For weeks now, BYU fans have been trudging through the harsh reality that football may be over. Over like you just tanked your midterm in statistics and have no shot at an “A.” Eight games in, and the call of #FireBronco and “maybe next year” circle about on Twitter like a crow circles its prey. Well, with that pleasant thought in mind, maybe it’s time to focus on the next best thing: BYU basketball.
Here’s why men’s basketball can’t come any quicker for the aching BYU football fan:
The “Great and Powerful Haws”
If Hill was the golden boy of BYU football this year, Tyler Haws must then unanimously be the golden child of BYU basketball. In fact, Sports Illustrated predicts Haws to be the nations leading scorer this year, after he ended the 2013–2014 season ranked 6th at 23.4 points per game. Haws, who has improved statistically every year as a Cougar, doesn’t need a massive year to get anyones attention, but a record-breaking senior year could catapult him from BYU star to BYU legend. He currently ranks 5th all-time in scoring at BYU and ended his junior year ranked in the top ten in nine career statistical categories.
If this doesn’t leave you frothing at the mouth to see how he does, the West Coast Conference announced Monday that BYU is picked to finish the season second in conference standings to Gonzaga. Haws, as expected, was also named to the All-WCC Preseason Men’s Basketball Team.
The year of the seniors
We did a piece exploring BYU’s senior infused lineup going into the 2014–2015 season — the in’s and out’s of what it means to have a roster top-heavy with seniors. But what does this mean for you? It means seeing more Nate Austin diving for out of reach balls, and reaching for rebounds. Sports Illustrated predicts Austin to average the second-most rebounds a game. If the Cougars can reach the level of scoring and defensive prowess evident in moments of last year’s conference season, we should all be in for a real treat.
Austin may be a highlight player this year with all the time he will get on the floor, but don’t count out the remaining seniors in the lineup, as Anson Winder will get more playing time, and more playing time means more three-point attempts. Winder scored in double figures in five consecutive games from Feb. 20 to March 10. Skyler Halford, a transfer student last year, had a solid junior year, displaying moments of brilliance after replacing Matt Carlino (who transferred to Marquette, is predicted to be the nation’s leader in assists in 2013–2014) off the bench. Big man Josh Sharp will be a defensive gatekeeper for the Cougars in unison with Austin. Sharp accumulated eight blocks last season and will be essential in defending the rim.
The return of Kyle Collinsworth
This year we had a “fall break”, and last year the Cougars had a “winter break” that was nothing short of heart-breaking (before the actual winter break). Aside from Haws entering his senior year, no player is more highly touted on this roster than point guard Kyle Collinsworth.
Before tearing his ACL against Gonzaga in the WCC Conference Tournament in 2013–2014, Collinsworth put up huge numbers as a sophomore, averaging 14 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.7 steals a game. The floor general is also named to the All-WCC Preseason Team. It is still undecided on whether he will start in the Cougars Tipoff intrasquad event Wednesday, Oct. 29 at the Marriott Center.
The season officially starts when BYU hosts the first game of the Maui Invitational Nov. 18 against Arkansas Little Rock. However, you can see the Cougars in preseason games starting with the Cougar Tipoff on Wednesday, Oct. 29 and then on Saturday, Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. against the Colorado School of Mines. Both games are at the Marriott Center.