Saturday’s 86-83 loss to #7 Baylor was a game to be remembered, especially for those that attended in person. The Marriott Center was nearly filled to capacity, and the crowd’s excitement and noise provided a sixth man for the Cougars several times during the course of the game. Even though freshman Matt Carlino said “… I play to win so it was disappointing,” there are some positive signs to take away from the three point loss.
1. Carlino plays with passion, and will be a leader
Carlino was fired up in his first appearance in a BYU uniform. While he made several big mistakes, he played hard, wanted to take the big shot, and fired up his teammates. Nobody would have expected Carlino to go 4/8 from beyond the arc or score 18 pts in his first game donning Cougar blue. Four turnovers and several other mistakes tarnish the stat sheet from his first game, but he’s a competitor and will be a passionate, vocal leader, on a team that has several more silent types.
2. Davies is strong enough to match up against elite bigs
In 36 minutes of play, Davies scored 18 points and pulled down 14 rebounds. Playing against one of the best front courts in the nation, he held his own. While Perry Jones III got his points, Davies showed that he is capable of playing with the best, and had one of his best performances of the season. He will continue to mature and get better as the season goes on.
3. BYU’s core players are experienced and don’t back down
While none of BYU’s core (Hartsock, Abouo, Davies) is a particularly vocal leader, they are experienced, have played in big games, and aren’t afraid of the pressure. This core turned in a very solid performance, with each player scoring in double figures. Hartsock, especially, leads by consistency and has quietly played very well all season.
4. The emergence of Matt Carlino changes the entire dynamic of the team
Don’t think Carlino’s play changes the entire team? Here’s what Ken Pomeroy, who attended the game, had to say:
“Based on his first appearance in a BYU game, he’s an upgrade on a team that needs a playmaker. For those still thinking BYU is a clear 3rd in the WCC regular season race, that didn’t appear to be the case on Saturday. Once Carlino settles into the role, there’s enough here (especially when Stephen Rogers returns from knee surgery in a month) to match what Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s bring to the table.”
While refraining from making Jimmer comparisons, or setting up too high of expectations for the freshman, Carlino’s offense alone changes BYU’s identity as a team, and improves the team in every category.
5. Performances like Saturday’s will likely lead to a WCC title
Two words explain why the BYU Cougars should take the WCC title and earn an automatic berth in the NCCA tournament: Dave Rose. With depth, experience and talent, BYU is primed for a West Coast Conference championship in its first year. Rose is a master at getting the most out of each player, prepares his team best for the biggest games, and is an extremely good motivator. With him at the helm, BYU fans should have high expectation, for the post-Jimmer era and beyond.