Brigham Young star Jimmer Fredette hopes to take Cougars deep into NCAA tournament.
There’s a special fascination among college-basketball fans with the gunner, the guy who can hoist successful bombs over helpless defenders. We can’t really relate to the mayhem going on inside, because it’s executed by bodies far bigger than we are.
But the deep jumper — mostly, those are our-sized people, and that’s what we tried to do in the driveway as kids. And so, people from Pete Maravich to Rick Mount to Reggie Miller have captivated us.
Now, Jimmer Fredette.
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This is March, and this sets up as Jimmer’s NCAA tournament (assuming the Cougars play better than they did Wednesday night in a home loss to New Mexico). CBS will have shots of him getting off the team bus, day-between-games interviews, halftime features. They’re going to want him deep into the bracket.
You can imagine some of the groans, then, on West 52nd Street in New York, CBS headquarters, Tuesday when Brigham Young booted Brandon Davies off the team for an honor-code violation. He’s a key piece of what the Cougars do, and surely their postseason possibilities are crimped with the loss of an athletic forward whose name has already been scrubbed from the roster on the BYU website.
On the other hand, maybe that means more Jimmer. If that’s possible.
His numbers don’t flatten you: A field-goal percentage of .456, .414 on threes and a modest 1.26 assist-turnover ratio. His 100 turnovers are a high figure.
But this is a case where the stats don’t mirror his impact, because he has the ball so much and affects so dramatically what goes on around him. Two days after BYU’s watershed, 13-point road victory over San Diego State, Aztecs coach Steve Fisher was calling BYU’s performance “sensational,” partly because Fredette kept thwarting his one-and-a-half-to-two defenders and finding open shooters.
As BYU coach Dave Rose explained it in a conversation we had this week, there’s often a third defender who attacks Fredette, and the game then becomes a “feel” thing for him.
“On the nights he feels really comfortable with how the rest of the guys are playing, he just has to throw it to a blue or white jersey, and he knows those guys are going to make shots,” Rose said. “Some nights, he feels he really needs to score, and he kind of forces the issue at times.”
Fredette (6 feet 2, 195 pounds) is adept at beating defenses off ball screens, refusing screens or splitting defenders and getting to the foul line (216 times). Once there, he shoots a tick under 90 percent.
Sean Miller, the Arizona coach, speaks almost reverently about the effect Fredette, who averages 27.3 points, has on the game. Fredette dropped a McKale Center-record 49 points on the Wildcats last season, and 33 in the rematch in Provo in December.
“He just has a way about him,” Miller said. “It can mentally wear your team out. As the shots go in, it has the effect of: ‘There’s not any easy answers here today.’
“In the two games, he was as good a player as I’ve seen live.”
During Adam Morrison’s heyday in 2006, Gonzaga coach Mark Few used to refer to the rock-star phenomenon he seemed to engender on the road. Since Morrison, there really hasn’t been one of those in college basketball, but there is now.
Rose talks about clusters of people waiting in the hotel lobby when BYU checks in on the road. And there’s even a home component to it.
“People know where Jimmer’s going to be,” he said. “Coming out of practices and going to class … he’s a pretty popular guy. There are times when he needs to take a different exit out of the building, or an entrance. He just needs to have his space.”
This month, that space gets ever tighter.
• Besides Duke’s game at North Carolina to decide the ACC regular-season title (they’re tied), there are several pivotal bubble matchups Saturday: Nebraska at Colorado, Virginia Tech at Clemson, Michigan State at Michigan and Georgia at Alabama.
• Despite being 10-19, Eastern Washington got into the six-team Big Sky tournament playoff for the first time in five seasons. Glen Dean, a sophomore guard from Roosevelt High, had all 17 points after intermission and the go-ahead three in overtime in an upset last week over Montana.
• Here’s a number that typifies what a year it’s been for the turbulent WAC: 1,512. That’s what Idaho drew recently for its game against then-17th-ranked Utah State.
• Adrian Oliver, the San Jose State transfer guard from Washington, is third in the nation in scoring at 24.3.
• If Nebraska (19-10, 7-8) can find its way into the NCAA tournament, it would be the first time since 1998. And if the Huskers win one in the dance, it would be the first time in … ever.