Expectations remain high in Provo and they should be. Despite the loss of some key players, BYU remains one of the best teams in the WCC and should contend for the regular season championship.
They may have the best NBA prospect in the conference in Brandon Davies. They have one of the more electric guards in WCC in Matt Carlino. And they sure have one of the best coaches in Dave Rose.
This is a team that has won at least 25 games every year for the last six years. Let’s see if it could happen again.
9th: PEP | 8th: POR | 7th: USF
6th: SCU | 5th: USD | 4th: LMU
3rd: BYU | 2nd: Oct. 31 | 1st: Nov. 2
Predicted 2012-13 WCC Finish: 3rd
Head coach: Dave Rose, 8th season
2011-12 record: 26-9, 12-4 WCC
WCC regular season finish: 3rd
Postseason: NCAA Tournament, Second Round
Key returners: Matt Carlino, Brandon Davies, Brock Zylstra, Tyler Haws
Key newcomers: Ian Harward, Cooper Ainge, Cory Calvert, Kyle Rose
Projected starting lineup:
Matt Carlino, G
Tyler Haws, G
Brock Zylstra, G
Brandon Davies, F
Nate Austin, C
No Noah Hartsock. No Charles Abouo. There is going to be a transition, especially in the frontcourt for the Cougars but this is not to say they do not return a ton of talent.
BYU should be a better shooting team than they were a year ago and cause a number of mismatches in the backcourt. They return three starters and look to extend their NCAA Tournament appearance streak to seven, a streak that was nearly broken a year ago after being selected as a 14-seed.
“I think all of us have an urgency to step up and do a little better this year than we did last year,” BYU guard Brock Zylstra said. “It goes with me, goes with all the wings, goes with Brandon as well. It’s something we all feel. I’m really excited about this year’s team”
The backcourt really struggled last season due to its inexperience. But now they return a ton of talent and all of it with experience. Matt Carlino returns for his sophomore season. Zylstra is back. The most important addition is the return of Tyler Haws, who is back from his mission the last two years.
BYU was seventh in the WCC in three-point shooting at 34 percent. Haws in his one season two years ago shot 36 percent from three and others have made improvements as well.
“We’ve got a lot better, I think, shooting the ball this offseason,” Carlino said. “Obviously, I can shoot the ball but I’m going to be a playmaker for the team. There are going to be so many options, they all have to collapse. There are so many guys on our team that can flat out stroke it.”
Even though the shooting looks to be improved, even the guards know the success of this team comes from the inside. More specifically, it starts with Brandon Davies.
“I think our offense is directly focused on the inside guys, Brandon and Nate [Austin],” Zylstra said. “But the good thing about that it gives open shots for the outside guys, the wings. Every game Brandon’s probably going to get double teamed… Two guys guarding him, somebody will be open.”
Davies is the best post player in the WCC and that is on the defensive and offensive side. The 6-foot-9 senior has seen his stats improve incrementally every season with it peaking last year by averaging 15 points and nearly eight rebounds per game.
Austin will have some big shoes to fill with Hartsock now graduated. The 6-foot-11 center was productive in his limited time last season. He averaged a mere 12 minutes per game but was able to collect four points and three rebounds per contest.
BYU was also hoping to have a bit more depth than they will have this year. Both Chris Collinsworth and Stephen Rogers have both called it a career after suffering setbacks with their recoveries from injury.
Follow Zack Farmer on Twitter: @Zack_Farmer