The Beehive State

Preseason predictions, rankings, and conference polls are intended to gauge where “experts” believe teams will finish in their respective leagues or divisions. However, this exercise becomes increasingly difficult each year due to rising roster turnover. Last season, only five Power 5 teams finished exactly where they were predicted (UCLA, Arizona, Washington, Michigan State and Iowa if you are keeping track at home).

While these forecasts are often discussed early in the season and provide talking points for fans and commentators, their accuracy fades quickly.

Despite the polls’ limitations, we will examine two teams initially projected to finish at the bottom of their conferences. Both have shown early signs of defying those expectations, and we don’t need to venture beyond the Beehive State to find them.

BYU Cougars

The preseason rankings for the BYU Cougars were not flattering. Thrown into the Big 12 gauntlet as one of four new members, they were picked 13th out of 14 teams. But Coach Mark Pope and his staff have other plans. They have propelled BYU to a blistering 7-0 start, silencing doubters and catapulting them to #14 in the AP Poll and 13th in the Coaches Poll.

Offensive Dynamite:

The Cougars are an offensive juggernaut, averaging a staggering 91.3 points per game and boasting a potent 1.29 Points Per Possession (PPP). Both statistics rank among the top 2% in the NCAA, showcasing their offensive firepower. Their efficiency is equally impressive, shooting 48.9% from the field and 58.4% Effective Field Goal percentage, ranking among the nation’s best.

But it’s their three-point arsenal that truly sets them apart. Nearly half (48.9%) of their shots come from beyond the arc, and they connect on 38.6% of those attempts, making them a legitimate threat from deep. This long-range confidence gives them an added dimension that few teams can match.

Efficiency Machine:

BYU’s scoring prowess isn’t just about volume; it’s about maximizing every possession. Their transition game is a thing of beauty, averaging a ridiculous 1.31 PPP. Even in the half-court, where defenses tighten, they maintain a steady 1.28 PPP. And when the shot clock ticks down, they don’t panic, still managing to squeeze out 1.25 PPP.

Defensive Wall:

The Cougars aren’t just one-dimensional. Defensively, they’re just as impressive. Opponents are held to a mere 0.74 PPP in transition, 0.85 PPP in the half-court, and a measly 0.81 PPP in late-shot clock situations. These numbers

paint a clear picture: BYU is a team that knows how to capitalize on its own opportunities while shutting down its opponents, regardless of the situation.

Rebounding Royalty:

BYU is a force to be reckoned with on the boards, pulling in a whopping 60.8% of rebounds as a team. This stat places them among the elite in the entire nation, ranking in the top 2 percentile. They attack the offensive glass as well, grabbing a staggering 39.1% of their own missed shots. To put this in perspective, they hold opponents to a measly 39.2% rebounding rate and an even more abysmal 18.4% on offensive rebounds.

Poised for Big 12 Play:

With their dominant play, the Cougars have proven they belong in the Big 12 conversation. Their conference debut against the Cincinnati Bearcats on January 6th will be their first Big 12 test. They’ve surpassed expectations, silenced doubters, and established themselves as a team to be feared. They’re not just exceeding expectations; they’re chasing postseason aspirations with an intensity and efficiency that’s turning heads across the nation.

Utah State Aggies

Preseason polls for the Utah State Aggies? They were an afterthought, picked 9th in the 11-team Mountain West Conference. But first-year head coach Danny Sprinkle and his staff weren’t going to accept those predictions. They injected this Aggie squad with a grit-and-grind identity, and the results speak volumes.

Dominating the Paint:

Their offense is all about establishing inside presence. A staggering 40.8% of their points come at the rim, ranking them among the nation’s elite (top 2%). They capitalize with ruthless efficiency, shooting a dominant 73.3% around the basket. This translates to a respectable 52.5% overall field goal percentage.

But they’re not just brute force; they’re smart with it. Their 1.17 Points Per Possession (PPP) is impressive, and their transition game explodes with a scorching 1.29 PPP.

Defensive Lockdown:

Utah State’s defensive numbers are a masterclass. They hold opponents to a mere 65 points per game, forcing them into a dismal 39.7% shooting performance from the field and an even more abysmal 25.2% from beyond the arc.

Breaking down their PPP, it’s clear opponents struggle offensively. They manage a mere 0.77 PPP in transition, a sluggish 0.96 PPP in the half-court, and even when the shot clock taunts them, they’re still held to a measly 0.82 PPP.

Rebounding Machines:

The Aggies are devouring rebounds with a team rate of 56.3%, placing them among the nation’s top 10%. They’re not shy about crashing the offensive glass either, grabbing a staggering 39.1% of their own missed shots.

And their opponents? Utah State holds them to a low 43.7% rebounding rate and a paltry 23% on offensive rebounds.

A Force to be Reckoned With:

These numbers aren’t whispers; they’re a warning shot to the rest of the Mountain West. The Utah State Aggies are no longer an afterthought. They’re a force built on grit, grind, and a clear understanding of their strengths. When conference play kicks off on January 2nd at the Air Force Academy, the Falcons better be ready for a battle.

In the initial release of the NET Rankings, BYU was ranked #2 and Utah State was ranked #34 which further supports their overperformance compared to the media’s preseason expectations.

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