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.