PROVO — BYU will need the three-ball this year, but does Dave Rose have confidence enough in his archers? They’re capable, but are they cold-blooded enough to fire away?
The Cougars open the season on the road Tuesday night at seventh-ranked Nevada, a huge challenge. The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee made it clear last year that playing “up” is the roadmap for Big Dance aspirants.
If BYU is to challenge Gonzaga in the WCC and make some noise in Las Vegas at the league tournament, it will need to find its range from distance. It has become the great equalizer in the game.
The NBA knows it. The game has evolved and emphasis across the globe is now on points from beyond the arc. Gobs of 3-pointers are going to beat traditional inside-the-paint play. It’s trading threes for twos.
But if you take ’em, you have to make a chunk of ’em count. It’s like voting.
Two years ago, BYU had archers and wasn’t afraid to use them. Plus, they ran and tried to attack defenses early. Last year with Heath Schroyer, it was a more disciplined and deliberate attack that at times worked. But it frustrated the shooters and it showed in their accuracy, rhythm and confidence.
Word on the street is if that conservative mindset is deployed this year, there will be either a revolt or trips to psychiatrist office.
I wouldn’t expect Rose to totally sell out when he has Yoeli Childs inside, but it is a tool he needs to deliver.
TJ Haws is one of the best Utah high school players I’ve ever seen. He is also a guy who needs people to believe in his game and set him loose. He had 29 against Gonzaga in 2017 and 26 against San Francisco last season. He is a career 36 percent shooter from distance and he has Jimmer range. Because Haws dumps in free throws at an 80 percent rate, he can certainly find points in other ways, like his older brother Tyler did.
Set him free.
Zac Seljaas set the 3-point line on fire as a freshman and was among the nation’s top five from distance that year. But he came back early from missionary service and has yet to find that consistency. A year ago he struggled and looked out of sorts in BYU’s stoic offense. He is a career 42 percent shooter from beyond the arc (91 of 214).
Seljaas, find some karma.
Point guard Jahshire Hardnett is tremendous at dribble penetration and finishing at the hoop, thus he has post-player-like 42 percent accuracy from the field. But he’s hit just 15 of 46 from distance (32 percent). In fairness, his job has been to set up Haws and departed Elijah Bryant, and feed Childs in the post.
Hardnett, if it’s there, bury the sucker.
Weber State transfer McKay Cannon has accepted his spot as a role player but he’s hit big shots and has range. With Rose trying to fit a kind of youth movement with freshman Connor Harding, Cannon may find his minutes carved up, but he’s capable.
Patience with the cannon fodder, Cannon.
Sophomore Rylan Bergersen is an athletic, long guard who hasn’t had many opportunities, but could be called upon because of his defense. If he gets hot, he ought to be given opportunities because he showed he can hit threes in high school. He’s 4 for 10 in limited action playing for the Cougars.
Bergersen, keep the elbow greased.
Harding, who earned Idaho Player of the Year honors as a 5A star out of Highland High in Pocatello, has all the intangibles. At 6-foot-6, with wide shoulders and a natural feel for the game, he has been impressive in exhibition play in this his rookie year. He is an option and I’d expect him to be given chances as this season progresses. He has a textbook release.
Harding, stay confident, stay ready.
Nick Emery won’t play during BYU’s first nine games due to an NCAA suspension after sitting out last year for personal issues. Anyone who has followed Emery knows he can hit threes with the best of them. He’s competitive, his fire runs hot, and when he is eligible, he’ll be an immediate help with fresh legs in December.
Emery, stay humble and engaged.
Dave Rose has roots in the run-and-gun at Houston. At times at BYU he’s seen it work and when he’s had firepower from his guards, they’ve proven capable of taking down Gonzaga and others. Two of BYU’s all-time leading scorers have come in the Rose era, Jimmer Fredette and Tyler Haws.
Rose, time to win a title.13 comments on this story
In all this mix, you have Childs, BYU’s most athletic player and best hope for inside scoring. Aside from freshman Gavin Baxter, Childs gives the Cougars an above-the-rim artist who will play bigger when he is on both ends of the court. After a long off-season where he toyed with turning professional, Childs is back and will hunt for 3-point shots as part of a move to expand his game.
Childs, be selective in this venture.
Nevada should defeat the Cougars Tuesday night in the opener. But it will be fun to see if BYU can find its range in 2018-19.
If it doesn’t, this could be another third-place finish in the WCC and that’s getting pretty boring in the age of video games.