Provo • What does BYU’s basketball team need to acquire to make it back to the NCAA Tournament next season after having its streak of six straight appearances in March Madness snapped in 2013?
The biggest need is not a particular player or even improvement in a specific position, according to coach Dave Rose — although the pipe dream for Cougar fans known as Jabari Parker, bound for Duke, certainly would have helped.
Simply put, the Cougars need to get better on defense, the coach who just completed his eighth season at the BYU helm said earlier this week.
“Our biggest challenge [in the offseason] will be to get better defensively,” Rose said. “We need to play better man-to-man defense, get back to being a better defensive team in that area.”
Since about midway through Jimmer Fredette’s senior season in 2010-11, BYU has gradually shifted from a team that primarily played man-to-man defense to one that relied heavily on some combination of a zone defense, as it did this past season. The Cougars played zone at times to protect post Brandon Davies and keep him out of foul trouble, but more often than not they did so because their perimeter defenders could not stay in front of quick, penetrating guards such as San Diego’s Chris Anderson and Matthew Dellavedova of Saint Mary’s.
“There were times when we needed to guard teams man-to-man, and weren’t good enough,” Rose said. “We need to be better at it. Hopefully we can go back to playing man-to-man as our primary defense.”
The 2012-13 team did not have a defensive stopper, sorely missing the graduated Charles Abouo. Before Abouo, Jackson Emery filled that role. Backup guard Anson Winder showed flashes of potential, but suffered an ankle injury early in the season and never really found a spot in Rose’s rotation.
End-of-season statistics show that the Cougars were better than average offensively — ranking 12th nationally in scoring offense, 57th in field-goal percentage and 60th in free-throw percentage. They did not improve their long-range shooting, an offseason goal in 2012, finishing as the 172nd-best 3-point shooting team in the nation, at 33.8 percent.
They were not good defensively, ranking 248th in scoring defense (some of that can be attributed to their up-tempo offense giving opponents more possessions) and 136th in field-goal percentage defense. They gave up almost the same percentage of 3-pointers (33.2) as they made.
Is defensive help on the way?
Salt Lake Community College combo guard Skyler Halford signed Wednesday and will join the team next year, along with high school big men Eric Mika of Lone Peak and Luke Worthington, from Wisconsin. None of those guys figures to be an immediate defensive stalwart
But Rose is excited about 6-foot-6 Kyle Collinsworth, who gets back from an LDS Church mission to Russia in about four weeks. He showed during his freshman season that he has the length, athleticism and versatility to be a terrific perimeter defender, Rose said.
Rose has at least one scholarship left to dole out, and it is no secret that the Cougars covet SLCC wing Sai Tummala, a transfer from Michigan. BYU was once the frontrunner for Tummala, but recently his hometown school, Arizona State, has jumped into the picture for his services, along with Nebraska, Georgia, Minnesota and Santa Clara, among others.
Tummala’s recruitment “has kind of blown up recently,” said SLCC coach Todd Phillips, noting that the highly athletic Arizonan will probably decide in one or two weeks.
More scholarships could open up if some players decide to leave the program, although Rose couldn’t say for sure if that would happen because he had not conducted his usual end-of-season interviews with every player yet.
Offensively, replacing Davies’ production — 17.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game — will be difficult, but for the first time since before Fredette’s senior year, the Cougars’ top scorer is returning. Tyler Haws scored 780 points in 2012-13, the fourth-highest single-season total in school history.
A closer look
BYU national rankings in 2012-13:
Offense Rank % or PPG
Scoring 12th 77.1
Field-goal % 57th 45.7
Free-throw % 60th 72.8
3-point FG % 172nd 33.8
Defense Rank % or PPG
Scoring 248th 69.9
Field-goal % 136th 42.1
3-point FG % 146th 33.2