LDS Church mission.
— Junior PF Yoeli Childs (No. 12 power forward, No. 50 overall 2016 recruit per ESPN): Will be a true freshman next season; LDS mission is not a factor.
— Senior G Jordan Chatman (Washington Gatorade Player of the Year; No. 54 PG 2012 recruit per ESPN): Played 10.5 minutes per game this season as a redshirt freshman; scored season-high 13 points while hitting 3 of 5 3-pointers Feb. 25 vs. Portland.
— Sophomore SF Zac Seljaas (No. 24 power forward 2015 recruit per Scout.com): Has played a big role this season as a true freshman, averaging 19 minutes and 7.4 points per game while shooting 50 percent from 3; leaves on a mission after this season.
— Senior PF Jakob Hartsock (consensus 3-star 2013 recruit per 247sports.com): Averaged 6.6 minutes in 21 games as a freshman this season.
— Senior PF Braiden Shaw (consensus 3-star 2013 recruit per 247sports.com): Averaged 3.3 minutes in 17 games as a freshman this season.
— Freshman F Gavin Baxter (2016 recruit No. 13 PF, No. 58 overall per Scout.com, No. 24 SF ESPN): Will go on a mission before enrolling at BYU, which should make him a true freshman in 2018-19.
— Freshman SG Connor Hardin (No. 31 shooting guard, 4-star 2016 recruit per ESPN): Will go on a mission before enrolling at BYU, which should make him a true freshman in 2018-19.
— Junior SF Dalton Nixon (No. 42 small forward 2014 recruit per ESPN, consensus 3-star per 247sports.com): Averaged 9.7 minutes in 27 games last season before leaving on an LDS mission.
— Junior C Ryan Andrus (No. 53 center, 3-star 2014 recruit per ESPN): Averaged 7.5 minutes in 21 games last season before leaving on an LDS mission.
— Senior PF Luke Worthington (consesus 3-star 2013 recruit per 247sports.com): Played in 64 games over two previous seasons before leaving on an LDS mission.
That's 14 players who were either 4 or 3-star recruits that will be on BYU's roster in 2018-19, including five who were ESPN Top-100 recruits.
Who knows who else coach Dave Rose will recruit between now and then? The question is, will they have room for any more talent on the roster?
Yes, on the surface the 2015-16 Cougars have been a disappointment; but in reality they're exactly where they were supposed to be — in the third round of the NIT Tournament as a 2-seed.
BYU fans have generally had it good in the Rose era, with a Sweet-16 appearance and stars such as Lee Cummard, Jonathan Tavernari, Jimmer Fredette, Jackson Emery, Tyler Haws, Brandon Davies and Kyle Collinsworth.
But fans are about to see an infusion of talent, and especially depth of talent, that is unprecedented at BYU.
And the Cougs are on track to ride it all the way to a national title.
Nate Gagon is a songwriter, playwright, novelist, sports writer and founder of collaborative media company, Gaxagon Media. He is a former regular, now occasional, contributor to DeseretNews.com. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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