Rose

FRANCHUK: Rose's work wasn't best in WCC this year, but it sure had unique strongpoints

2014-03-06T17:00:00Z 2014-03-20T21:00:03Z FRANCHUK: Rose's work wasn't best in WCC this year, but it sure had unique strongpointsJason Franchuk - Daily Herald Daily Herald
March 06, 2014 5:00 pm  • 

He met with the media after BYU's regular-season finale, and Dave Rose was exhausted.

Quiet with answers, not to mention still red in the face. It certainly wasn't a San Diego-induced sunburn, as it rained all weekend.

But not on the Cougars' win parade. Jenny Craig Pavilion could have been the site of one of BYU's great misfortunes last Saturday.

It turned into one of Rose's greatest conquests, absolutely needing a road win and getting it.

It was the Rose we knew many times during his first six years in charge, when improving the program, getting the most out of it — getting to the NCAA Tournament — was a way of life on the Provo campus right up there with the honor code and Sunday church service.

For whatever reason, this program had lost a little bit of its gut-check identity over the last 2-plus seasons.

Jimmer Fredette left, and it was tough to regain the mojo the Cougars had under Rose. The Cougars barely made the tournament two years ago and missed it altogether last March.

Before Fredette, however, BYU didn't need a player of the year to be relevant. His first team (2005-06 season) achieved 20 wins and was a mish-mash of confidence and pieces, yet Rose coaxed that group into a postseason contender again.

It was an excellent job, even if it ended early in the NIT.

Since then, a spot in March Madness has been basically a foregone conclusion. That speaks more to the savvy trend of Rose's tenure than it does the Cougars' historical dominance.

This is still a program that has just one Sweet 16 appearance in his tenure and you have to go all the way back to the early 1980's to find the previous one.

By that blunt math, BYU's a pretty ordinary program. Face it. A lot of programs have been to the tournament's second weekend a couple of times during a three-decade period.

It's a funky and unique span, though, when you consider how the number of peers decreases dramatically — the number of programs that have enjoyed a couple of national players of the year in that same timeframe like Danny Ainge and The Jimmer.

Rose said something that's stuck with me since after the team defeated Gonzaga a few Saturdays ago.

Finding identity, and expectations, the last three years has been a difficult task in the West Coast Conference.

Fredette left and the Cougars joined a new league. No longer was it the most hated team — that one's on you, Gonzaga — but nor was it the most successful outfit, either. Gonzaga, also.

Rose lamented that it took until the third season (after a couple of third-place standings finishes) to defeat every WCC team, finally besting Saint Mary's after four missed tries.

BYU handled Saint Mary's twice this season and even split with GU. But there were also wildly inappropriate defeats to Loyola Marymount and even Pepperdine. The Pacific one Feb. 13 was a doozy, further threatening BYU's spot in the field-of-68 establishment.

But BYU's found a way to play some its best ball late in the season, hence a four-game winning streak including two critical road games at SMC and the 78-70 outcome at San Diego that likely gave the Cougars a little necessary breathing room come Selection Sunday.

The way I figure, BYU needs two more wins in Las Vegas to be certain about itself. Beat the Loyola Marymount-Pepperdine challenger Saturday, and get to the Tuesday championship by ousting San Francisco or San Diego.

Rose said Thursday he believes BYU needs to win the tournament to get in the field.

Matt Carlino put a different spin on it: "We're in a great position. Three more wins and we're in the NCAA Tournament."

BYU's status at this very moment is still an improvement from the past two years. In 2012, the season after Fredette graduated, the Cougars were among the final four NCAA entrants and they sweated out nearly a whole week until the selections last year.

There was no such anxiety last year, and that wasn't a good thing: NIT.

The Cougars are back to creating healthy tension in a Rose-coached job that deserves more credit than it'll probably get.

Sure, he had Tyler Haws back. But Kyle Collinsworth isn't that far removed from a remote part of Russia.

BYU has needed two freshmen big men to have a chance. Eric Mika and Luke Worthington have blossomed, especially the latter of late.

Putting Mika on the bench to begin could've been a dicey move. It's paid off. I do wonder if Rose can keep that strategy assuming a return to the NCAA Tournament, however. Maybe it depends on matchups. Or perhaps Rose just continues to stick with his gut.

Then there's Matt Carlino. who has absolutely embraced his reserve spot. It says a lot about him, coming off the bench after about two years in the starting five. But it's also the way Rose and his staff handled what could've been a prickly existence since early January.

Rose psych-jobbed his Cougar tail off at USD, too.

He had BYU feeling good and confident enough to not play tight from the opening tipoff, building a 16-point lead five minutes before half. The Cougars needed a win, for sure, but they played with a healthy and constructive urgency.

The Cougars blew through that unfortunately fast — been there before, right? — but Rose kept being the button pusher that's made him famous among hoops alums from the team, all the way back to his assistant days.

A particularly crafty move was playing a defensively stellar lineup late, stifling the Toreros with the likes of Worthington getting a steal.

The freshman center's development, plus the comfort Mika and Carlino — two expected starters — have found off the bench have created one of Rose's best jobs in a career filled with them.

"I don't think they've all paid off," Rose said with a chuckle, when a reporter offered a positive spin in his question Thursday about how his rotation choices have been so successful this year. "We've had quite an interesting season."

Full disclosure: I wouldn't have voted him as the WCC's best coach for this particular year.

Rex Walters at San Francisco (who received the coaches' vote) had a roster overhaul and, while losing both games to BYU, still finished tied for second.

Pepperdine's Marty Wilson had a team pegged to finish last, and the Waves were fourth at 8-10.

Say what you will about Gonzaga, but Mark Few coached his Zag tail off this year. GU dealt with injuries to a pair of starters, lost a valuable NBA lottery pick a year early and still won an improved league by two full games. This may have been a better coaching job than last year's when the Bulldogs were a No. 1 NCAA seed.

It's all subjective, but I could be persuaded to change my vote.

If BYU can win a conference tournament title, something that hasn't been done since 2001.

Rose would probably feel better about his work, too.

jason-franchuk
-- Jason Franchuk covers primarily BYU football and basketball for the Daily Herald. You can connect with him by email at jfranchuk@heraldextra.com or by following him on Twitter at

Read more from  Jason Franchuk here.

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