Here’s what’s going on inside Darnell’s head. My family told me to stop telling corny Thanksgiving jokes but I told them I couldn’t quit “cold turkey.”
BYU men’s basketball won three games in four nights to open the season, beating Westminster, New Orleans and Utah Valley by an average of 32 points.
On the surface, that is impressive. But those three games also showed clearly the areas where the Cougars still need work. Taking care of the basketball, free throws and defensive rotations stood out over the three games. Teams go through this every year at the start of the season.
Well, except if you are Gonzaga. The No. 1 Bulldogs looked totally awesome in their first two games, beating No. 6 Kansas 102-90 and Auburn 90-67. I thought there might be some adjustment period for the Zags with so many young bucks on their roster but holy smokes, those guys are good. Freshman Jalen Suggs might be one-and-done, he’s so talented.
Former BYU assistant coach Tim LaComb tweeted, “In what universe are Andrew Nembhard and Aaron Cook backup guards?” That’s how much talent Gonzaga has on the roster.
There were times during the first three games that I thought BYU looked pretty good and could give the Zags a scare. There were other times when I thought there was no chance the Cougars could hang with Gonzaga.
Now BYU steps up in competition with games on the road against USC, UConn and Utah State this week.
Some early impressions: The backcourt of Alex Barcello and Brandon Averette is really, really dynamic. Freshman Caleb Lohner is going to be a star. Grad transfer Matt Haarms is a game changer now that he’s recovered from his sprained ankle. Junior college transfer Spencer Johnson needs to play more. Finally, Richard Harward is growing a very Zac Seljaas-like mustache and I like it.
Play the game
College football last week was dominated by talk about BYU football: Why they were ranked so low in the first playoff rankings and why they wouldn’t play at Washington.
On the latter, you have to admit it was just bad timing that Cougar quarterback Zach Wilson was photographed in a headband that read, “Any team, anytime, anywhere” and the next day Washington leaked to social media that BYU turned them down.
As we later found out, BYU wanted a guarantee it wouldn’t waste time and money preparing for a game and the Pac-12 wouldn’t allow that. Turns out Washington was preparing for Utah anyway, and that’s who the Huskies played on Saturday.
How the Utes blew a 21-0 halftime lead is another story.
As for BYU’s playoff ranking, it was curious to say the least. The playoff committee members were the only ones who saw the Cougars at No. 14 because ESPN and the rest of the national media talked all week about how BYU had been treated unfairly.
The only thing left for the Cougars to do is schedule a couple of good games before and after San Diego State on Dec. 12. I wasn’t sold on that idea a few weeks ago but I’ve reversed course.
The Cougars need games.
I’m sure Tom Holmoe is on the phone right now.
Of course it is
I got a laugh from former Cougar basketball standout Mark Durrant, a lawyer who tweeted: “I remember my first year of contracts in law school. Headband writings are the highest most binding form of contract.”
Sign him up
Timpview’s Logan Fano recommitted to BYU on Saturday, joining teammate Raider Damuni as a Cougar.
Those two guys are elite athletes — Fano as a defensive end/linebacker and Damuni likely a safety — who are very, very good defensive players. There is some momentum building for BYU recruiting right now.
Tough break ... again
I feel bad for BYU junior Gavin Baxter.
Last year he missed all but the final nine games of the year recovering from a torn labrum. After all the rehab and hard work, Baxter plays in exactly two games in 2020-21 before tearing his ACL. He’s gone for the season and is headed for surgery and more rehab.
The good news is that the NCAA is giving everyone who wants it an extra year due to COVID-19, so Baxter won’t lose any eligibility. Still, rehab is no fun.
BYU is pretty deep in the post but Baxter was a bit of a unicorn. At 6-foot-9, he has a 7-foot wingspan and is very bouncy. The Cougars other post players are super long (Matt Haarms) and super stout (Kolby Lee and Harward) but not especially athletic like Baxter. Freshman Caleb Lohner, at 6-8, is going to have to step up and give BYU even more good minutes at the four.
Think about it
By the way, I can’t believe people accept the existence of giraffes but not unicorns.
Seriously, what’s more believable? A horse with a horn or a leopard-moose-camel with a 50-foot neck?
Just the facts
It will be pointed out in this column that the University of Utah, which lost to Washington 24-21 Saturday evening, has now gone an entire year without a football victory.
Do with that what you will.
Taking the reins
Congratulations to former Springville star and BYU receiver Zac Erekson, the new Snow College football head coach. Erekson and the Badgers are expected to play a spring football season.
2-0 as a starter
Taysom Hill didn’t pass the ball particularly well in his second start for the Saints but New Orleans beat Denver 31-3. You play to win the game, right?
That’s all for now, but for this: Some days I feel like I can conquer the world. Other days, it takes three hours to convince myself to shower.
Yup, that is this pandemic in a nutshell.
Stay safe, mask up and have an awesome week.