In 1997, after coaching for seven years at a junior college in Utah, Dave Rose took a position on Steve Cleveland's staff at BYU. After coaching high school and junior college, it was the first D-I position for the Houston native and one-time member of "Phi Slama Jama."
In the fall of 2005, Steve Cleveland left for Fresno State, and Dave Rose became the head coach of BYU. Rose abruptly altered the approach of the program, adopting an up-tempo style and transforming BYU into a weird sort of Phi Slama Jama at altitude, minus most of the Slama Jama. In what has been a physical ball control era of college hoops, Rose's approach is a breath of fresh air.
While over the last nine seasons, all of Rose's teams have played fast, none have played as fast as his team this season. Ken Pomeroy's adjusted tempo measure currently lists BYU as the fastest team in the nation. With this high speed approach, the Cougars have blown most of their early season opponents off the floor; BYU's most remarkable win was a road victory over Stanford where the Cougars scored 112 points.
This week, the Cougars take their express offense to Kansas City, where they will slug it out with DePaul, Wichita State, and Texas in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic. They face Texas tonight at 6:30 PM central time.
Most of what has made the BYU offense so effective is that it rarely coughs the ball up. Rose's squad so far has only turned the ball over in 11.5 percent of its possessions in games against D-I opponents, which is the fifth best rate nationally. There is something to be said about shooting so quickly that you don't have time to turn the ball over.
The numbers below show us just how important this low turnover rate is for the Cougars. The positive or negative number in each line corresponds to how each statistical category (Turnover percentage, 2 pt FG percentage, etc.) improves or hurts BYU's offensive efficiency in points per possession, relative to a D-I median team. Through the first five games of the season, turnover percentage and two point field goal percentage are driving BYU's offensive success.
BYU Offense -- Includes non-Division I games 1.15 Points per Pos Median PPP Walk --------------------- +0.091 (10.9%): TO% +0.036 (53.2%): 2FG% +0.001 (43.7%): FTR -0.001 (21.6%): 3FGA/FGA -0.002 (31.6%): ORB% -0.007 (31.2%): 3FG% -0.010 (66.0%): FT%
Among other statistical oddities associated with BYU is how rarely the Cougars take layups. By my numbers at hoop-math.com, BYU takes the third lowest percentage of its field goal attempts at the rim of any team in Division I. In the Cougar's recent loss against Iowa State, only 5 of 84 shot attempts were logged in play-by-play files as layups or dunks(*). Additionally, BYU takes very few threes.
(* I have a theory about BYU's low layup total. I suspect, but cannot be sure, that the person responsible for logging play-by-play data for BYU home games has a fairly strict definition of what he calls a "layup" relative to other pbp loggers across the nation, and that this accounts in part for why the layup totals in BYU home games are so low. I might be the only person on the earth who actually cares about this.)
Running the attack for BYU is point guard Matt Carlino. Carlino is the sort of high volume shooter that doesn't look as good as he might otherwise when viewed through the lens of tempo-free statistics. He is mostly a jump shooter with a past history of turnover issues, although this season he has protected the ball well. While on the floor he is hoisting one out of every three shot attempts for BYU. Frankly, the more he shoots, the better it will be for the Texas Longhorns. He is more dangerous when he is making plays for others than when he is forced to shoot himself.
More worrisome is Tyler Haws, a 6-5 wing who knows how to score. When the Cougars are prevented from shooting quickly, Haws becomes their go to player in the half-court. While only appearing in three games, Haws has averaged 26 PPG.
Carlino's running buddies are often 6-3 Anson Winder and 6-6 Kyle Collinsworth. Winder lives off of shot opportunities created by Carlino in transition, while the versatile Collinsworth can handle the ball, rebound, and score. Big man Eric Mika also fills well in transition, while the 6-11 Nate Austin is BYU's best rebounder.
BYU is less powerful on defense, but the Cougars do a nice job of cleaning up on the boards, which is essential for a team that wants to run.
BYU Defense -- Includes non-Division I games 0.99 Points per Pos Median PPP Walk ------------------- -0.048 (23.8%): ORB% -0.005 (35.6%): FTR -0.002 (48.7%): 2FG% -0.002 (32.6%): 3FG% -0.002 (68.4%): FT% +0.005 (40.1%): 3FGA/FGA +0.011 (17.1%): TO%
During its home loss to Iowa State, BYU's offense was held back by poor shooting. Iowa State's compact defense forced Rose's team to frequently settle for difficult shots. The Cougars will take the first remotely reasonable shot of the possession. To hold down BYU, Texas will need to make sure as many of those attempts as possible are contested mid-range jump shots, and not easy layups or wide open threes.