Sans Collinsworth, BYU Awaits Its NCAA Fate
The BYU Cougars were handed a double whammy Tuesday night.
Not only did they look bad losing to Gonzaga 75-64, they also lost one of the best all-around players in the West for the rest of the season when Kyle Collinsworth went down with an torn ACL.
Both disappointing developments could hamper their chances of receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament when the brackets are announced this Sunday.
The selection committee has a history of moving teams down in the seedings when they lose key players at the end of the season. The problem for BYU is that any slippage in their seeding could bounce them right out of the Big Dance.
While Tyler Haws was named as the Player of the Year in the West Coast Conference, an argument could be made that Collinsworth was actually BYU’s most valuable asset this season.
His ability to penetrate defenses, score, rebound and defend virtually any position on the court makes him a unique and valuable talent, and his loss severely limits the Cougars’ chances of advancing in whichever tournament they find themselves participating in next week.
That’s a fact that will not be lost on the NCAA committee as they select their 68-team field this weekend.
More damning to its chances than losing a star player, was BYU’s performance in the WCC championship game, where the Cougars were frankly embarrassed and outclassed by the Zags. That disaster of a loss was not the kind of last impression the Cougars wanted to leave in the minds of the tournament decision makers.
BYU’s inability to defend has been a consistent problem over the past couple of seasons, and the Cougars were thoroughly exposed on the defensive end of the court on Tuesday. Gonzaga shot 52 percent in the game and made the BYU defense look helpless at times.
While the Bulldogs were filling it up, the Cougars struggled to find any offensive rhythm and found themselves taking a number of bad shots. Gonzaga limited the BYU fast break and then swarmed Haws in the half court, a tactic that helped limit the Cougars to just 36 percent shooting from the field and 23 percent from three.
While BYU can be one of the best teams in the country in transition, its half-court offense sometimes leaves much to be desired. Too often, the Cougars are reduced to trying to go one-on-one –not a recipe for success for BYU against quality competition with high-end athletes. The result has been a lot of wild, off-balanced shots with the Cougars lowering their heads and barreling into the lane, hoping to get bailed out by the officials.
Kyle’s Injury a Disappointing Setback
Collinsworth’s knee injury will not only affect the end of this season, it’s likely to have negative consequences for next year as well.
Kyle had a remarkable season in his first year home from his mission, and he was really becoming something special during the latter part of the season. In the first two games of the WCC tournament he averaged an impressive 21 points and 14 rebounds. Against the Zags he scored 13 points and pulled down six boards before going down.
His injury will not only be a setback in his ongoing comeback from his mission service, it also means that he will be rehabbing this offseason instead of working on the areas of his game that need improvement, namely developing his outside shot and improving at the free throw line.
Even if he has a full recovery in time for next season, he will have lost valuable time. That’s unfortunate, seeing that he was on the verge of becoming perhaps college basketball’s most versatile and best all-around player for 2014-15.