- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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A 27-2 record. A possible No. 1 seed. The best and most entertaining player in the country. A chance at a national title.
Yes, BYU fans are in the midst of a dream season.
The only problem with dreams? Eventually, you always have to wake up.
For BYU fans, waking up to Tuesday night's news, reported by ESPN.com's Andy Katz, that BYU has dismissed forward Brandon Davies because of an unspecified violation of the school's honor code is a nightmare. The BYU honor code, in case you're wondering, consists of the following:
Live a chaste and virtuous life
Obey the law and all campus policies
Use clean language
Abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee and substance abuse
Participate regularly in church services
Observe the Dress and Grooming Standards
Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code
Whatever Davies did to deserve dismissal, it's probably safe to say he wasn't caught swearing at a Starbucks barista. ("I was only buying bottled water!" Sure you were.) Davies is far too important to BYU's chances at a deep tournament run for this to be anything other than a serious violation, or at least "serious" relative to the Cougars' strict rules regarding student behavior at the school.
Whatever the violation, Davies is gone, and that presents a major challenge for BYU going forward. First of all, BYU could lose its grip on a potential No. 1 seed. To avoid that fate, the Cougars will have to prove they're just as good without their leading rebounder and best -- and really only -- interior scorer, as they were with him.
How does BYU plan to do so? From Andy's report:
Davies' departure means the Cougars will have to make a major adjustment inside with 6-foot-8 Stephen Rogers and seldom-used 6-foot-10 James Anderson. The move means BYU coach Dave Rose might have to shift the 6-foot-5 Charles Abouo to power forward and go with a smaller lineup.
According to a member of the BYU basketball staff, the plan is likely to go small and continue to push the tempo to exploit BYU's ability to run and get more shots for Fredette.
SDSU coach Steve Fisher called the Cougars one of the best running teams in the country and now, without Davies, the Cougars will likely try to be even more effective on the break. The problem is that Davies ran the court exceptionally well for BYU as a big.
Basically, Brigham Young will either have to incorporate players it rarely uses -- Rogers and Anderson average a combined 7.7 points in 17.7 minutes per game -- or shift to a smaller lineup better suited to its up-tempo style of play. The latter is the more intriguing possibility, if only because it means national player of the year favorite and all-around enthralling basketball human Jimmer Fredette is likely to get even more looks in fast-break and secondary-break situations, and the Cougars in general are going to be even more fun to watch.
That's a win for viewers. It could be devastating for BYU. The Cougars are excellent at controlling tempo, but if they plan on making a deep run in the tournament, they're going to face more than one team with size and athleticism on the interior. They're also likely to face coaches who will realize it's easier to double on Fredette when you can rotate away from whoever will be filling for Davies, and coaches who will do their absolute best to slow the pace of the game to a crawl. Can BYU play in the halfcourt without its best and most athletic big man?
And what about defense? No one on this team protects the rim like Davies; his interior defense was one of the keys to BYU's win at San Diego State on Saturday. Who, if anyone, can replace him?
A host of challenges await the Cougars on both ends of the floor and in all corners of the selection committee's seating arrangement. Whether BYU can replace Davies effectively -- and prove to the committee that it has, all in the two short weeks between now and Selection Sunday -- will be the difference between a dream season and a very good, if slightly disappointing, one.