Monday, December 31, 2007

Fourth Time Not a Charm

Preceding the basketball game at Boise State, I had competing thoughts regarding the contest. The first was concern that BYU could well lose again in Idaho; they had not seemed completely in synch since losing in the final minutes to North Carolina.

The second thought was that my first impression was folly: the Cougars were certainly more than capable of beating the Broncos. Given their hard-earned national ranking, surely they would step up and come together again as a very good team should; this would be a statement game about the quality of BYU basketball away from their comfortable Marriott Center (or Energy Solutions Arena).

But this game turned out only to be the next in what is becoming a dishearteningly familiar pattern. What do last year's conference championship loss against UNLV, the NCAA Tournament loss to Xavier, this year's loss in Salt Lake City to Michigan State, and Saturday night's loss at Boise State have in common? In all four games, BYU held sizable leads at the break--the smallest being six points against Xavier; the others, at least ten.

The results of competition are based on a combination of what players do and what coaches do. Superior players will produce superior outcomes for a given coaching staff. Quantifying that argument is as easy as comparing the margin of victory of last year's football team to this year's squad. At the same time, it is also clear that a superior coach will produce better outcomes with a given set of players. I know I wasn't the only fan that wondered how the football team could continue to lose eminently winnable games in the last three years under Gary Crowton.

I was happy to hear Dave Rose, when he was promoted, say that he would not be the one to tell his team they couldn't beat a particular opponent. And, I still feel that some of what I wrote about him previously remains true. Nevertheless, the four distinctly similar losses from two clubs with different identities indicate that the fault may not lie with the players.

The negatives I see toward the end of games include a prolonged reliance on 3-point shots when they stop falling, not getting a second player in the post to take pressure off Trent Plaisted, and neglecting to send players driving to the basket to either create sinkable foul shots--Plaisted is a horrific liability when he goes to the line--or dish back out to players who might now be more open.

Dave Rose is a very good coach in preparing for the start of a game, but he is not showing the ability to match adjustments made by opposing coaches after halftime. His in-game strategy requires considerable development if Cougar basketball is to reach its potential.

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