BYU forward Brandon Davies told the Salt Lake Tribune BYU getting a spot in the NIT was like getting a “Get Out of Jail Free” card in Monopoly and now that the Cougars have a clean slate, they can forget about how the regular season ended.
BYU lost five of its last eight games and stumbled into the NIT. Two of those losses came to San Diego and they took advantage of a smaller BYU lineup. With Washington on the horizon, BYU needs to find an offensive rhythm in this four-guard lineup.
It is BYU’s 11th trip to the NIT and first since 2006. The Cougars have won the NIT twice (1966, 1951).
No. 6 Washington (18-15, 9-9 Pac-12) at No. 3 BYU (21-11, 10-6 WCC)
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Winner plays: Tennessee-Mercer winner
The Huskies struggled through the middle part of Pac-12 play but really picked it up towards the end and carried that into the Pac-12 Tournament. They have won four of their last six games and even pushed eventual champion Oregon into overtime.
Leading scorer C.J. Wilcox went to Washington after graduating from Pleasant Grove High School in Utah. Tyler Haws and Wilcox are actually god friends and this should add a different wrinkle to the matchup.
Wilcox is averaging 16.7 points but in the last nine games he has only shot 33 percent.
Aziz N’Diaye is averaging 9.2 rebounds per contest and he could have his way with the thin BYU frontcourt.
Washington has wins over three NCAA Tournament teams and found itself going deep into the NIT last season. This team knows how to win on a big stage.
BYU has not played well heading into the postseason but maybe a fresh start is all the Cougars needed.
They have played six games with the starting lineup of Matt Carlino, Brock Zylstra, Craig Cusick, Tyler Haws, and Brandon Davies and BYU is 3-3 in those six games. BYU has shot above 45 percent only once since switching to this four-guard starting lineup.
That has only been part of the offensive problem. They are also letting their turnovers be turned into more points.
In BYU’s first 25 games, they were on the plus side of points off turnovers 22 times and went 18-7 in that stretch. Since then, the Cougars have been in the negative in points off turnovers in five of last seven games, going 3-4.
Carlino’s play has been a big difference in this final stretch. In the last six games, he has an assist-to-turnover is 1.04. That is 25 assists to 24 turnovers and when your point guard is turning the ball over that often, it makes it tough to win games.
But there is a silver lining. Their last three losses (at Saint Mary’s, vs. Gonzaga, vs. San Diego) have come by a total of 15 points so if the turnovers are cleaned up, they could quickly get back into the win column.