With the first of two highly-anticipated San Diego State-BYU regular season clashes less than 24 hours away, The Dagger asked a Mountain West Conference assistant coach who has faced both several times a few questions to draw up a bit of a game plan on both sides. The coach was granted anonymity to assure honesty.
RG: With BYU, it obviously all starts with Jimmer Fredette. How do you even begin on a game plan for him?
Coach: "Well, what he does to anybody is extend their defense much further than they're probably usually comfortable defending. His range makes you pick him up so much earlier, so once you've done that, you've become a little more vulnerable to some other things. I would assume that San Diego State will use their length, maybe be a little more comfortable making some switches on the ball and just trying to either get the ball out of his hands or make someone bigger guard him and make him shoot over the top. Their depth and length, all of that, they'll make it a challenge for him."
RG: Could you see Kawhi Leonard guarding him some?
Coach: "Sure. I think they'll probably throw three different people at him. I'd imagine they'll start with … my guess would be (Chase) Tapley early because they don't want to get Kawhi in foul trouble, but as it goes along, yeah, I could certainly see him down the stretch using the lateral quickness and the length and the long arms to try to bother Jimmer and try to get him out of it. The thing they've done so well is have other people step up when given that opportunity."
RG: Outside of Jimmer, who do you think is the most dangerous threat BYU has to throw at San Diego State?
Coach: "I think it has to be (Jackson) Emery. We're five games into the conference season and he's got 22 threes, just like Jimmer does. I think because of the accuracy and the impact of the 3-pointer, then you're probably looking at (Brandon) Davies. It'll be challenging for anybody to go into Provo and guard all of those weapons, because if you want to call (Noah) Hartsock the fourth option and (Kyle) Collinsworth the fifth, those are pretty capable scorers. Hartsock can knock down a lot of mid-range shots, Collinsworth can get to the basket. They're balanced and really spread you thin defensively."
RG: Switching to the other side, given BYU's personnel, how do you plan to defend San Diego State?
Coach: "Inside-out, because whether it's Kawhi or Billy (White) or Malcolm (Thomas), you're talking about them operating within, primarily, 15 feet of the basket and what that creates is offensive rebound opportunities. I'd say BYU's biggest focus will probably be limiting second shots, and knowing that at the end of the shot clock, (D.J.) Gay just has a knack for hitting big shots as the clock's running down."
RG: A lot of defenses against SDSU have packed everything in tight and Gay has killed them from the outside. Are opposing teams now putting that strategy away?
Coach: "Well, you pick your poison. Does it make you a little hesitant to commit to that full-time? Yeah. He started off the New Mexico game not as a huge factor really until the tail end of the first half and early in the second. Again, the percentages are what you're trying to play, and I believe this: If Tapley wouldn't have knocked down his shots, they probably could have survived Gay knocking down his. But 7-for-11 from three, then a couple of games later he's 6-for-something else, he's somebody who you certainly have got to respect and know and you can't just let him get into rhythm. You've got to fight and take those away. Their M.O. has been when they needed to hit threes, they hit threes. Against UNLV, they were 4-for-about 20, but they still find a way to win. There's something to be said for that. When the game's on the line, different people have stepped up for them and have done a tremendous job."
RG: Lastly, who's the most capable defender BYU has to stick on Kawhi?
Coach: "I think Collinsworth will start on him and (Charles) Abouo will probably play. Those two I would expect to split time as it goes on. Again, the degree of difficulty there just begins when you get him to miss the shot. Then you've got to keep him from chasing it down, and he's shown a tremendous knack for doing that."