COMMENTARY — Anyone who has watched college basketball lately can quickly surmise that the emphasis is on defense. The best teams in the nation are slowing it down, playing a deliberate passing game in the half court and using every bit of the shot clock. On defense, those same teams are packing the paint, protecting the rim and forcing opponents into bad shots as the shot clock expires.
It is solid. It is fundamental. It is successful. And it is boring.
I watched a little Christmas basketball. I caught the George Washington-Wichita State game. Both teams are likely NCAA Tournament bound. Their game was close, with the Colonials holding on for a 60-54 win. I watched some of the Nebraska-Ohio game that ended 71-58. The Hawaii-Colorado game that same day finished at 69-66.
Dave Rose, who was the head coach at Dixie College when I moved to southern Utah in 1992, has been the leader at BYU for 10 years now. His team has had tremendous success. In fact, Rose has the highest winning percentage of any head coach in BYU history (and that includes Frank Arnold and LaDell Anderson, for all you old-timers).
But the best thing about Dave Rose’s tenure at BYU has been his style. I’m not talking about his Italian suits and slick hair. The 57-year old (who just had a birthday last week) has plenty of that kind of style. But I’m talking about his coaching style.
Rose decided in 2005 when he took over as head coach for Steve Cleveland that the Cougars were going to buck the trend of slow, defensive-minded basketball and his Cougars were going to run. And run. And run.
And it is fun to watch. BYU is No. 1 in the nation in scoring (88 points a game) and in the top 10 in assists per game. And they do it every year.
But above that, and the thing that makes Rose’s style so embraceable by fans and media alike, is the fact that the Cougars win. BYU has never won fewer than 20 games under Rose’s tutelage. They have been in the postseason every single season since Rose took over, seven times going to the NCAAs and twice to the NIT.
In 2011, with Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery, BYU went to the NCAA’s Sweet Sixteen, the Cougars first foray into that round in nearly three decades (and they did it without a suspended Brandon Davies).
Against the Cougs’ chief rival, Utah, Rose has compiled a 12-5 record.
Play fast, play hard … and win. That’s what it’s been like at BYU for going on 10 years.
And so the Cougars embark on their West Coast Conference season beginning this afternoon against Gonzaga (4 p.m. at the Marriott Center). Gonzaga, another up-tempo team, is very, very good, ranked No. 8 in the nation.
It’s not necessarily a good time for BYU to play the WCC kings. The Cougars will be without Nate Austin and leading scorer Tyler Haws is still nursing a sore ankle (he hasn’t practiced all week). Add to that a banged up Chase Fischer, who got nailed on a vicious (but legal) screen against UMass, and BYU will be literally limping into this all-important match-up.
But one thing is sure: The Cougars will put up some points. Win or lose, the game will be entertaining and the score will be high.
Dave Rose will make sure of that.
Blue Blood is a weekly column following BYU basketball and is written by STGNews sports editor Andy Griffin. The opinions expressed are his and not necessarily those of St. George News.