March is the month that basketball dreams are made of and BYU Basketball gets to dream for a few days longer as they enter NCAA tournament play on Thursday against the Oregon Ducks. BYU and Oregon met earlier this season in an exciting, high scoring, overtime thriller in Eugene. BYU ended up losing that game and most “experts” have BYU making a first round exit from the tournament. I think BYU can make it out of the first round, but with the following stipulations in mind:
1. Matt Carlino MUST have a HUGE game:
As much as I hate betting the BYU farm on Matt Carlino, I have to do it here. With Kyle Collinsworth sidelined for the season, Carlino has now become BYU’s most important player. The good thing about betting on Carlino is that he can actually do it. Some nights he is brilliant and others, uh… not. Here is the stat line I think Carlino must put up for BYU to beat Oregon:
FG %: 50% (10-20)-Yes I just gave him permission to take 20 shots!
2. Tyler Haws MUST… rebound:
We all know that Tyler Haws can score, even when he is not shooting well. He will have had a few days off to rest those tired legs and I expect him to come out ready to play and to have a good game. The biggest thing I think Tyler needs to do is step up his rebounding. He is listed at 6-5 but only averages 3.8 rebounds per game. With their leading rebounding out (Collinsworth), Haws needs to get on both the offensive and defensive glass. If he only grabs 3 or 4 rebounds, BYU will be in trouble.
Do you like the man-to-man or zone defense? I think the zone is going to be BYU’s best chance to win this game. In the first game against Oregon, Eric Mika and Nate Austin both fouled out. The zone can help protect the big guys and keep them out of foul trouble. Luke Worthington has been a great surprise for BYU but in an NCAA tournament game, you don’t really hope that he is on the floor. The zone also will free up Carlino for steal attempts. As I wrote above, he needs at least four and BYU needs to win the turnover battle. Another defensive performance like the last against Oregon dooms BYU.
4. Free Throws
Now, I don’t know of many people who have picked BYU to win this game and even fewer who think it will be by a large margin. With that said, BYU needs to make their free throws. The only positive with Collinsworth out is that the teams’ free throw shooting might improve. In the first meeting between these two teams, BYU shot 61% from the free throw line (22-36). That is a lot of points to leave off the scoreboard (and they still scored 96). At the end of the game if BYU has the lead, the ball needs to be in Tyler Haws hands. Period. I have seen multiple games where people dribble around (Carlino) to get fouled when Haws is wide open. Get the best free throw shooter the ball!
There you have it. In a roundabout way, I just said BYU must play perfect. A good recipe for success right? Not to spoil my TBS bracket, but I do have BYU winning this first round game.
—Join the TBS crew for the NCAA Tournament Challenge: The TornBySports Tournament Challenge.—