Story of the stats: How BYU upset No. 17 San Diego State

Well folks, it looks like BYU has a basketball team this year.

BYU took down the 2023 national runner-ups San Diego State 74-65 Friday night in Provo. This game has become a staple for the Cougars over the years and almost always excites. This year’s edition was no different. BYU played an impressive game against an impressive team and came out on top.

Many BYU fans had doubts coming into this season about this team. After all, the Cougars weren’t coming off a particularly stellar year, and they have just joined the perennial basketball conference in the entire country.

To many fans’ surprise, the analytics side of the sport loved this BYU squad this year. Team Rankings pegged the Cougars as a tournament team, projecting to win 9-10 conference games. ESPN’s BPI (Basketball Power Index) ranked BYU in the top 30 in the country, and had them favored against the Aztecs, which ended up being correct.

The reason ESPN was able to predict a BYU win was the analytics that show the true value of this team. A lot of those analytics came to light tonight and carried the Cougars to a win. I want to highlight some of my favorite. Most will be real, some will be fake, but they’ll all mean something.

+17: Dallin Hall’s plus-minus

There’s no debating that Dallin Hall was the best player for the Cougars Friday. 18 points and three assists aren’t the kind of stats that do his performance justice. Thankfully, his team-leading plus-minus paints a better picture.

Not only was Hall the leading scorer, he was the main ball-handler the final 15 minutes of the game. He pushed the ball up the floor, consistently broke the Aztec’s press and got the offense in motion every single possession. Additionally, his 50% three-point percentage came out in crunch time to seal the win for BYU.

42: The number of points from BYU’s bench

This number got a little boost from the fact that Hall came off the bench, but 57% of your offensive production coming from non-starters is no joke. The Cougars thrived off of crucial subs that ended up closing out the game in the end.

“Everyone had a moment where they really stepped up,” Hall said after the game.

Some other notable bench players were Jaxson Robinson — who for a moment in the first half looked like Michael Jordan (with nicer hair) by scoring 12 points on 50% shooting off the bench — and Richie Saunders, who not only put up 12 points himself, but also ran around like his hair was on fire in all the best ways you can imagine.

12: The number of BYU offensive rebounds

“If you had told me before the game that we would have a 42-32 rebounding edge, I would have taken that and run with it,” head coach Mark Pope said.

BYU playing big boy ball with one of the most physical teams in college basketball wasn’t on anyone’s bingo card, but here we are. The Cougars came to play and they rebounded like they meant it. They were led by Fouss Traore with eight and Spencer Johnson with seven.

17: The number of BYU points off of fast breaks

It’s already well documented that this year’s BYU team has plans to play fast and loose. Getting 17 points off of fast breaks against a team that is consistently one of the best transition defenses in the country is even faster and looser than we thought.

This stat is a testament to the Cougars commitment to move the ball quick and capitalize in transition. It ended up being the difference tonight.

4-31: San Diego State’s record at the Marriott Center

This isn’t a team statistic, but it’s pretty dang cool. From Jimmer vs. Kawhi on CBS primetime to Aly Khalifa vs. Jaedon LeDee on ESPN+, there have been some epic showdowns in Provo between these two schools. Far more often than not, BYU comes out on top thanks to that Marriott Center magic. Take a bow, Cougar fans.

53%: The odds BYU is ranked next week

Okay, you got me, I made this one up. Although I’m no Ken Pomeroy, I do think BYU has a legitimate chance to crack the top 25 poll with these last two wins. Not only do the analytics love it, but BYU beat a team who just won a Final Four game seven months ago. You can go ahead and count on a 100% chance the Cougars at least receive some votes— that one I didn’t make up.

99%: The odds BYU loses a game this season that analytics says they should win

This is what makes sports, and college basketball in particular, so beautiful. It’s called March Madness for a reason. The good news for BYU is that the opposite of this stat I made up is also true. One thing is for sure, though: this BYU team isn’t to be overlooked by a single team they play this season, and if they can consistently play like they did tonight, analytics will continue to be on their side.

Chase Rogers covers football and men’s basketball for Daily Universe Sports. Follow him on X: @Chase_rogers0.

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