BYU men's basketball

BYU's Gavin Baxter pumps up the crowd in the second half against St. Mary's on Jan. 24, 2019.

Here’s what’s going on inside Darnell’s head, a magical place where I can still name the starting lineup for the 1975 Cincinnati Reds but can’t remember why I walked into the living room.

On a roll

So what do you think of your second-place BYU men’s basketball team?

The Cougars have won three straight games since getting blown out at home by Gonzaga, which is laying waste to the West Coast Conference like a team on a mission. Since that 93-63 loss, BYU has held Loyola Marymount, Portland and Pacific to less than 60 points each.

OK, so none of those teams are offensive juggernauts, but solid defense against anybody has been in short supply this season until recently.

I asked BYU coach Dave Rose what has changed.

“We have a set of guys who understand it (the defense) way better,” Rose said. “You’ve got to have five, six or seven guys who are just committed to it. Some guys have been committed to it but are still learning. That’s a big part of it, to get that fifth guy, whoever it is.”

Rose said it was the big loss to Gonzaga that helped his players focus.

“We got waxed pretty good in a game in here (the Marriott Center) and that doesn’t normally happen to us or our teams,” Rose said. “It’s interesting to me how teams respond to certain situations. I think we had a pretty good response.”

Having senior McKay Cannon and freshman Gavin Baxter in the starting lineup and playing more minutes has made a difference as well. Cannon has embraced his role as a defensive guy and Baxter compliments leading scorer Yoeli Childs very well.

The trip to San Diego this week will be a big one. The Toreros are getting everyone back from injury and will really test the Cougars’ renewed defense.

Rocky start

The BYU men’s volleyball team was swept in three straight matches (twice by UCSB and once by Pepperdine) for the first time since opening the 1993 season with a trio of sweep losses. The Cougars avoided a fourth straight sweep by winning the first set at UCLA on Saturday but still lost 3-1 to fall to 4-4 this season.

BYU is a very young team and will experience more growing pains this season. Head coach Shawn Olmstead has his work cut out for him, which includes the continued growth of two rookie assistant coaches. Olmstead’s biggest challenge will be keeping his team’s confidence bolstered because the teams in the MPSF are sharks and smell blood in the water.

It’s tough because BYU has been so good for so long. I suppose the Cougars were due for a down year, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.

BYU hosts Concordia and USC this week, its first home matches in a month.

I know, dear

The best Valentine’s card I saw this week was this one, obviously intended for a woman to give to her husband: A man is loading the dishwasher and the caption says “You’re doing it wrong … but I love you, anyway.”

Our kind of guys

The above phrase is used in just about every football program when it comes to recruiting. If you're Alabama or Clemson, I suppose, you recruit so much talent maybe it doesn’t matter as much. But when you’re BYU, you need to find the right guys that fit your program and can improve chemistry.

A lot has been made about the Cougars recruiting rankings — 78th in the country by 24/7 Rivals — but is actually much higher when returned missionaries are added to the group. That’s something unique to BYU.

A few guys in this class who stand out to me that we should keep an eye on: Colorado speedster Luc Andrada, San Diego running back Javelle Brown and JC cornerback Dimitri Gallow. Of the returned missionaries, defensive back Chaz Ah You, defensive end Tyler Batty and tight end Donovan Hanna are guys to watch.

For spring, we’ll enjoy watching Jaren Hall, Joe Critchlow, Baylor Romney and Stacey Conner gets reps at quarterback while incumbent Zach Wilson recovers from shoulder surgery.

I didn’t know that was an available major

Speaking of recruiting, I was looking back over some old BYU classes and came across quarterback Ben Olson, the highest-rated recruit ever to choose the Cougars. Of course, he opted to transfer to UCLA after returning from his mission.

I pulled up his Wikipedia page, which indicated Olson is a highly successful sales and business development executive. His page also said he majored in exotic dancing at UCLA and he lives in Shangri la, Utah.

Obviously, someone is having fun with Olson’s Wikipedia page. If you have one, there’s your reminder to check in frequently.

That’s it for now, but for this: Dance like no one is watching, because they’re not. They’re checking their smartphones.

Have a great week and if you have a sweetheart, don’t forget to make a good effort on Valentine’s Day.

Follow Darnell Dickson on Twitter @darnellwrites or e-mail him at ddickson@heraldextra.com.

Darnell Dickson, who has been covering sports in Utah since 1989 (with a detour to Nebraska for three years somewhere in there), is currently the BYU football columnist and BYU men’s basketball beat writer.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!