NCAA Tournament Handicapping: How Does Loss of Davies Affect BYU?
by Trevor Whenham - 3/4/2011
I’ve been planning for about a week to write an article about BYU and the remarkable season they are having in college basketball -- capped as it was by an amazing win at San Diego State on Saturday. It was going to be a glowing article full of strong statements about their tournament potential. How quickly things can change.
As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, BYU center Brandon Davies has been suspended for the rest of the season and potentially longer. Jimmer Fredette is the engine that makes the Cougars run, but Davies was a big piece as well -- the third leading scorer and leading rebounder. Davies’ crime is one that seems bizarre to pretty much everyone not associated with BYU. A lot of college players, if they were being honest, would say that one of the reasons they play college sports is because it makes it easy to ‘get to know’ girls on campus. At BYU, ‘getting to know’ a girl is a violation of the Honor Code -- just like drinking or swearing would be, and any violation of the Honor Code is a serious offense at the school.
Needless to say this is a huge issue -- and a reasonably unique one -- for a team that was on the verge of securing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The dreams of a top seed are likely dead now, but the talk about what has gone on and what it means has only just begun. That means that handicapping what is a very good basketball team throughout the conference tournament and the NCAA tournament just got a lot harder than it was going to be. Here are four things to consider when dissecting what this strange situation means:
Team is obviously bothered by situation - The Cougars went from looking almost unbeatable to losing at home to a solid but unspectacular New Mexico team by 18 as a result of the suspension. Needless to say, it had a big impact.
That’s not to suggest that the team fell apart and couldn’t play without Davies. Clearly, though, the team did not deal with the situation and the fallout well at all.
Without being in the locker room you can still clearly see that the team wasn’t happy with what happened, and that they didn’t deal with their frustration positively. The biggest takeaway from the situation in my eyes is the shocking inability of this team to deal with adversity. It was reasonable to assume the team would face some impact from the situation, but to completely self-destruct like they did means that this team doesn’t seem to be as strong mentally as we might have thought, and certainly not as strong as a team needs to be to overcome the piles of adversity that pop up during the tournament.
For that reason alone it’s hard to like this team as much now as it was a week ago -- even without the absence of Davies.
Oddity of situation means it will be media focus wherever team goes - In the eyes of the large majority of the country this is a very odd story. In many eyes people who would believe in something like this and act on it in this way are freaks. From now until they are eliminated, then, these players and coaches are going to be besieged with questions about the situation, and they are going to be forced to defend their beliefs.
This time of year is stressful enough, but when you add in the distractions of this situation you could really have a problem.
The media is panicking - In the hours right after this news broke it was amazing to watch the tweets (on the social networking site Twitter) coming from college basketball experts in the media. People were tripping over each other in an attempt to state just how disastrous this development was for the team and their dreams.
While the loss to New Mexico proved that they were, at least, to an extent, right, it’s still notable the opinions were so strong and one-sided. Whenever the media is so universally one-sided in their opinion there is at least a chance for value because the general public will be led strongly to one side.
Matchups will be more important than ever - In the eyes of many people this situation is a serious one no matter what. The truth is, though, that it’s a much bigger situation against some opponents than it is against others.
Teams against whom a strong inside presence is needed are going to have an easier time matching up against BYU now than they would have before, but other teams will still struggle.
The bracket is always an important factor in handicapping teams, but it will be more important for BYU than almost any other team in the country this year.
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