2008 BYU Basketball Blue Ribbon Preview

COACH AND PROGRAM

It hasn’t taken Dave Rose long to get things rolling at BYU. The Cougars have won at least 20 games in each of Rose’s three seasons and have captured back-to-back regular-season Mountain West championships.

BYU owns the nation’s longest homecourt winning streak at 47 and even though it lost one of its best players to the NBA draft — junior post Trent Plaisted (15.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg) — there’s a good chance the Cougars could win yet another league crown.

However, BYU has lost to UNLV on its home court at the Thomas & Mack Center in the championship game of the MWC Tournament each of the last two years. And, the Cougars have yet to advance past the first round of the NCAA Tournament under Rose.

Most coaches around the league wish they had those problems.

“We had a lot of challenges in front of us heading into [last] season,” Rose said. “We had to replace the player of the year in our league in Keena Young as well as some other key players.

“As we go into this season, there are some similar things we have to overcome and players we have to replace.”

BYU Cougars

Last Season 27-8 (.771)
Conference Record 14-2 (1st)
Starters Lost/Returning 3/2
Coach Dave Rose (Houston ’83)
Record At School 72-26 (3 years)
Career Record 72-26 (3 years)
RPI Last 5 years 31-215-67-18-25

Despite losing Plaisted, who had completed his undergraduate degree after his junior season and was drafted by Oklahoma City, BYU boasts arguably the best and most versatile player in the Mountain West in 6-7, 190-pound senior guard Lee Cummard (#30, 15.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.0 bpg). He was the league’s Co-Player of the Year and an honorable mention All-American by Associated Press last season.

“Lee is one of those special players,” Rose said. “He does so much for us and is a tough match-up for just about everyone. He had a great year last season and has had a great off-season. His leadership has been great and he is really focused to come back to have a fabulous senior year and to graduate.”

Cummard ranked in the top 10 in the Mountain West in 9-of-12 statistical categories last season, including scoring (fifth), rebounding (sixth), field-goal percentage (first), assists (seventh) and free-throw percentage (first). That versatility was on display in the Mountain West Tournament, when he averaged 16.3 points. 5.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists. He shot .593 from the field, .667 from three-point range (6-of-9) and .917 (11-of-12) from the free-throw line in three games.

Cummard put his name into the NBA draft after last season but didn’t hire an agent, enabling him to return in mid June.

“There’s no doubt that I could be a pro, but right now I think it’s best for me to stay in school and delay taking part in the draft until next year,” Cummard said. “I felt good about the feedback I received from my workouts. The process was very positive for me, and I look forward to being part of next year’s NBA draft after finishing out my college career at BYU.”

“Lee got great feedback from the teams that watched him play, but he took his name out because he is also really excited to come back and help us try to win another championship,” Rose said. “He had a terrific junior year, and I expect he will have a great senior season and be in good position for next year’s NBA Draft.”

BYU must replace a pair of senior guards in Ben Murdock (3.9 ppg, 3.6 apg) and Sam Burgess (8.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.9 apg), who were solid role players and ran the team efficiently.

PLAYERS

A couple of sophomores figure to pick up those duties — Michael Loyd, Jr. (#10, 2.0 ppg, 1.2 apg) and Jimmer Fredette (#32, 7.0 ppg, 1.7 apg).

Fredette, 6-2, played in all 35 games as a true freshman and was sixth in minutes played (18.8 per game). The 6-1 Loyd saw action in 32 games and averaged just under nine minutes.

“Both Michael and Jimmer got some good experience last season,” Rose said. “Jimmer has had a really good off-season and should be much improved, as should Michael.”

Fredette will likely be the starter at the point.

Rose is high on two new guards in 6-0 red-shirt freshman Matt Pinegar (#20) and 5-10 red-shirt junior Lamont Morgan, Jr. (#2). Pinegar was a prep standout at Provo’s Timpview High and Morgan Jr. is a transfer from Saddleback (Calif.) Community College.

