BYU Hoopsters Need to Pick Up the Tempo

Scotten Whaley weighs in on what the Cougar basketball team can do to not only get back to their winning ways, but improve up the winning tradition of the last 5 years. Foremost on his agenda for the Cougs is to score more points by picking up the tempo.

BYU is about to enter a new era of basketball. The transition from the Steve Cleveland to Dave Rose eras should be relatively smooth because Rose was an assistant to Cleveland for eight seasons. Both coaches have similar styles: play solid defense and be smart on offense.

In the eyes of this Cougar fan, however, many of Cleveland's teams lacked the offensive creativity needed to find ways to score when in the midst of a scoring drought. At times, it seemed that it was almost required for BYU to go at least five minutes without scoring in a game under Cleveland. This was too bad, because when BYU scored under Cleveland they won.

For instance, when a Cleveland team scored at least 80 points, they were 49-5 for a .907 win percentage. Conversely, when they scored under 60, they were just 11-41 or a .212 winning percentage. With records like that, you would think that BYU would want to push the tempo, not slow things down.

Coach Cleveland did say that there are very few teams that push the tempo in college basketball today. That is fine, but it was obvious that BYU was more successful in the faster pace. Of course, simply wanting to run and score more is not enough. The team must have the players who can execute such an offense and the other team needs to be willing to a degree to play along.

While the game in the NBA is different and the styles don't necessarily translate to or from the college level, one team that made the transition from a slower-paced offense to a run-and-gun was the Phoenix Suns. Coach Rose may want to take a page from Mike D'Antoni's book.

In 2004, the Suns were a meager 29-53. They averaged 94.2 points a game. D'Antoni took over 20 games into the 03-04 season. Since then, the Suns have gone 83-60 (.580). D'Antoni's fast-paced offense has raised the Suns scoring average more than 16 points per game to 110.4. One key asset of the offense is three-point shooting. In 04-05, the Suns took, on average 24.7 three pointers a game and made 9.7 (39%). It was a 68% increase in attempts but a 90% in makes. The final result – the only one that really matters – was a 62-20 record, good for best in the NBA.

Now, the Suns do have NBA MVP Steve Nash, all-stars Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion and NBA Three-Point Champion Quentin Richardson, and that helps. But the question bears asking – could BYU see similar success by following a similar pattern?

The Cougars definitely have the shooters. They return three players who shot 35% or better from behind the arc (Austin Ainge, Jimmy Balderson and Mike Rose). There are also guys on the bench who are good shooters, but either never found their shot or red-shirted last year (Sam Burgess and Trent Plaisted). They have also brought in several recruits who can light it up from downtown (Rashaun Broadus, Lee Cummard, Jackson Emery, and Fernando Malaman).

With those nine players, BYU could definitely play at a much higher tempo. There would also be enough shooters to rotate guys often enough that fatigue would not be a problem. It would open things up inside for guys like David Burgess, Derek Dawes, Garner Meads, and Keena Young.

Coach Rose has said that he wants to attack teams. It would seem that pressing the pace would fit in that game plan. Rose played a similar style when was the head coach at Dixie College. It will be interesting to see if he opens up the floor and allows the Cougars to run and keep the scoring up.

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