PROVO — Brandon Davies and BYU basketball separated for the season Tuesday.
And it has been a dandy of a season.
The shocking news couldn't have come at a more dramatic time for Dave Rose and his basketball program. It came one day after the Cougars attained a lofty No. 3 national ranking and the week BYU could win the Mountain West Conference title outright. It comes just when the national media declared the Cougars are in the hunt for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament — the Davies news landed like a bomb.
Tonight, when the Cougars host the only league team that has defeated them, New Mexico, we will see how Rose, his staff and the team respond, both emotionally and strategically.
Make no mistake about it; the loss of Davies is a huge blow. His skill set, the tremendous impact he's had this late in the season in rebounding, blocks and scoring points will be missed.
The quickness to which BYU officials reacted to its investigation of Davies and his issue with the school's honor code means this wasn't a trivial issue. It wasn't probation; it was not an item that could be put off for a few weeks; it was a violation that required decisive and immediate action.
Davies is a good person. I wish Davies well as he tackles this issue. Everyone makes mistakes and they should be able to work out their challenges and grow from the experience with support from family, friends and the university community. He was adopted by a single mother as an infant, and his story so far has been inspiring.
Subtract Davies from BYU's roster and you poke the Cougars in a soft spot that was already suspect. He has been BYU's most-polished post player. But he was a post player on a team that is geared for shooting 3-pointers and running fast breaks. The fast breaks work a whole lot better when you have a guy like Davies pulling down rebounds.
When Davies has been in foul trouble and sat on the bench, which is often, Rose has reacted by deploying a unique committee.
That committee consists of 6-8 junior Noah Hartsock, 6-10 junior James Anderson and 6-6 Logan Magnusson. Now, athletic 6-6 junior Charles Abouo, fresh off three outstanding career-type games, may also be part of the mix.
While Davies' great offensive skill set will be missed, the biggest impact on the floor might be on the other end where Davies got in foul trouble a lot defending the post. BYU needs post defenders. It will also impact rebounding, a talent Davies excelled at.
It will have an immediate domino effect on the roster. If Hartsock starts as center, 6-8 forward Stephen Rogers will replace him. If Abouo is used in the post, especially for rebounding, the former small forward starter Kyle Collinsworth will have to step up.
BYU's post committee will be smaller in statue. And it will have to be good.
On the other hand, Davies was a foul machine. He has committed 90 personal fouls this season, 12 more than Jackson Emery, who might be the best defensive player in the MWC. It has been a liability.
Of the starters who have started all season long, Davies has averaged the fewest minutes due to fouls, just 24.9 minutes a game. He has spent a lot of time sweating out two fouls in the first halves of many a game on the bench. In short, he struggles to stay on the court.
Rose and his staff have shown a penchant for making adjustments and inspiring players to step up when called upon. They have had to do this all season when Davies got in foul trouble.
Adjusting bodies is what Rose does best.
This happened with freshman Kyle Collinsworth, when they asked him to start right out of the chute, and again when he was sidelined last month with a concussion and an able Abouo replaced him.
It happened in January when Kyle's older brother returned missionary Chris Collinsworth suffered season-ending minor knee surgery for a microfracture.
It has happened when Jackson Emery suffered a foot injury and missed practices.
The two hottest players on the team right now are Abouo and Hartsock. They were stars in Saturday's exciting upset over No. 4 San Diego State in Viejas Arena. Hartsock had 15 points and blocked 4 shots. Abouo had 9 rebounds and 18 points.
Defense and rebounding: This is the dual challenge BYU needs in Davies' absence. Davies was just 2 of 6 from the field with 6 boards and 4 points in a foul-plagued, 27-minute showing at SDSU on CBS-TV.
A trademark of Rose-coached teams in six years are consistently displayed traits on the court. His teams are resilient, tough and flexible.
You would expect Rose to demand and receive all of that from his squad tonight against the Lobos.
But you cannot spin the loss of Davies. It is a significant vacancy on BYU's roster and his physical presence and personality will be missed.
And it couldn't have come at a more inconvenient time.
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