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BYU Basketball Has ‘Stew Of Variables’ Causing Turnover Woes

Nov 15, 2022, 10:03 PM | Updated: 10:40 pm
BYU Basketball, Mark Pope, Turnovers...
BYU basketball looks to end its turnover woes as they welcome Missouri State to the Marriott Center. (Nate Edwards/BYU Photo)
(Nate Edwards/BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah – BYU basketball is averaging 21.5 turnovers through its first two regular season games.

That puts Mark Pope’s team at 345th nationally in turnover average. For reference, there are 363 teams in college hoops. So ball security is top of mind for BYU hoops as they gear up to host Missouri State on Wednesday night.

BYU basketball ranks 345th in turnovers

“You’ve got a stew of variables that are all contributing to an outcome that we don’t like right now. I think we’re the number one turnover team in the country, or close to it. And that doesn’t bode well for us,” said BYU basketball coach Mark Pope. “But we don’t want to pull the wrong lever and suffer a bunch of unintended consequences. We’re going to isolate a couple of variables and see if we can make some headway there. I think we’re going to have some positive results.”

After three successful seasons, Pope has made it clear that he want to change things up. He appreciates all the success to this point but recognizes his program isn’t close to where they want to be, which is among the top teams in college hoops.

With the change on the roster, the style of play has also changed. As a result, BYU’s tempo is off the charts compared to where it was last season. Right now, BYU is at 26th in adjusted tempo in KenPom metrics. Last year, by comparison, they were 118th. It’s a fast-paced style that could be causing some of the early struggles in turning the ball over.

“The way we play is complicated. We’re pretty greedy about hunting for great shots for our teammates,” Pope said. “So that lends itself to a really beautiful end result if you get there. But you have to function at a really high level to get to that end result. It’s much safer to come down and take the first mildly half-contested shot we can get. But that’s not what we search for. We push our guys pretty hard and we put them in jeopardy of suffering some turnover issues. We’re going to grow in that area.”

How does Rudi Williams respond?

Despite Pope pointing to the turnover problems as a team-wide issue. Much of the focus from the outside has been on BYU’s starting point guard Rudi Williams. Williams had eight turnovers in the 82-75 loss at San Diego State on November 11.

On the season, Williams is averaging six turnovers per game. However, Pope, who made Williams a top priority Transfer Portal target in an effort to replace Alex Barcello, is confident the former Coastal Carolina guard will turn it around.

“He’s been unbelievable,” said Pope in how Williams has responded to the early-season struggles. “Listen, Rudi is going to take a little bit of heat for turnovers right now. But a lot of that is on me. That’s on what I’m trying to push him to accomplish. You know, it’s really hard to grow if you don’t step outside of where you’re comfortable. We are stepping way outside of where we’re comfortable with the hope that it will give us a chance to grow into something we haven’t been before. … I’ve pushed Rudi pretty far outside where he’s comfortable. And he’s been super willing. He’s an unbelievable basketball player and an unbelievable young man, and we’re pushing him to become even better than he is. When you do that, there’s a chance to be a little mistake prone, for sure.

“Rudi’s going to write this story in a really special way. We’ll talk about these early couple of early-season game struggles as his pathway to growth. And that’s pretty exciting. I love it. I love the growth process and he’s super engaged in that.”

Mark Pope pleased with his roster ‘One through 18’

BYU’s second unit in the loss at nationally-ranked San Diego State had a lot of struggles. The Aztecs cause those headaches for a lot of teams. Mark Pope remains optimistic about his second unit and the entire roster.

“I really need this second group to keep growing really, really fast. I need them to get better and better and better,” Pope said. “Some pieces in what’s been the second unit for the first two games has got sped up. They’ve got sped up pretty fast. But who doesn’t go to Viejas and get sped up? … I’m really pleased with our guys one through 18 right now. These guys are really locked in and growing. And this second unit is going to be really special.”

Projected Starting Lineups

BYU (1-1)

G – Rudi Williams, 6-3, Sr. (Coastal Carolina transfer)

G – Spencer Johnson, 6-5, Jr.

G – Jaxson Robinson, 6-7, Soph. (Arkansas transfer)

F – Gideon George, 6-6, Sr.

C – Foussyeni Traore, 6-6, Soph.

Missouri State (1-0)

G – Matthew Lee, 6-0, Sr. (Saint Peter’s transfer)

G – Kendle Moore, 6-0, Sr. (Colorado State transfer)

G – Bryan Trimble Jr., 6-3, Sr. (Akron transfer)

G/F – Donovan Clay, 6-8, Sr.

F – Jonathan Mogbo, 6-8, Jr. (JUCO transfer)

Thoughts on Missouri State

Last year, BYU basketball traveled to Springfield, Missouri, to get a Quad 1 game on its resume. Those aggressive scheduling efforts worked as BYU picked up a Quad One victory after “retooling” its roster due to season-ending injuries.

Missouri State returns the trip to Provo this year to complete a home-and-home series. The Bears from the Missouri Valley Conference have revamped their roster through the transfer portal.

“They’re really good, and they’re a pretty new team. They got a bunch of high-quality Division-I transfers and some super capable returners. Coach [Dana Ford] does an unbelievable job with those guys, and they play hard. They are super versatile and can probably do anything they want defensively. One through five, they’ve got some incredibly dangerous scorers, especially from the perimeter. This is a great game for us.

“The game there was a Quad One last year. That’s why we were so excited about it. And I’m guessing by the end of the season, this team’s going to be really good and have a good chance to be a Quad One game for us here too. Great contest; we’re super excited about it.”

BYU vs. Missouri State

Date: Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Tip-off: 7 p.m.

Location: Marriott Center

TV: BYUtv

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM – Pregame begins at 6 p.m.)

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU Basketball Has ‘Stew Of Variables’ Causing Turnover Woes