Provo • Expectations for coach Dave Rose’s BYU basketball team were lowered significantly entering the 2017-18 season after Eric Mika turned professional and Nick Emery withdrew from school a day before the opener.
Given those notable personnel losses, the Cougars (19-7, 8-5 WCC) have overachieved by most accounts, although the schedule has been fairly soft. Jeff Sagarin rates it as the 162nd most difficult in the country to date.
BYU has received an unexpected contribution from Weber State transfer McKay Cannon, new point guard Jahshire Hardnett has been the solid on-ball defender he was billed to be, TJ Haws has been sensational one minute and inconsistent the next and Elijah Bryant and Yoeli Childs are having outstanding seasons.
The missing piece to a decent postseason run might be sophomore forward Zac Seljaas, who is struggling to replicate, let alone surpass, his efficient freshman season before an LDS Church mission to Iowa shortened by a shoulder ailment.
Seljaas’ shooting struggles continued Thursday night in BYU’s 80-58 win over Santa Clara. He went 2 of 8 from the field, 0 of 2 from 3-point range and had just one rebound in 19 minutes off the bench. He lost his starting spot to Luke Worthington.
The Cougars return to the court at 2 p.m. Saturday against San Francisco at the Marriott Center.
Seljaas acknowledged Wednesday that making the transition to the power forward position — the four — has not been easy after he played guard and wing throughout his prep career at Bountiful High and his freshman season (2015-16) when he shot 50 percent (68 of 136) from 3-point range and averaged 7.6 points and 19.9 minutes per game.
He is playing more minutes (22.0 mpg) but averaging fewer points (5.9) and is shooting just 33.8 percent from deep this season. He said his shoulder is fine and has nothing to do with his perceived struggles.
“I feel the ultimate goal is to win,” he said, downplaying his drop in scoring and shooting accuracy. “If we can go out there and win and everybody can do their ultimate job, then we’re fine. I feel that coach Rose has given me a role, given me a job, and I just have to be able to do that. I’m doing OK.”
He acknowledged that he is passing up shots that he would have taken as a freshman, when he shot 47 percent overall.
“There is a time and place for certain things, and I feel like with our new offense there is less of the run-and-gun type of stuff we did two years ago,” Seljaas said. “It now has more of a team-offense feel, where we want to be more patient and get the ball moving more, make that extra pass.”
Rose disputes the notion that Seljaas has struggled and is experiencing a sophomore slump similar to how Emery performed last year in his second season.
“I do think Zac has been a huge part of the success of our team in different ways,” Rose said. “He hasn’t scored the ball like he did his freshman year, which I don’t think is unique to him. … But his ability to help our team win has been really good.”
Rose has said that Seljaas’ ability to pass the ball into the low post really has helped Childs flourish.
“What we need to do as a staff is help him to find the things that he is really good at and put him in the positions where he can kinda use those parts of his game to help our team get better in this time,” Rose said. “We have a really important three-week stretch here, and hopefully we can continue to get better, and he’s a big part of it.”
SAN FRANCISCO AT BYU
Where • Marriott Center, Provo
Tipoff • 2 p.m. Saturday
TV • BYUtv
Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, Sirius XM 143
Records • BYU 19-7, 8-5 WCC; USF 14-12, 6-7 WCC
Series history • BYU leads 18-6
Last meeting • BYU won 69-59 (Jan. 4, 2018)
About the Dons • They are coming off a 65-63 win over Portland at War Memorial Gymnasium on Thursday night. Frankie Ferrari led them with 13 points and Chase Foster added 11, including the game-winning free throws. … Four Dons are averaging in double figures, led by Souey Boum at 12.3 points per game. … Matt McCarthy is their leading rebounder, grabbing 5.3 caroms per contest.
About the Cougars • They have won the last 10 meetings with the Dons and are 14-1 against USF since joining the WCC in 2011-12. … Sophomore F Yoeli Childs posted his 13th double-double — 20 points and 10 rebounds — in Thursday’s 80-58 win over Santa Clara and has scored 20 or more points 10 times this season. … They shot 58.6 percent vs. SCU and have shot 58 percent or better in seven games.