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Inside Darnell’s Head: Cougars ready to meet postseason head on

By Darnell Dickson daily Herald - | Mar 1, 2021
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Darnell Dickson

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BYU senior guard Alex Barcello celebrates a 3-pointer.

Here’s what’s going in inside Darnell’s head at the completion of the West Coast Conference basketball regular season.

I never thought we’d make it.

Season finale

It was pretty cool to have 1,800 fans in the Marriott Center for Senior Night when BYU beat Saint Mary’s. Not just because Gaels coach Randy Bennett’s tears are even more satisfying for BYU fans in person (read social media, you’ll see it’s true) but to honor seniors Matt Haarms, Alex Barcello and Brandon Averette. None of those three guys had BYU on their radar coming out of high school but to a man they have loved their experience in Provo. Mark Pope is an absolute recruiting wizard to get those players in the program and they have made a major impact.

It’ll now be a week until BYU plays its next game since they have a bye all the way to the WCC semifinals next Monday. It’s a late one, folks, a 10 p.m. start for ESPN.

The Cougars are in a pretty good spot right now. The bracketology experts have BYU firmly in the NCAA Tournament field of 68 teams. I think the Cougars will be a 7 or 8 seed. The difference between those seeds is huge because No. 8 plays No. 9 and a victory sets up a meeting with the No. 1 seed. A 7 seed plays a 10 followed by a likely game against a No. 2 seed.

A win in the WCC semifinals probably doesn’t improve BYU’s status that much. Beating Gonzaga in the finals is a monumental task but I seem to recall the Cougars ruining the ‘Zags unbeaten season before.

In any case, Pope and his coaching staff deserve a ton of credit for getting their program to this place despite all the losses from last year’s group.

Spring forward

Does spring football mean that much to BYU fans?

Sure, it is football, but with closed practices do we really know what is going on?

The Cougars open spring football today with tons of questions to get answered at quarterback, on both lines and in the secondary. Those answers won’t really come until September, but the process begins now. Breaking in two new coaches is pretty important, too.

We’ll learn a little from the coaches and players interviews if we read between the lines. Pay attention.

BYU also released its 2021 schedule on Saturday for some reason. Everyone already knew who the Cougars were playing from previous releases but Saturday is an unusual day to break news.

I do like the schedule and its configuration. While there are plenty of Power Five teams early it’s not as daunting at first glance. If Kalani Sitake has built his program the way he says he has, BYU should be competitive with all of those teams. There are some compelling matchups with former coaches (Jeff Grimes and Eric Mateos with Baylor, Bronco Mendhall with Virginia) and the USC game as the season finale is going to be a big challenege.

Waiting … waiting … waitingThe website for WCC crashed on Saturday right before the BYU-USF women’s basketball game. I’ve also noticed that the BYU athletic website has been flakey lately and displaying bad gateway errors.

Hey, Tom Holmoe, how about allocating some of that money the fans donated to the athletic budget to hire someone to take care of those issues?

I know a few guys.

This is the very reason I don’t completely cut the cable cord and go full streaming. Still too many lags, bugs and drops for me.

A good watch

“WandaVision” is one of the most unique and compelling things I’ve seen in a long time. I’ve read some complaints on social media that the show is just leading viewers on every week. Then I wonder if those people have ever seen a television show. A production that gives you a compelling reason to watch the next episode the following week means that it’s a good show. You can’t binge watch everything. Have a little patience.

Hey, Dave

Former BYU men’s basketball coach Dave Rose and his wife, Cheryl, were at the BYU-Saint Mary’s game on Saturday. When he was introduced on the big screen, many Cougar fans stood and applauded.

He’s still the GOAT when it comes to the men’s basketball program. And it was really good to see him recovered from his recent heart attack.

I’m sure he didn’t recognize that ugly, defensive first half but nodded his head when BYU shot 67% from the field in the second.

An uphill battle

The BYU men’s volleyball team has two losses this season after getting swept by Grand Canyon on Thursday. The Cougars came back to do the same to the ‘Lopes on Saturday to improve their record to 6-2.

With all the talent BYU had coming back from 2020 I think a lot of people (including probably the players and coaches) thought the Cougars might have a shot at going undefeated on their way to a national title. What they’ve found is that everyone they play has gotten better.

I hear a lot of coaches say, “We just didn’t play well” after a loss but I think that’s missing the point. It’s more accurate to say you didn’t play to the level of your competition. Sometimes an opponent steps it up a notch and your team just can’t quite match that level of play.

What’s more important for BYU right now is their season trajectory. They need to focus on getting better every day and peaking during the NCAA tournament. They are certainly capable, but so are half a dozen other teams in college volleyball.

If Shawn Olmstead gets these guys to the championship game, even with all the returning talent, it will be the best coaching job of his career.

Thank me later

Some days you just need to go to YouTube and look up bloopers and outtakes of your favorite movie. Have a laugh. It’ll improve your day.

Soccer miracle

BYU and San Francisco staged a pretty remarkable soccer match on Saturday. Cougar All-American McKayla Colohon scored a shorthanded goal in the second half for a 3-2 victory.

Jennifer Rockwood has one of the most consistently excellent programs on campus and I hope they let a few fans onto South Field when the Cougars finally play a home match on March 13.

Falling behind

The BYU women’s basketball team is going to go into the WCC Tournament as the No. 2 seed as well, but they’ve got some work to do. This weekend, the Cougars split with Santa Clara and San Francisco but trailed in both games by double digits. BYU managed to rally from 18 points down in the third quarter to beat the Broncos but couldn’t manage the same trick against a Dons team that made every shot and scored 86 points.

I know Jeff Judkins has something up his sleeve for the tournament. ESPN bracketology has the Cougars as a No. 10 seed so getting to the WCC title game would seem to be a must just to be sure BYU can make the NCAAs.

That’s all for now but for this: If I’m driving you crazy, please remember to wear your seat belt.

Be safe, mask up, treat each other with kindness and have a terrific week.

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