Regardless of his position, BYU needs to get Matt Carlino untracked

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Pegged by many as the team most likely to challenge Gonzaga atop the West Coast Conference, the BYU Cougars have struggled mightily of late. Losers of four in a row and five of their last six games, Dave Rose’s team has encountered issues on both ends of the floor. Offensively the Cougars have shot 15-for-56 (26.8%) from beyond the arc, and defensively they’ve given up at least 1.09 points per possession during their current losing streak.

As a result, BYU finds itself 8-7 overall (0-2 WCC) and essentially in the same position they were in last season: unless they go on a serious run, their NCAA tournament hopes will come down to whether or not they can win the WCC’s automatic bid come March. Given the talent on the roster hope isn’t lost, with Tyler Haws averaging 22.0 points per game and leading four Cougars scoring in double figures.

But if BYU is to turn things around, beginning with their WCC home opener against San Diego on Saturday, they have to get junior guard Matt Carlino going.

Carlino’s averaging 15.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game this season, but over the last four contests he’s accounted for just 9.8 points and 1.8 assists. As a scoring point guard Carlino’s going to be aggressive offensively, but his struggles of late as both a distributor and scorer have resulted in fewer minutes at the point with Kyle Collinsworth being asked to do more. In BYU’s loss at Pepperdine on Monday night Carlino played just 19 minutes, and that has led to questions about what position he’ll play.

Will Carlino remain at the point? Or will he shift over to the off-guard position? Regardless of the answer, it’s clear that BYU needs Carlino to get going and their three straight league home games could serve as a catalyst. And as noted by Jason Franchuk of the Provo Daily Herald, how Carlino adjusts could have a significant impact on the Cougars’ hopes for the remainder of this season.

Carlino sounds like he has buyers’ remorse out of something purchased for him, and how he handles the situation (and vice versa with coaches) may say a lot about whether a turnaround is coming, or this season is doomed.

“I think the thing for me is I didn’t know how different it would be from the point, playing the two,” Carlino said. “And I think you can see it out there if you watch. It has just been difficult for me because I haven’t been performing the way I want to. I think it has a lot to do with how I have prepared to play the point this whole time, and then you get thrown into a new role and it is kind of like you got to catch up on the fly.”

Saturday’s game at the Marriott Center matches two teams in search of answers and their first conference win of the season, with San Diego also struggling of late. With that being the case BYU will need a focused Carlino, regardless of his position on the floor.

Syracuse upsets No. 18 UConn as Tyler Lydon stars again

St Bonaventure Syracuse Basketball
AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth
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Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney combined for 34 points as Syracuse overcame an early 10-point deficit to knock off No. 18 UConn in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis, 79-76.

The talking point at the end of this game is probably going to end up being UConn’s decision not to foul Syracuse with 36 seconds left on the clock. Trevor Cooney dribbled out the clock and, with six seconds left, missed a 35-foot prayer, the offensive rebound getting corralled by Tyler Roberson, sealing the win.

But that’s not the real story here.

That would be Tyler Lydon, who suddenly looks like he may end up being the difference maker for this Syracuse team.

If you don’t know the name, I don’t blame you. Lydon was a low-end top 100 recruit that had been committed to the Orange for a long time. He’s not exactly a game-changing prospect, but he’s a perfect fit for Syracuse. At 6-foot-9, Lydon has the length to be a shot-blocker in the middle of the 2-3 zone — he entered Thursday averaging 3.3 blocks — but his biggest skill is his ability to shoot the ball from beyond the arc. When he plays the middle of that zone, when he is essentially the five for the Orange, they become incredibly difficult to matchup with defensively.

The question is whether or not he can consistently be that guy on the defensive end of the floor. Against UConn, Lydon had 16 points and 12 boards. Against Charlotte, he finished with 18 points, eight boards and six blocks. But neither the Huskies nor the 49ers have a big front line that crashes the offensive glass.

Lydon is great at using his length to make shots in the lane difficult, but at (a generous) 205 pounds, he may run into trouble against bigger, stronger front court players.

The perfect test?

Texas A&M, who the Orange will play in the title game on Friday.

USC holds on to beat No. 20 Wichita State

Andy Enfield
Associated Press
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With guards Fred VanVleet and Landry Shamet both sidelined due to injury, No. 20 Wichita State arrived at the Advocare Invitational shorthanded. But even with that being the case the highly successful Shockers represented quite the opportunity for USC, and Thursday afternoon the Trojans took advantage.

Despite turning the ball over 23 times Andy Enfield’s team found a way to win, hanging on to beat the Shockers by the final score of 72-69. Freshman forward Bennie Boatwright, a tough matchup for most teams as a 6-foot-10 stretch forward who can score from the perimeter, shot 5-for-9 from three and scored a team-high (and career-high) 22 points.

The tandem of he and junior Nikola Jovanovic, who added 14 points and 11 rebounds, outplayed the Wichita State front court on a day in which the Shockers needed greater contributions from those players. Add in 15 points and four assists from Jordan McLaughlin, ten points off the bench from Katin Reinhardt and a 12-for-23 afternoon from three, and the Trojans were able to do enough to make up for their high turnover count and Wichita State’s 24 points off of turnovers.

Given the absence of VanVleet and Shamet there’s no reason to panic regarding Wichita State. Ron Baker, who was exhausted by the end of the game due to the heavy load he was asked to shoulder, scored a game-high 25 points and the play of freshman Markis McDuffie was a positive to build on.

McDuffie, who entered Thursday’s game without a made field goal in his first two appearances as a Shocker, shot 5-for-9 from the field and contributed 14 points and three rebounds off the bench. With their current perimeter rotation being what it is McDuffie will have opportunities to contribute, and the Shockers will need him to take advantage as they await the returns of VanVleet and Shamet (and the addition of Conner Frankamp).

Doing so will not only help Wichita State in the short term but in the long-term as well, thus giving Gregg Marshall another option to call upon on his bench.

Thursday’s outcome, even with the desire to see more from Anton Grady (eight points, seven rebounds), says more about USC at this point in time than Wichita State. Enfield’s first two seasons at the helm were about amassing the talent needed to compete in the Pac-12 while also gaining valuable (and at times painful) experience. In year three the Trojans hope to take a step forward within the conference, and wins like this one provide evidence of the program’s growth.