I’d like to take a moment and say thank you to Andy Kartchner, a fellow writer here on TBS for taking the time to answer some questions about BYU’s upcoming match-up with the San Francisco Dons. Check out the Sports Bros Podcast to keep you up to date on BYU Sports.
Zak Hicken: Man, times have been tough for BYU basketball. After a promising start with some close losses, BYU has really struggled in the WCC. What does the team need to do to get out of this slump?
Andy Kartchner: Rebounding is their number one issue. As everyone knows, this team plays up-tempo and struggles in the half-court. But that style of play is significantly limited when they give up so many offensive rebounds. Sure, BYU has been known to run a quasi-fast-break even off a made basket, but BYU plays its best when the big guys are cleaning up the boards and hitting a quick outlet. Kyle Collinsworth is benefiting from the lack of post rebounding, but this team would much rather have him catch the outlet pass and running the break. Instead, Collinsworth ends up passing it to another outlet or taking it himself, which slows the break down considerably.
ZH: BYU’s bigs have struggled this season, mostly due to limited experience with the majority of time going to two freshman and a sophomore. In your opinion, how big of a loss is Nate Austin?
AK: It is a huge loss. As I mentioned before, his rebounding prowess is sorely missed, but he does a lot of other things as well. He is by far the best post defender, and although he doesn’t block a lot of shots, he takes a lot of charges and knows how to rotate to help the guards when they are beat off the dribble. Worthington is too slow and Kaufusi doesn’t have the quick understanding of the defense yet to do that.
ZH: BYU has transitioned with a “small” line up where they start 4 guards. Do you think this has helped or hurt the team?
AK: Given the terrible situation of the bigs this year due to injuries and missions, it is definitely the right choice. I’m not sure Kaufusi, Nielson, or Worthington have what it takes to make a meaningful contribution if they played instead of Halford or Winder. They give up way to much defensively and are mediocre rebounders at best. I won’t even comment on their offensive abilities, which are close to nonexistent.
ZH: With Nate Austin aggravating his injury in practice, do you think he should redshirt this season or should attempt to finish out the season and potentially help the team earn a tourney berth?
AK: That depends on how things play out. If BYU can go on a hot streak and beat every team not named Gonzaga, then it might be worth bringing in Austin for a WCC tournament run that could set BYU up for a NCAA berth. But if BYU drops another one before Austin is healthy, then it’s not worth bringing him in because BYU has no shot at the tournament if they lose another game to a non-Zag. This whole discussion may be moot, however, since it’s unclear whether he would qualify for a medical redshirt.
ZH: BYU played really well last time they played USF, winning 99-68 while starting 5 guards (all 5 starters scored in double digits). Do you think they will take a similar approach in the second match up against the Dons or will they stick with a small line up?
AK: USF isn’t the biggest team BYU faces in the WCC, so they are the safest bet with BYU’s smaller lineup. BYU won comfortably last time, but that was largely because the guards shot lights out (53% from 3 and 60% overall). Thanks in large part to Collinsworth’s triple double, BYU was also able to dominate the boards despite their smaller starting lineup. Although I don’t think BYU can rely on so many stars aligning again, tonight’s game is at home, so I expect BYU to play small again and hope they can shoot well and rebound well enough.
ZH: What do you want to see from BYU in the game against USF to make you believe the season isn’t over?
AK: Urgency. BYU has got to play every game like it’s their last if they are going to put together the kind of run they need in order to make the tourney. I think BYU tends to play to the level of their competition at times rather than respecting every team. That’s why, in my view, BYU comes so close to beating SDSU, Utah, and Gonzaga, and yet loses to San Diego and Pepperdine. Of course defense and rebounding are important, too.