If you are a pessimist and took my advice and did not read part one, you should find many of the points expressed to be in concordance with your views. If you are an optimist and did read part one, you may want to simply skip today's reading and prepare for the season opener.
1. EXPERIENCE. Many of the core players on this year's roster (Austin Ainge, Mike Rose, Jimmy Balderson, Keena Young, Sam Burgess, and Derek Dawes) were also on last year's team that went 9-21. Much of the experience they bring to the team is of the negative kind. Not only did the Cougars lose ten games by ten or more points, they were either tied or had the lead in the second half of twelve of fourteen conference games. They simply do not know how to close games nor have the ability make the plays they need to win.
2. NEWCOMERS. A lot has been said about the "new" talent that BYU will play this year. There are six players who did not play or barely played last year who could see significant time at various points in the season. Four of them are freshman and it will take time for them to adjust to the speed and quality of Division I basketball. Some of these players do have talent, but are years away from valuable contributions to the BYU program. The other two are junior college transfers. They too will have to adjust to D-1, in addition to learning new offensive and defensive systems.
3. HEAD COACH DAVE ROSE. Coach Rose has been tasked with turning around the basketball program. He wants to run an up-and-down style of play with players that were recruited to run Steve Cleveland's half-court motion offense. While the Cougars are solid on defense, there are going to be growing pains with the new tempo. If fans were concerned with the number of turnovers last year, wait until they see BYU try to get out and run and force passes up and down the court or take shots early in the shot-clock. Things can get ugly very quickly that way.
4. UP-TEMPO OFFENSE. Yes, the old half-court sets are no longer in the repertoire. But many of the players remain the same. This is a team that had trouble taking care of the ball last year (only one returner had more assists than turnovers and he had nearly 100 turnovers). They are now supposed to take care of it while sprinting up and down the court? Coaches have said that rebounding is key to the new offense. Yet, BYU was out-rebounded in six of its last nine games. They also lost three of their top five rebounders. Shot selection is also essential to the new offense, which is something the Cougars will probably continue to struggle at this year.
5. SHOOTING. This is a team with, what appears to be, many good shooters. The problem is that most of them are not great shooters when game-time comes around. Here are the three-point shooting percentages for the returning players: Ainge 34.5%, Rose 40.6%, S. Burgess 30.3%, Balderson 42.0%. As a team, BYU only made 41.9% of all their shots. There were only four games where they shot better than 50%. If this team is to succeed, they will have to shoot the ball better than they did. Only one of the newcomers could be considered a "shooter." Do not be surprised to see the Cougars struggle to make baskets again.
6. TRENT PLAISTED. The kid can jump out of the gym. But that does not always translate into basket-making ability. The game will not stop so Plaisted can jump and grab a quarter off the backboard. He played 44 minutes last year missed all three shots and half his free throws, yet he is supposed to lead BYU to resurgence on offense. He averaged one rebound every six minutes or so. Not exactly the pace you would expect from a 6-foot-11 player. By comparison, Andrew Bogut of Utah (also 6-foot-11) averaged one rebound every three minutes and 25 seconds. Also, do not forget that he is a freshman.
7. LEE CUMMARD. The next Great One? The next Danny Ainge? Not this year. Here is a kid who is very skinny and will need to put on some serious muscle. He is another kid with lots of hype who has a ways to go to live up to half of it. Another question that surrounds him is mentality. Is he mentally tough enough to take the abuse opposing fans are going to dish out to him? How will he handle adversity? When the Utah fans get after him for coming home from his mission early, will it affect his game? The sky is the limit for Cummard, but what if the rocket does not take off this year? He has game, but that game probably won't be a big factor this year.
8. RASHAUN BROADUS. Another one of the "newcomers" that BYU fans are counting on big time. There are many Cougar fans who believe that Ainge is playing out of position when he runs the point. Therefore, BYU needed to bring in a quality point guard to run the team. Broadus was brought in for that reason. The problem is that he may very well be very similar to Ainge in that he could be a shoot-first point guard. Yes, he is quick and should improve the Cougs perimeter defense, but it was on offense that BYU struggled most last year. The last thing they need on the floor is another inconsistent shooter. He could be Kevin Woodberry all over again.
9. SIZE. There are some big boys on this team. But the best players on the team are all undersized, with the exception of Plaisted (who has his own issues). If the season were to start today there is a good chance that the starting line-up could be Broadus at the point, Ainge at the two-guard, Balderson at the three, Keena Young at the four and Trent Plaisted at the five. Broadus is 6-foot, not the tallest for points. Ainge is going to be smaller than many shooting guards. Balderson has decent size for a three, but lacks the lateral quickness that other small forwards in conference have. At 6-foot-6, Young is simply too small to be a power forward in D-1. And while Plaisted has good height at 6-foot-11, it remains to be seen if he has the toughness to play down low. Other players deficient in either size and/or quickness for their positions include: Rose, S. Burgess, and Dawes.
10. HISTORY. This is BYU. This is a program that has not gone beyond the second round of the NCAA tournament since Danny Ainge was roaming the court. This is a team that has not won an outright regular-season conference championship since 1993. This is a team that has not won at Utah since Robbie Reid was launching half-court buzzer beaters. History is the 600-pound gorilla that is sleeping on the Cougar basketball program. The question is, are the 2005-2006 players good enough to make it find another place to sleep? Probably not.
Is there talent in the program? Yes. Is it ready to take control this year? No, it is not. Can BYU sneak up on a few opponents this year? Yes. But it seems that other programs enjoy kicking BYU when they are down. Those ten 10-point losses could be a recurring theme in Provo this year.
Is Coach Rose the coach to return BYU to the glory of the Danny Ainge Era? It is way too early to tell. It is not too early to say that it will not happen this year. Rose is a proven winner, but his roster is anything but.
The outlook for the 2005-2006 season? More "thorny" than "rosey." Look for the Cougs to be slightly better than last year and make it to double-digit wins. But just barely, as they win 11.