Donovan: BYU more than Jimmer
Published: Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 21, 2011 at 11:01 p.m.
To the casual observer, BYU's success begins and ends with senior standout guard Jimmer Fredette.
Yet Florida coach Billy Donovan is just as concerned with the rest of BYU's team heading into Thursday's Sweet 16 matchup with the Cougars (7:27 p.m., TBS) in New Orleans.
“Jimmer gets a lot of publicity and attention and exposure, but it's really their whole team,” Donovan said Monday. “We understand with him, he's certainly a hard guy to defend and stop. But they also have some other good players.”
Donovan pointed out BYU's varied strengths, including the shooting ability of senior guard Jackson Emery, the low-post ability of junior forward Noah Hartsock and junior swingman Charles Abouo's ability to score around the basket. Emery is shooting 35.9 percent from 3-point range, Hartsock averaged 5.9 rebounds per game and Abouo is averaging 7.3 points in just 20.7 minutes per game.
“It's really been their whole team collectively,” Donovan said. “And I don't think that you really get to this point in the season like they've gotten to with it just being one guy. Certainly Fredette is a huge, huge part of it, but they also have other good players. So there's a lot for us to get prepared and ready for.”
Fredette, a consensus national player of the year candidate, leads the nation in scoring at 28.8 ppg. But Donovan is aware other BYU players can step up as well. Last March, when BYU knocked Florida out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament with a 99-92 double-overtime win, guard Michael Loyd Jr. came off the bench to score 26 points.
Loyd transferred to Midwestern State University, a Division II school in Wichita Falls, Texas, over the summer. But Donovan said he still thinks third-seeded BYU is better than it was a year ago. Last year, the Cougars were a No. 7 seed and knocked out of the NCAA Tournament in the second round by Kansas State.
“We could play better than we did last year in the NCAA tournament and still not beat these guys,” Donovan said.
Asked what makes BYU better than last year's team, Donovan began with Fredette's improvement: “Any time you have a player who did what he did last year, and then come back to do it better — I have respect and admiration for that,” he said. “It's a sign of great focus, a will and a drive to want to get better and be the best player he can be. They're personnel is a year older, and they've played exceptionally well in the NCAA Tournament. They're a terrific scoring team, and they'll change up their defenses. With Fredette and their personnel being a year older and a year better, they're just a better team.”
Donovan said he views the familiarity between the teams as being a factor, but not a major factor, heading into Thursday's game. Florida returns all five starters from last year's team, but has four new freshmen coming off the bench. BYU returns three of its five starters from last year's NCAA Tournament game against Florida.
“They've seen Fredette live at least one time,” Donovan said. “They know his speed and size, and (BYU) knows our speed, quickness and size. For us to even think about last year, we have our hands filled worrying about this BYU team this year. Because this year, they're better than they were a year ago. That is really the great challenge.”
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