BYU's stunning rise from under-the-radar Mountain West power to legitimate Final Four contender has hit an ill-timed snag.
Brandon Davies, the Cougars' top rebounder and best low-post scoring threat, was dismissed from the team for the rest of the season on Tuesday as a result of a violation of the school's honor code. BYU did not disclose any more information about what led to Davies' dismissal aside from that it wasn't criminal in nature.
For a BYU team ranked No. 3 in the nation and in position to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, the impact of Davies' absence could be devastating. The sophomore center started 26 of 29 games for the Cougars, averaging 11.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 24.9 minutes per game.
While BYU surrounded star Jimmer Fredette with a bevy of outside shooters capable of sinking open perimeter looks, Davies became the Cougars' lone back-to-the-basket scorer once Chris Collinsworth went down with a season-ending knee injury in January. Furthermore, the Cougars aren't exactly deep anyway, with five players accounting for 180 of 200 minutes in a victory at San Diego State on Saturday.
None of the options for replacing Davies are promising, but the most likely one would be sliding forward Noah Hartsock to center and inserting seldom-used Logan Magnusson at power forward. Or if BYU were to go to a four-guard alignment, 6-foot-5 Kyle Collinsworth could enter the lineup and guard undersized power forwards.
The dismissal of Davies comes less than a year after BYU's all-time leading rusher Harvey Unga withdrew from the school in April as a result of an honor code violation. Rising junior guard Michael Loyd Jr. also left school this past offseason when multiple speeding tickets and an arrest for underage drinking and possession came to light, later telling the Times Record News in October "the Mormon thing wasn't for me."
The worst part of losing Davies for BYU is that an entire season's worth of work could come undone in a hurry if the Cougars falter down the stretch or in the conference tournament.
The selection committee cannot dock the Cougars' seed because of the assumption they wouldn't be as formidable without Davies, but it can drop BYU as a result of a loss or two without the starting big man.
Regardless of where BYU is seeded, the sad truth is this: It's difficult to envision BYU contending for a Final Four without Davies no matter how explosive Fredette is in March.
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