Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Way to go, students

Just wanted to write a quick love letter to the BYU students.

I can't tell you how impressed I was with the Cougar student section in the Marriott Center this season. They were loud, proud, and they filled those benches to the rafters all year long.

Don't get me wrong. BYU has always had a great student section. Our students have been just as dedicated as the next school's. In fact, the best experiences I ever had at the Marriott Center were when I was a student, waiting in impossibly long lines to rush toward the most desirable seats.

But I have to admit it: The 2011 class brought it.

It started with the Front Row Fanatics. Not sure how these guys get front row center all year long, but I'm as happy as a clam about it. They're personally invested in the games, and they fire up the people around them.

The fever spread with tent city. Before all the big games this year the students camped out in front of the MC entrance to get the best seats. There's something about this activity that makes me proud to be a fan.

The students also did a great job with their cheers. I was especially impressed with how they were able to start the section-by-section "B-Y-U Cougars" chant. One of my all-time favorites.

Finally, you'd have to be a stone-cold, robotic nazi communist not to love this little diddy:

I saw this flash mob live and I was blown away. I hope it becomes a tradition, but maybe only once a year. Let's keep it special.

To sum up, I just want to thank our students. I remember taking a trip up to Logan last year to see the Cougars play Utah State in the Spectrum, and I came away absolutely taken aback by the USU student section. They get it. I always wished BYU would inspire that kind of passion.

Well, I'm happy to say that I felt the passion this year. I felt like the students were invested, they took ownership of their game role, and they made the Marriott Center the place to be on game night.

Great job students. Thanks for letting me live vicariously through you.

Friday, March 04, 2011

A silver lining

Brace yourselves, this post is gonna be a little heavy.

Like I mentioned before, I've run the emotional gamut since I heard about Brandon Davies' dismissal from the BYU basketball team. Well, I'm happy to report that today I've reached a peaceful, transcendent state.

I'm not sure how long it will last, so I figured I'd better write about it now.

In case you didn't know, BYU held a big press conference yesterday featuring Tom Holmoe, Dave Rose and spokesperson Carri Jenkins. They decided to do it because the questions and requests for information about the Honor Code were overwhelming--especially from the national media.

It was then that I started thinking: Maybe some good will come out of this awful situation after all.

At a time when BYU had the country's undivided attention, suddenly the Honor Code (and to some extent the standards of the Mormon Church) were brought to center stage. The verdict? BYU is an institution to be respected and, by comparison, a beacon of light in the murky, unethical and sometimes corrupt world of college athletics.

Our coaches and athletes keep talking about exposure, and this is the right kind of exposure for BYU.

Consider these reports from the national media:
And that's just a few of the many, many stories that have come forward in support of BYU.

It's extremely unfortunate that these stories had to come at the expense of a good person, but the good news is Brandon is being taken care of. He's working his way back, he has the support of the school, his team and the fans, and when he comes back he'll be received with open arms.

I feel completely awful for Jimmer and Jackson, two senior guards that deserved the magical season we were about to have, but there is a silver lining to this mess.

What now?

Let me give you a little insight into what I was feeling when I heard the news about Brandon Davies:

Shock, disbelief, rage, more rage, white-hot rage, sympathy, hope.

Then the New Mexico game started. I think I was back to rage within the first four minutes.

Anyone who saw our No. 3 Cougars get their cakes handed to them by the unranked New Mexico Lobos saw that we have a big problem on our team. With Davies' dismissal we now have absolutely no inside game whatsoever. It became obvious to me on Wednesday night that Brandon Davies was the pace-setter for our big men. He may not play a lot of minutes (averaging just over 24 a game), but he sets a very important tone for the rest of our bigs.

James Anderson did not set that tone. He looked awkward and uncomfortable in the starting role. He can't handle the ball, he has no offense, and he's a turnover just waiting to happen.

Noah Hartsock is definitely a talented player, but he's as soft as a plush ballerina in the post. He can't play with his back to the basket.

So what does that leave us? A lot of rushed, off-balance jump shots. That's what. And that's no good.

Opponents will now follow the New Mexico model when they play the Cougars: Do not give BYU any respect whatsoever in the paint. On offense and defense. Pound it down their throats, because we gots no game down low.

Unfortunately that leaves us in a tough spot now. With little-to-no time to find our identity, BYU is about to enter the post season as weak and vulnerable as a Ute fan at a court hearing. At this point I doubt BYU will make it to the MWC Tournament championship game, and I doubt BYU will make it past the second round of the NCAAs.

It's hard to put it in writing, but that's how I feel deep down in my bones. I hope I'm wrong, though. I hope Dave Rose can figure this team out and we can still make a run.

But he'll have to fill some big shoes to do it.