A 100-96 loss to No. 11 Oregon in overtime clinched a pre-season of misery for the BYU Cougars basketball team. This setback on Saturday, December 21 illustrated yet another meltdown against a top opponent where BYU found itself in control for most of the game -- yet somehow lost.
Something strange is going on in Provo -- but it's not just one person's fault. It's a team effort.
What will it take for the Cougars to -- in the immortal words of ESPN broadcaster Chris Berman -- get off the schneid? Here are five reasons why BYU cannot beat good teams.
Guard Matt Carlino takes ill advised shots
Since when did anyone tell Carlino it was okay to take the kinds of shots he does? He's not Jimmer -- not even close -- and the decisions he makes is not only jeopardizing BYU's momentum at key stages, he's sabotaging opportunities to win games. Against nationally ranked Wichita State on Tuesday, Nov. 26, a loss, he took 19 shots, by far the most of any player -- missing 12. Against UMass on Saturday, December 7 -- also ranked and another loss -- he took 18 shots, connecting on half of them. At Utah on Saturday, December 14, he attempted 15.
See a pattern developing? Then comes the clincher: BYU is down 100-96 with 2.7 seconds left last night at Oregon, in overtime -- and Carlino is at the free throw line. Now, standard basketball wisdom would tell you to make both free throws, then foul. Instead Carlino, a 68 percent free throw shooter, missed the first shot on purpose, got his own rebound and raced back behind the three pojnt line to take an ill advised three point shot, which missed -- though the buzzer already sounded and the game was over.
Guard Frank Bartley IV makes terrible decisions
Bartley is fast becoming another Carlino based on decisions he's making. Though Bartley isn't hucking up the same frequency of shots -- he's trying to force plays that aren't there. He's already seen a steady drop in his playing time since he attempted 10 shots against UMass on Saturday, December 7. Bartley's field goal shooting percentage has also suffered in games since. He didn't make a shot at Utah and connected on just one shot at Oregon.
Bartley's undoing also came against the Ducks when accompanied by two Cougars he drove the lane, going hard to the rim instead of dishing the ball to an open man -- resulting in a charging call. That decision hurt BYU more than it will ever know -- and coach Dave Rose seems to recognize the issue with Bartley -- but again, this is a team effort. Or is it?
Guard Tyler Haws cannot carry the team by himself
Some people will look at Haws last game as proof that he's playing well. Sure, Haws scored 32 points at Oregon -- but he had to take 21 shots to get to that number -- and a BYU forward led the team in assists. (More about that in a minute.) The other problem is, BYU looks to Haws to fill up the stat sheet against good teams. The other problem is, he is far too inconsistent in these big games to be the go-to guy on a regular basis.
Now some will argue the reason Haws shoots the ball so often is because of the Cougars thin bench. And that's precisely the problem; asking one guy to shoulder the load may work for the L.A. Lakers -- to a point -- when some guy named Kobe Bryant is on your team. But, Tyler is no Kobe -- and he's not even Jimmer -- so using Haws to do the team's bidding time and again is an ineffective way to try to beat good teams. Haws went 6-of-19 losing to Iowa State, 3-of-15 at Wichita State -- did a bit better but still lost to UMass (9-of-16) -- then he went 3-of-11 at Utah.
Forward Kyle Collinsworth leads the team in assists
BYU lists Collinsworth as a guard but in all actuality he's a 6-6 forward who has to do Carlino's bidding -- because Matt can't figure out who he wants to be. For all everyone knew, Carlino was the team's point guard; he dished the rock nice in wins over Weber State and Texas in November -- then proceeded to metamorphose into a Jimmer wannabe after that.
Maybe it was the Rogaine treatments getting to Carlino's half-ro; nobody really knows why Carlino has had such a change of style. But, it's a proven fact BYU has a big problem here -- because when a 6-6 forward has more assists than the guy who is supposed to be running your offense that also means your team is having trouble getting into its offensive sets. And it's Collinsworth who is kicking the ball out to open players on the wings -- not Carlino.
Freshman center Eric Mika has a bad temper
Roundabout the Wichita State game, opposing coaches figured out that the best way to dismantle BYU's limited inside game is to go after freshman Eric Mika -- hard. Too good for his own good but awfully young, Mika became public enemy No. 1. The nationally ranked Shockers subbed wave after wave of athletic, long wing player and gave each the same instruction: Go right to the hole.
The freshman out of Lone Peak is blessed with a nice blend of athleticism and vision unseen since Shawn Bradley was prowling the key, but Mika seems to overplay his man -- resulting in fouls. It didn't completely rear its ugly head against Wichita -- nor did it at UMass -- but Mika's overpursuing, uber-aggressive nature got the best of him at Utah. Even though he only had two fouls, his flagrant-2 foul resulted in an ejection with over eight minutes still to play. With an already thin bench, especially with bigs, Mika's meltdown there was a sign of things to come. At Oregon the following week, Mika fouled out, signaling the first time all season he's left the Cougars in such a bind when they're playing against a good team.
BYU is now 1-3 in this month of December littered with games against good opposition. Overall, the Cougars haven't defeated one nationally ranked team. The reasons are many -- and solutions seem to be few. With a full slate of West Coast Conference opposition coming up, including ranked Gonzaga and solid teams like Saint Marys -- not one team in the WCC has a losing record so far. It's not a good time for BYU to have so many issues on offense and defense.