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Kragthorpe: Loss of Davies ends BYU's Final Four dreams

Published March 2, 2011 2:39 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Brigham Young just went from being a strong contender to play in the Final Four to a basketball team that will have trouble advancing beyond the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

That's how much the loss of sophomore center Brandon Davies will impact the Cougars.

Davies' dismissal from the team Tuesday due to an honor code violation dramatically changes BYU's outlook, beginning with tonight's rematch with New Mexico in Provo and continuing throughout postseason play.

This team could not lose afford to lose anybody from the playing rotation, and Davies is one of BYU's best athletes. The Cougars were not especially deep to begin with, basically using six players for extended minutes and piecing things together from there.

The Honor Code is part of what distinguishes BYU as a private, church-owned school. Davies' dismissal is another reminder that whatever built-in advantages the Cougar athletic program enjoys in recruiting are balanced by the restrictions of campus life. BYU football player Harvey Unga was denied readmission to the school last spring, costing the Cougars' all-time leading rusher his senior season.

That decision was admirable, considering what Unga meant to the team, and so is the treatment of Davies. There's obviously no double standard in play for prominent athletes.

Certainly, some BYU followers will endorse the decision and others will wish everybody could have waited until April 5, after the NCAA championship game.

The Final Four is pretty much out of the picture for BYU now. That's unfortunate for Davies' teammates, especially Jimmer Fredette. He's having the best season of any college basketball player in the country, but he still needed all the help he could get in March.

This development comes during a season when BYU was positioned for the school's longest NCAA Tournament run in 30 years — and maybe ever. The program that holds the record for most NCAA appearances (25) without reaching the Final Four seemingly was ticketed for a No. 1 seed that could have made such an achievement possible.

Now, even with a No. 2 seed, the Cougars would need a big performance just to get through the opening weekend of the tournament for the first time since 1981.

Even if the Cougars claim an outright Mountain West Conference championship by beating New Mexico and Wyoming, winning the conference tournament next week in Las Vegas will be much more difficult without Davies. In turn, that will jeopardize BYU's hope for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Regardless, a second-round game against an opponent seeded anywhere from No. 7-10 becomes a major challenge.

Little-used center James Anderson, who scores one point per game, now will have to play significant minutes. BYU also must avoid foul trouble in every game and coach Dave Rose will have to substitute creatively just to give his regulars enough rest. Reserves including Stephen Rogers and Logan Magnusson will be asked to do more.

So merely covering the 25 minutes that Davies played is an issue, even aside from his production as the team's No. 3 scorer (11.1) and No. 1 rebounder (6.2).

What this news really means is the Cougars will depend more than ever on Fredette. Just when BYU was becoming more balanced, amid Fredette's shooting struggles lately, covering for Davies will demand more of Fredette and each of his teammates offensively, defensively and on the boards as BYU employs a smaller lineup.

After last weekend's loss to BYU, San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said, "When they had to make a basket, somebody made a basket, and it was never the same somebody."

And now, one of those key somebodies is gone.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com