Friday, February 20, 2009

The dirty deuce

Tomorrow marks the beginning of a dirty two-game road stretch for BYU basketball.

First up: BYU at UNLV in Sin City. After that BYU will wing its way to San Diego on Tuesday for an Aztec showdown in the Cox Arena.

Brutal games, and both in the Pacific Time Zone.

The last time BYU won in Vegas was in 2005. The last time BYU won in San Diego? 2001.

It's been a while.

History is against us, but I am strangely optimistic. I like our chances at UNLV because the Rebels are simply not the team we thought they were at the beginning of the season. They lose to bad teams, they aren't very impressive and their home court advantage isn't what it used to be.

The caveat is that UNLV--both player and student alike--hates BYU. I expect them to channel their Henderson rage when BYU skips into the Thomas & Mack tomorrow night.

But the fact remains: BYU has bigger, taller, better-shooting players than UNLV, and I think we can win.

San Diego is a different story. They have such good athletes... I just don't know if we match up well. Lorenzo Wade, Billy White and Kyle Spain are all special. And I don't mean Chris Miles special either, Trizz.

We can still beat them, but the Aztecs will be a tougher test than the Rebs.

My X factor for both games is none other than Mr. Gag order himself: Jonathan "JT Money" Tavernari.

Tav, despite a deep and abiding love for Las Vegas ("Just want to say hi to my people in Vegas!"), has yet to really take over a game at the T&M, and that is a big reason we have struggled there of late.

Since JT can put big daggers in opposing teams, I am picking him to be the make-or-break in both games. If JT, more than anyone else, can hit some of his patented open shots, then BYU will find itself in a very good position in both games.

If Tav can't get it going, and we have to rely only on Jimmer and Cummard, I predict two losses. And two losses is costly for BYU at this point. Two losses and we are out of the NCAA tournament.

So what happens this week? Do we take both? Lose both? Split? I am anxious to hear some thoughts.

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