Cinderella Watch: In March, BYU Likely to Score

Kyle Collinsworth (5) and Tyler Haws (3) both have NCAA Tournament experience, though neither have played in the Big Dance at the same time. - Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

You may have seen the Cougars on TV during their high-profile non-conference slate. You may have forgot about them because they lost a lot of those games. BYU is on the right side of the bubble, so it's time to get reacquainted with this juggernaut offense.

BYU Cougars

West Coast Conference
Overall Record: 17-9
Conference Record: 9-4
RPI: 46
Key Wins: vs. Texas (26), at Stanford (44), vs. Saint Mary's (55)
Worst Loss: at Loyola Marymount (165)
Average RPI Win: 133
Average RPI Loss: 74
NCAA Tournament History: 27 Appearances (last in 2012), 15-30 all-time

This Season

Despite a 17-9 record with a mid-major conference affiliation, the Cougars are still on the right side of the at-large bubble. An absolutely brutal non-conference slate, which ranks fifth in strength of schedule, allowed BYU to weather a mid-season rough patch.

Ten of BYU's games so far have come against RPI top-100 opponents. During the non-conference slate the Cougars faced Wichita State (6), UMass (12), Iowa State (13), Texas (26), Oregon (43) and Stanford (44). They're 5-5 overall against the RPI top-100.

All those quality opponents must have taken their toll on the Cougars, because the end of 2013 was not pretty. BYU dropped four straight to Utah, Oregon, Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine. However, all of those games came on the road.

Since then, the Cougars have bounced back, winning nine of eleven games. The only losses came on a road swing to Portland and Gonzaga.

Five games remain before the WCC Tournament in Las Vegas. Every team left on the schedule is at or above .500 for the season. The only real challenges come with a trip to Saint Mary's on the 15th and a visit from Gonzaga on the 20th. BYU soundly defeated the Gaels last month in Provo but were handled by the Zags up in Spokane.

Currently a half game up on Saint Mary's for second place, the Cougars are on track to earn the #2 seed in the WCC Tournament. Unlike years past, the top two seeds no longer receive double-byes into the semifinals. Starting this year, seeds 1-6 receive a bye into the quarterfinals. If BYU does indeed get the #2 seed, the Cougars will face off against the winner of a first round game between the #10 and #7 seed.

Key Player: Tyler Haws

The 6' 5", junior shooting guard is averaging 24.5ppg this season. That's the third highest scoring average in the NCAA. With 1,765 career points, he's already in eighth place on the Cougars' all time scoring list. Had he not played his freshman season alongside some guy named Jimmer Fredette (2,599 career points), there is no question Haws would already be closing in on first place.

Haws has been the go-to guy for the Cougars all season long. He's led the team in scoring in 18 of the the 24 games he's played this season. He's able to lead the team so consistently because he's lethal from anywhere on the floor. This season Haws is shooting 48% from the field, 45% from three and 88% from the free throw line. Plus, with less than 18% of his made field goals coming from deep, he's not the kind of shooter you can just run off the three point line. Haws creates his own shot, and the Cougars have faith in him to do so even in clutch situations.


Take a look at Haws' multifaceted scoring ability in this video. It shows every point he scored in a game last season against Virginia Tech. By the way, this is no longer his career high. He scored 48 in a triple overtime loss at Portland last month.

Why They Will Succeed in March

Offense and experience. Let's start with offense.

Good luck outscoring the Cougars. BYU ranks third in the NCAA scoring 86.7 points per game. They're not the most efficient scoring team (38th in the NCAA with 1.10 points per possession), but the Cougars get so many chances that it doesn't matter. Dave Rose' offense gets up and down the court at a blistering pace, over 77 possessions per 40 minutes. Nationally, basketball games are played at a relative snail's pace of just 68 possessions per 40 minutes.

Tyler Haws isn't the only Cougar who can get buckets. Junior point guard Matt Carlino is a 1,000-plus career point scorer and he's coming off the bench. 6' 6" sophomore guard Kyle Collinsworth is equally adept at bringing the ball up the court and running offense as he is at crashing the glass. Collinsworth is a true stat sheet stuffer, averaging 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists per game. He fell one assist short of a triple double last month against Pepperdine. In the post, Eric Mika is the best freshman who won't be receiving a USPS truck load of Valentine's Day cards from ESPN.

Now let's get to the experience part. I've already mentioned the Cougars' brutal schedule this season, but we can't overlook past seasons. Last March, despite missing out on the Big Dance, the Cougars were able to make a statement. With wins over Washington, Mercer and Southern Miss, BYU advanced to the NIT semis before losing to eventual champion Baylor.

Because many Cougars have taken LDS missions, we need to look back even farther. Kyle Collinsworth's freshman campaign was the 2010-2011 Jimmermania season. He led the Cougars in rebounds in all three of their NCAA Tournament games. The season before that was Haws' freshman year. In two NCAA Tournament games in 2010, Haws connected on seven of eleven field goal attempts and made all eight of his free throws.

Right now Chris Dobbertean has the Cougars as an 11 seed playing a First Four game in Dayton. The Cougars are no strangers to the First Four. In 2012 BYU made tournament history with their comeback against Iona after trailing by 25 points.

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