Barcello off to hot start for Cougars
It’s likely that BYU’s Alex Barcello won’t play a lot on Saturday against Central Methodist, an NAIA school.
After opening the season with three games against teams who made the 2021 NCAA Tournament (Cleveland State, San Diego State and Oregon), the Cougars have earned a break in the schedule and so has Barcello, who has been averaging 32.7 minutes per game.
In those first three games, Barcello has has been spectacular, putting up numbers as if he’s shooting against no defense at all.
Barcello’s offensive rating is an astronomical 164.4, scoring 66 points on 12 of 14 from 2-point range, 8 of 13 from distance and 18 of 18 from the free throw line.
He’s also been clutch, hitting big shots late in wins against Cleveland State and San Diego State. In Tuesday’s 81-49 thrashing of No. 12 Oregon, Barcello made his first eight shots from the field and finished with 25 points.
“I have no words left for this guy,” BYU coach Mark Pope, then, predictably, proceeded to find some. “This is Alex Barcello. This is what he does. He goes on the road against the No. 12 team in the country and goes 9 off 11 from the field and he does it 100 percent in the context of how we play. He’s not forcing shots and he’s become a master of what we try to do.
“Somebody put out that Alex Barcello is one of the most underappreciated guys in the country, or a darkhorse All-American. I don’t understand that. Who in the country has done what he’s done in the first three games? The guy’s incredible. He’s a star’s star. And he does it right. It all blends into everything we do. The young man is incredible. He’s a really special young man. And that’s not even the best thing he does. The best thing he does is make our locker room right. He’s spectacular.”
Against Oregon, transfer Te’Jon Lucas had the best game of his young BYU career: 12 points on 5 of 8 from the field (2 of 3 from the 3-point line), six assists and just one turnover against the Ducks full-court press.
“I’m not that smart,” Pope said, “but our backcourt was ridiculous. They’re just Yin and Yang right now. There’s what Alex did and then T’Jon was really special tonight. He just has the poise and experience of a veteran guy.”
Moving on up
Last year, the highest BYU reached in the KenPom ratings was No. 20. After beating Oregon on Tuesday, the Cougars moved from 39 to 20. As of Thursday, BYU was sitting at No. 23.
The Cougars received a few votes in the AP poll last week (26) but should break into the Top 25 after routing Oregon.
BYU’s Gideon George, who is from Nigeria, recently sponsored a shoe drive in conjunction with Timeout for Africa and BYU Global Supply Chain Management. Fans were encouraged to bring lightly used or new shoes, as well as other school supplies such as backpacks, to last week’s San Diego State game. According to reports, the event brought in over 5,000 pairs of shoes to donate to needy children in Africa.
Central Methodist, an NAIA school from Fayette, Mo., has started the season 7-0 with victories over – and these are actual basketball teams – the likes of Central Christian College of the Bible and the University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy.
The Eagles are coached by Jeff Sherman, now in his 36th season. He is currently seventh all-time among active NAIA coaches (653 wins). Central Methodist is averaging 83.6 points per game and has five players averaging better than nine points per game, led by guard Jonathan Brown (17.9).
“We knew the first three games were going to be enormously challenging,” Pope said after beating Oregon. “The guys are excited to get home and get back to work.”
Men’s College Basketball
Central Methodist (7-0) at BYU (3-0)
Saturday, 7 p.m. MT
Marriott Center, Provo
Radio: BYU Radio, Sirius XM 143/BYU radio app, KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM
Live stats: byucougars.com
The Word: Central Methodist in an NAIA school from Columbia, Mo. … Eagles coach Jeff Sherman is currently ranked No. 7 all-time in NAIA wins (653). … The Cougars are coming off an 81-49 rout of No. 12 Oregon at the Phil Knight Invitational. … BYU was outside the AP Top 25 last week with 26 votes.