Advertisement

Is BYU more than an average free-throw shooting squad?

BYU guard Richie Saunders shoots a free throw during a game against Texas Tech on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024, in Lubbock, Texas.
BYU guard Richie Saunders shoots a free throw during a game against Texas Tech on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024, in Lubbock, Texas. | Chase Seabolt, Associated Press

This article was first published in the Cougar Insiders newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each week.

Big 12 coaches had the Cougars finishing next to last in the league in a preseason poll, yet the Cougars are 6-5 and tied with TCU for sixth place in the league standings heading to a road trip to Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are in last place, but have an outstanding offense. OSU is 2-9 in league play and 10-14 overall.

BYU stands at 18-6 overall and has won six of its last nine in the Big 12 after starting league play 0-2 back on Jan. 9. Bracketology predicts BYU will finish 23-8 overall and 11-7 in league play and ranks the Cougars No. 10 nationally as a lock for the Big Dance.

Cougar Insiders predictions

Question of the week: Is BYU a good free-throw shooting team after its efforts against Kansas State and UCF, which were total opposites? Predict the score of BYU’s game at Oklahoma State.

Jay Drew: Frankly, I have been surprised that BYU isn’t a better free-throw shooting team in my first year back covering the Cougars full time after covering the Utes the past three seasons. When I covered Dave Rose’s BYU teams, they were usually outstanding from the line because they knew how to get guys like TJ Haws, Tyler Haws, Jimmer Fredette and Noah Hartsock to the line frequently, instead of some others.

I’m going to say that this team, for all its prowess from the 3-point line, is just an average free-throw shooting team. National statistics bear me out on that. BYU is within a half-percentage point of the national free-throw shooting average.

So was Tuesday night’s 40 of 46 an anomaly? Probably. Expect the Cougars to regress to the mean in that department. Unless they send Jaxson Robinson to the line every time. He was 12 of 13 to turn out the lights on the Knights, who were 14 of 26 but started making 3-pointers like Steph Curry in the final minute.

Prediction: BYU 78, Oklahoma State 75.

Dick Harmon: BYU has had nation-leading free-throw shooting teams under Roger Reid and Dave Rose. Mark Pope is trying to make it a priority, but his team is hovering around the national average in the low 70th percentile. This is one of those statistics that BYU’s program has to excel at. It’s a shot that isn’t defended, is the same distance, and it is primarily both a technique and mental exercise. Reid and Rose players made it a priority.

The 10-of-21 effort against Kansas State could have cost the Cougars a game they should have won by a wider margin — a safety net. The 40-of-46 performance from the line against UCF saved BYU. The 40 makes tied a school record. That inconsistency is something that makes little sense. But one thing is certain: Missing free throws in the remaining Big 12 schedule, Big 12 Tournament and NCAA Tournament will lead to losses. Count on it.

Prediction:  BYU 75, Oklahoma State 72.

Cougar tales

Kalani Sitake took a different tack in signing his 2024 football recruiting class and here’s my analysis of what he did differently.

Here are links to our coverage of BYU’s wins over Kansas State and UCF:

  • BYU finds a way to win another Big 12 nail-biter (Jay Drew)

  • Robinson made free throws but Hall won the game (Dick Harmon)

  • KSU win proves nothing comes easy (Jay Drew)

  • Cougars going to need healthy Dallin Hall (Dick Harmon)

  • Is No. 19 BYU a lock for NCAA tourney? (Jay Drew)

From the archives

Related

From the X-verse

Extra points

  • The Athletic looks at Mark Pope, BYU basketball (The Athletic)

  • Sitake shares thoughts on his QBs entering spring (KSL Sports)

  • These BYU, Utah players were invited to NFL combine (Deseret News)

Fanalysts

Comments from Deseret News readers: 

UCF is my favorite BIG XII team. They are so talented, consistent, know how to play, scrappy, don’t quit, athletic and aren’t chest pounders when making a play. Look at their record. Beat some good conference teams and others were so close, especially on the road. This one scared me, so to sweep this team is more than impressive.

I loved how playful Johnson was with the LEFT RIGHT LEFT RIGHT when the game was intense and close.

This team plays even the best teams close. I hope we don’t see them in Kansas City. They are too good.

— RR

Just win baby!

Eleven games into a BigXII season and this team, the same team projected to be #13 and basically the same players that struggled last year in the WCC, has a winning BigXII record ... tied for 6th place ... is one-half game behind Kansas ... two games out of first, in the BigXII ... ranked NET top 10 ... 18 wins overall ... guaranteed to have more wins than losses this year.

Overanalyze all you want, and sure the Cougs could lose more than they win over the next 7 games ... or just enjoy a welcome and pleasant surprise of a season that is becoming a compelling national story and is just so much fun to watch every, single night.

No matter what this team does ... 2023-24 has been an indisputable success ... just win baby!

Cougs4Life

Up next

  • Feb. 15-17 | TBA |  Men’s golf | John Burns Intercollegiate | @ Lihue, Hawaii

  • Feb. 15-17 | 5:30 p.m. | Softball | Littlewood Classic | ASU | @ Tempe, Arizona

  • Feb. 16 | TBA | Track and field | Terrier DMR Classic | @ Boston

  • Feb. 16 | 3 p.m. | Men’s tennis | Nevada | @ Provo

  • Feb. 16-19 | TBA | Baseball | MLB Desert Invitational | @ Mesa, Arizona

  • Feb. 16 | 5 p.m. | Gymnastics | Kentucky | @ Lexington, Kentucky

  • Feb. 16 | 7 p.m. | Men’s volleyball | Grand Canyon University | @ Provo

  • Feb. 17 | 11 a.m. | Women’s tennis | Colorado State | @ Provo

  • Feb. 17 | noon | Men’s basketball | Oklahoma State | @ Stillwater, Oklahoma

  • Feb. 17 | 4 p.m. | Women’s basketball | Kansas | @ Provo

  • Feb. 20 | 7 p.m. | Men’s basketball | Baylor | @ Provo

BYU fans wave signs, banners and props as Saint Mary’s guard Aidan Mahaney (20, in red) shoots a free throw during a game Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, in Provo, Utah. | George Frey, Associated Press
BYU fans wave signs, banners and props as Saint Mary’s guard Aidan Mahaney (20, in red) shoots a free throw during a game Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, in Provo, Utah. | George Frey, Associated Press