The part of a basketball floor that arguably is the most polarizing among any panel of college basketball coaches, also happens to be a good consideration of why Brandon Davies is quite successful.
The BYU junior center has taken full advantage of the "restricted arc," the semi-circle painted under each hoop that is used to help referees call blocking fouls or charges. If a defensive player has a foot inside the "U"-shaped area when contact is made by a player making a move toward the hoop, it should be a block.
But Davies, especially in 16 games of West Coast Conference play, remained effective at getting calls to go his way at the defensive end of the floor. He credits it to his days spent at Provo High, doing charge drills and gaining skills and instincts out of a zone defense in which he became a good help-side defender.
"I guess it grew on me, I don't know," Davies said with a smile.
BYU coach Dave Rose in essence had the WCC's best scorer (18 points per game) who also averaged about 1.5 steals and could find other ways to get his team the ball. He took the most charges on the team (30) and managed mostly to be smart about when to leave himself up to the opinion of three sets of eyes.
"That's the art of the charge. You've got to know how to take it and you've got to know how to sell it to the refs," Davies said.
Rose wouldn't tip his hand on what he thought about the semi-circle that was introduced this season. But he concedes a lot of coaches would have a variety of opinions about it.
The new floor marking has been controversial among fans, too, especially those with the benefit of instant replay. Rose quipped "it seemed like the first 15 games" that any defender who would get his feet outside of the arc would get the call in his favor — even if there was lateral movement taking place as contact was initiated by the ballhandler.
Rose credits Davies for "really understanding angles" and believes the half-circle has given him a good point of reference.
"He knows there's a place on the floor, if he gets to it, he's probably going to get a call," Rose said.
Davies' scoring is up from last year by a few points, though he has committed twice as many turnovers (88 this year; 44 as a sophomore) with a lot more touches because of the graduation of Jimmer Fredette.
But on defense, he's blocked 14 more shots and recorded 26 more steals in playing two more games than last winter. March 1 represents the one-year anniversary of Davies having his season ended by the infamous honor code rule-breaking.
"It was difficult, but I'm past that — in a good place now," Davies said. "All I can do is play my best now, now that I have a chance to play."
Tricky days: BYU is trying to practice for two opponents right now. The No. 3-seeded Cougars will play in the WCC tournament quarterfinals Friday against either No. 6 San Diego or No. 7 Pepperdine.
BYU won all four combined meetings, but may be facing a game at Orleans Arena without Noah Hartsock. Rose wouldn't guess if his standout power forward would be good to go, except to say the leading-scorer senior probably would not practice beforehand because of a sprained knee. Hartsock played seven minutes at Gonzaga and totally missed his final game at the Marriott Center last Saturday.
BYU's bigger concern with USD is that it hasn't played the Toreros since a road venture Jan. 16, because of the league's scheduling format.
"Concepts" is the buzz word right now at practice.
BYU will find out its opponent a few hours after the 3 p.m. MST tipoff Thursday (the game will be shown on BYUtv as well).
Picked on: Matt Carlino had to be asked about the Sports Illustrated profile of the troubles with UCLA's program: A proud one that at one point went to three consecutive Final Fours (and produced a slew of NBA talent) but has in recent years fallen off the map and had a mass exodus of talent.
That includes Carlino, BYU's starting freshman point guard.
He's part of four-page (online) story available at SI.com and will be in the upcoming print edition. Carlino was apparently bullied by star player Reeves Nelson last year.
It's widely known Nelson had all sorts of behavioral issues that finally got him kicked off the team this year. But not before apparently making Carlino one of his prime targets during his semester-long stay before seeking a new start.
"From the first practice, Nelson's treatment of Carlino was a divisive issue. Carlino suffered a concussion during the preseason that caused him to miss the first three games. Nelson ridiculed Carlino for letting the injury sideline him. He told Carlino he didn't belong at UCLA and wasn't any good," author George Dohrmann wrote. "He would yell at Carlino to leave the locker room, calling him 'concussion boy.' When Carlino returned to workouts, Nelson would go out of his way to set a screen on Carlino so he could hit him. Eventually, players say, Carlino dreaded practice. It was of little surprise when he left UCLA midway through the season and transferred to BYU."
Said one anonymous player (of which there are several cited in the piece): "After Carlino left, there was a team meeting at which (coach Ben) Howland said he couldn't respect a quitter. But everyone knew why Matt left. He didn't want to keep sitting on the bench, but most of all he didn't want to be around Reeves anymore. That wasn't quitting. That was just smart."
Carlino has been playing through a sprained MCL suffered Feb. 16 during his scoring outburst at San Francisco.
Carlino announced Dec. 10, 2010, that he was leaving UCLA.
The Cougars played in the Los Angeles area the following weekend, and the Bruins delivered BYU its first loss of the season (10-1) behind Nelson's 23-point effort.
Carlino said he read "a little bit" of the story Wednesday, mostly skimming through quotes that were critical of Nelson but also the program as a whole run by Howland. Nelson talked on-the-record for the story, but Howland did not.
His teams went to the Final Four from 2006-08 but have dropped off considerably. Now, there are questions whether the childhood Bruin fan (UCLA long being his dream job, long before he got it in 2003) will survive after this year.
"Some of it, I didn't know if it was true or not," Carlino said.