It's college basketball preview season, and you know what that means: tons of preseason info to get you primed for 2013-14. But what do you really need to know? Each day for the next month, we'll highlight the most important, interesting or just plain amusing thing each conference has to offer this season -- from great teams to thrilling players to wild fans and anything in between. Up next: Get to know Tyler Haws.
You can hardly blame folks for overshadowing the play. I mean, look at what came after it. When BYU fell to Saint Mary's on Matthew Dellavedova's last-second desperation runner, the Cougars were victimized by what might have been the shot of 2012-13 season. Even worse? The play before it -- a face-meltingly beautiful wrong-footed floater by BYU guard Tyler Haws -- should have given the Cougars the win. It was an incredible shot and, nine times out of 10, the winning one. I doubt many people remember it.
There are few more fitting anecdotes to apply to Haws' 2012-13 season. Haws, a prized recruit out of high school and a solid freshman performer in 2010, returned from his two-year Mormon mission to a college basketball landscape that had largely forgotten his existence. He didn't go entirely unnoticed all season, but relative to Gonzaga's No. 1-seed storm, the emergence of Kelly Olynyk and Dellavedova's heroics at Saint Mary's, BYU's lack of nonconference wins and second-tier WCC run kept it from engaging a wider audience. Frankly, the Cougars weren't good enough.
So Haws did his work away from the spotlight, and what work it was: Haws averaged 21.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.3 steals. He set several BYU records for sophomores, including most total points (780), best scoring average (21.7) and most games with 20 or more points (25), records made doubly impressive by the fact that this guy had played there just two years ago. He shot 51 percent from the field, 38 percent from 3 and 87.7 percent from the free throw line. He drew fouls at a high rate, kept his turnovers low and finished with a 115.7 offensive rating despite taking 30.7 percent of his team's shots. Haws not only did a lot; he did a lot well.
Whether Haws can do more is up for debate, as is a more important question: Does he need to? Saint Mary's lost Dellavedova to graduation this past spring, while Gonzaga waved farewell to Olynyk and seniors Elias Harris and Mike Hart, the former an excellent frontcourt scorer, the latter the best glue guy in the country. Gonzaga will be just fine; coach Mark Few still has his probing backcourt (Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell) and a pair of potential NBA bigs (Sam Dower, Przemek Karnowski). But if the Cougars can tighten things up defensively, Haws and fellow captains Matt Carlino (a former UCLA transfer) and Kyle Collinsworth (back from his own two-year church mission) will put points on the board at a more than workable rate.
That's probably the best-case scenario. The defense is no guarantee. But even the worst case -- really great spread up-tempo offense, with Haws leading the way -- will absolutely be worth watching this season. Haws, at a minimum, is one of the game's great attractions -- a smooth, versatile, lights-out scorer. Don't make the same mistake twice.