Pinegar was chosen first-team all-state as a junior and senior.

Morgan’s quickness is a weapon that he took advantage of last season at Saddleback, which he led to the 2007 state semifinals while averaging 7.3 points and 4.4 assists.

Six-foot-5, 205-pound Archie Rose (#5) (no relation to coach Rose) returns as a senior guard who averaged less than a point and rebound per game last season. Jackson Emery (#4), 6-3, returns after a two-year church mission. Emery averaged 2.8 points and 1.5 rebounds as a freshman in 2005-06, playing in 28-of-29 games with six starts. He scored in double figures twice and was also a solid perimeter defender.

Charles Abouno (#1), a 6-4 freshman out of Logan, Utah, played last season at Brewster (N.H.) Academy. The athletic Abouno was a two-time all-state selection at Logan High School.

Freshman guard Nick Martineau (0.7 ppg, 0.4 rpg) went on his two-year mission after last season and won’t be back until 2010.

In the frontcourt, 6-6, 215-pound junior forward Jonathan Tavernari (#45, 13.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg) returns. Tavernari was a third-team All-MWC pick last season and was the conference’s freshman of the year in 2006-07. He was third on the team in scoring and rebounding.

One of the best three-point shooters in the Mountain West (37.6 percent), Tavernari set a BYU sophomore record with 88 treys last season.

“To have a versatile player like Jonathan is invaluable and he is a great complement to Lee,” Rose said. “He’s one of the most competitive guys I’ve been around, whether that is in practice, games or even doing some of our off-season stuff.

“He has great range as a shooter.”

Tavernari is from Brazil and tried out for its Olympic team. He was one of the few non-professional players who was offered to try out.

After Tavernari, BYU’s experience in the frontcourt is thin.

Six-foot-11, 235-pound junior Chris Miles (#54) logged about nine minutes per game last season, and averaged 2.5 points and 1.5 rebounds.

Freshman forward Chris Collinsworth (3.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg) left on his mission after last season.

Senior Gavin McGregor (#53) is back after missing last season with a knee injury. In 2006-07, the 6-10, 235-pounder averaged 1.2 points per game, and Rose likes his ability to play defense and rebound.

Rose hopes a pair of newcomers will help — 6-10, 220-pound red-shirt freshman James Anderson (#15), who Rose described as “long, agile and skilled for a big man,” and 6-8, 205-pound freshman Noah Hartsock (#34).

Anderson is certainly mature enough; he went on a two-year LDS mission to Guatemala before his red-shirt season. He was a first-team all-state pick at Page (Ariz.) High school after averaging 17 points, nine rebounds and six blocked shots. He set a state record with a 14-block game.

Hartsock also returns from a mission, which he embarked upon after his senior season at Bartlesville High School, during which he averaged 27.6 points, eight boards and three blocks and earned Oklahoma 6A Player-of-the-Year honors.

BLUE RIBBON ANALYSIS

BACKCOURT: B
BENCH/DEPTH: B
FRONTCOURT: C
INTANGIBLES: A

BYU has the best homecourt advantage in the Mountain West, and maybe in the nation. The team is well-coached and Rose seems to be able to fill holes with new players every year.

Cummard did a lot last season and may have to do even more, especially early, until some other proven players are found in the frontcourt.

A third straight conference title is a possible, although UNLV may have something to say about that. BYU will have some good early-season tests with a game against Arizona State and a home contest against ACC member Wake Forest, which was one of the few teams that beat the Cougars rather handily last season, 79-62. There is also a game with Utah State in Salt Lake City.

The Cougars produced some impressive numbers last season with MWC records in rebounds (1,351), rebounds in league play (618), and tied for the most road wins (eight) and most road wins in conference play (six).

BYU may not put up numbers that impressive this season, but this is a quality team that will be in the thick of the conference race.

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