2008-09 BYU Basketball Preview: #36
Overall Rank: #36
Conference Rank: #2 MWC
2007-08: 27-8, 14-2, 1st
2007-08 postseason: NCAA
Coming off yet another successful season and another Mountain West Conference championship, BYU expects nothing less than a conference title. Two years ago in the NCAA Tournament the Cougars lost a heartbreaker 79-77 to Xavier. Last year it was more of the same, falling 67-62 to Texas A&M. Coach Dave Rose and company should make it a third straight NCAA appearance and maybe this year they can be more than just a one and done.
Yet, in order to be that successful the team will have to replace some big names, most notably Trent Plaisted. The big man averaged 15.6 points and 7.7 rebounds last season before heading to the NBA a year early. Without his presence in the paint, the Cougars might have some trouble early in the year finding open looks on the perimeter. Vuk Ivanovic and Chris Collinsworth did not play too often, but they were two of the players who would give Plaisted a break or play by his side when the team needed to go big. Without Plaisted, Ivanovic and Collinsworth there is one forward returning who was on last year’s roster. Unfortunately for BYU the graduation bug hit the backcourt too. Ben Murdock and Sam Burgess started all 35 games last year and even Nick Martineau has wrapped up his collegiate career at BYU. The big loss is Murdock, who dished out 3.6 assists per game and kept all the scoring threats happy.
Without Murdock, junior college transfer Lamont Morgan could step into the starting role. He was on the BYU bench redshirting last year after spending some time at Saddleback Community College. He has the quickness, vision and experience to successfully run the point for the next two years. Matt Pinegar and Jackson Emery will give the group on the perimeter more depth. During the 2005-2006 campaign, Emery averaged 2.8 points per game as a freshman. Charles Abouo is a decent scorer and a solid defender and the 6-4 wing could find some minutes as a freshman. Much of last year the Cougars had a four guard lineup on the floor. That will be the case again this year, but a large group of newcomers will at least give Coach Rose some options. Coming out of high school Noah Hartsock was a prized recruit. After a two year mission, he is ready to take that potential and turn it into collegiate productivity. Hartsocks’s ability to score from anywhere on the floor will make him a major offensive weapon sooner or later. Michael Boswell, Gavin MacGregor and James Anderson give the team more options than they have had in quite some time. At the least, Anderson will provide a shot blocking presence to help replace Plaisted.
Who to Watch:
The reason BYU can run a four guard offense effectively is because of Jonathan Tavernari. Ideally, the 6-6 Brazilian would be a wing, but he does a fine job playing at the four spot. He is a solid long range shooter, a good slasher and a quality rebounder. As long as the opposing power forward is not really big, Tavernari will have no problem on the defensive end and his quickness and outside shooting ability will cause a ton of problems for anybody trying to guard him. Tavernari is ready to emerge as a superstar, but Lee Cummard already is one. The 6-7 guard flirted with the NBA, but another year in Provo will do him well. Cummard shot 47.2 percent from three-point land and 56.9 percent overall. For a guard who takes a lot of shots, those are some amazing numbers. Jimmer Fredette had a good freshman campaign and will give Morgan a run for his money at the point. If Fredette is not needed to run the show, he will be playing at the off-guard position.
The backcourt will win the Cougars plenty of games, but the difference between a good year and a great year will be Chris Miles. The 6-11 junior has been biding his time coming off the bench, but now it is his time to replace Plaisted as much as possible. If Miles, who averaged just 8.6 minutes per game last year, is up to the task, BYU will make their third straight NCAA Tournament appearance…and possibly make some noise once they get there.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Lamont Morgan, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Jimmer Fredette, Sophomore, Guard, 7.0 points per game
Lee Cummard, Senior, Guard, 15.8 points per game
Jonathan Tavernari, Junior, Guard, 13.1 points per game
Chris Miles, Junior, Center, 2.5 points per game