Is it just me or is the world’s sports calendar really messed up this year? Baseball ended late, football started early, and basketball started really early. I think this has been the reason it’s taken me awhile to get into basketball mode. Don’t get me wrong, I love basketball. It was my first real passion in life. I love everything about it — the dunks and the buzzer beaters, the bad tatoos and the even worse hairdos. I love everything from the athletic swingmen to the overweight centers, Coach K to Donald Sterling. I love the game of basketball.
That being said, I’ve still been in the football mode for the last couple of weeks and it’s taken me awhile to get into following basketball again, and especially BYU basketball. In fact, it took me until the fifth game of the season to finally attend a game. In doing so, I was reminded of just how much I love the game and love following the team. In that spirit, I’ve decided to shamelessly ape Jake Welch’s weekly BYU football roundup and start my own BYU basketball feature, keeping you updated on the team as the season progresses.
Coming off last Tuesday’s 107-51 thrashing of Southern, the Cougars were undefeated heading into Friday’s game against in-state foe Weber State. I arrived at the game early in order to secure better seats for myself and was particularly impressed by this year’s intro videos. Let’s just say whoever is marketing the basketball team seems to be doing a much better job than the person honored with spiriting the tradition of BYU football — which reminds me: the Ronnie Ron and Roscoe halftime videos, starring Lamont Morgan Jr. and Charles Abouo, are pretty hilarious. Just saying.
There was one thing that was readily apparent just a few minutes into the Weber State game that sets this team apart from last year’s, and that is the amount of depth available to this year’s squad. Behind the starters, quite a few players are seeing quality minutes, including Lamont Morgan Jr., Charles Abouo, Noah Hartsock, Michael Loyd Jr., and Brandon Davies. (On a sidenote, how many teams have two players with “Jr.” on their jerseys? I think this phenomenon alone allows for Lamont Morgan and Michael Loyd’s inclusion on the Junior All-Star Team, along with Sammy Davis, Ken Griffey, Henry Jones, and Carl’s. But I digress.)
The other easy observation is that this team lacks an alpha dog. Every team needs that one player to give the ball to in crunch time. That one player who the team can feed the ball to when everyone else is ice cold, knowing he’ll get them a basket. This year’s team would seemingly have two candidates for this all-important role. The first is Jonathan Tavernari. Now let me say, I am on the record as saying I think Jonathan Tavernari is the worst player in college basketball. Last season, he routinely gave no effort on defense, refused to fight for rebounds, and took 10 really bad shots a game without ever looking to pass to his teammates. Not to mention his generally douchey demeanor (tucked-in warm-ups, always calling for the ball, a personalized license plate that says JT 45, etc.) made him seem like the guy you really don’t want on your team. However, I saw something I’d never seen before last Friday night — Tavernari actually looked like an asset to the team. I saw him give an effort on defense, fight for rebounds, and he only took three really bad, selfish shots. He may redeem himself in my eyes if this trend continues, but he still has a long way to go. Nevertheless, he is not versatile enough to be the crunch time player: Your alpha dog should always be someone who can create their own shot. I’m not sure if Tavernari has enough moves to be that player.
The second candidate for the alpha dog position would undoubtedly be Jimmer Fredette. Jimmer established himself as one of the best players in the Mountain West Conference and an elite 3-point shooter last season. (He also gave me some free pizza once.) Yet he seems to have gotten the idea in his head this season that he is Dwayne Wade and that his strength is blowing by people, driving into the lane, throwing himself into the defender and twisting in mid-air to make an acrobatic shot. This is not his strength. In fact, this is exactly what he should not be doing.
Time and time again, I watched him drive into the lane and throw himself at the defense in the post against Weber State, trying to make an acrobatic shot. It worked once. Not to mention he spent far too much time dribbling around at the top of the key for the entire duration of the shot clock before trying to drive and play one-on-five. It was like watching the Cavs’ offense in the fourth quarter. Jimmer has neither the ball-handling ability nor the athleticism to be efficient at that style of play; He is best when he gets his excellent 3-point shooting going and finds a rhythm. He did that near the end of the Weber State game, and he looked much better than he had for the previous 30 minutes.
The lack of a go-to guy will cause problems for this team as the year progresses. If Reggie Miller has taught us nothing else (and, let’s be honest, he hasn’t), it’s that if your go-to crunch time player(s) is a three-point shooter, you’ll win some games, but not championships.
The Cougars have just one game this upcoming weekend — this Saturday against San Francisco at 4:00 p.m. at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City. San Francisco comes in with a 2-5 record and shouldn’t pose much of a threat for the Cougs. Look for a blowout and for Dave Rose to get a lot of the younger guys some quality minutes.
1. Jackson Emery — Three straight threes to completely change the momentum and put us up in the second half. Simply put, he is the golden child and the team is significantly better when he’s on the court.
2. Brandon Davies — The freshman put in 10 points and 4 rebounds in just 11 first-half minutes
3. Ronnie Ron and Roscoe — No explanation necessary.
1. Dave Rose’s personnel moves — Anyone with half a brain can tell Jackson Emery makes your team better. So why did he stay on the bench so long as Weber State cut the lead and eventually took it? And, as previously mentioned, Brandon Davies looked great in the first half — then didn’t play a minute in the second. Put your best players on the court, Coach.
2. Tyler Haws — You’re pretty terrible.
3. Whoever decided to play Austin Powers quotes over the PA during timeouts — Has any comedy held up worse then Austin Powers? Short answer: probably not.
Ben Wagner is a regular correspondent for Rhombus. He considers himself completely heterosexual, despite the fact that he has scribbled Jackson Emery’s name (with hearts) on the back of his notebooks.
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