Here’s what’s going on inside Darnell’s head as I once again prepare to watch the Academy Awards (on delay, of course, to zip through the commercials and awards I don’t care about). I will have only seen a couple of the movies that have been nominated, per usual.
I guess I need to get out more.
On a roll
The BYU men’s basketball team was totally awesome for 25 minutes against San Francisco on Saturday.
It had many Cougar fans believing this was a team that make some real noise in the NCAA Tournament in March.
The final 15 minutes probably had those same fans wondering why they get pulled in every time.
Ah, the life of an athletic supporter.
I wouldn’t put too much angst into wondering why BYU seems to have a problem closing out teams after getting big leads. That’s college basketball unless you’re Gonzaga, Kansas or Duke.
The Cougars moved to 8-3 in WCC play and 19-7 overall with Saturday’s 90-74 win against the Dons, avenging the past two losses where BYU lost big second-half leads. When USF started trapping and pressing, the Cougars lost a little of their momentum.
But it’s a good thing because the coaching staff has something to talk about to keep the players on their toes.
It was encouraging to see sophomore forward Gavin Baxter get his first action this season after recovering from a torn labrum in October, albeit less than three minutes in the first half. I know there has been plenty of discussion on social media about whether Baxter should sit out the rest of the year even if he was healthy to preserve his redshirt year.
Let’s talk about that.
If Baxter’s only goal was to become an NBA player, he would sit and not burn his eligibility. While that is one of his goals, he simply wants to help his team win as much as possible. He knows this is a special group of teammates and they can do some cool things together. That’s the environment that Mark Pope has built and Baxter’s decision is simply an affirmation that this team is all in.
On the court, Baxter gives the Cougars depth in the post. He’s a rim protector, which is something BYU needs. He’s also a really good rebounder and an explosive leaper. There is so much he can add to this team as they go down the stretch run.
Baxter could easily be the difference between BYU getting eliminated in the first round of the NCAA Tournament or advancing a round or two.
Senior Yoeli Childs is always a great interview, and funny, too.
On Saturday, he came into the post-game interviews with Dalton Nixon. Childs started telling a story about the time he was a sophomore in high school at Bingham and Nixon was a senior at Orem.
Childs said Nixon was the first guy to really kick his butt on the basketball floor.
“He was a senior and I was a pudgy sophomore,” Childs said.
Nixon said, “Yeah, I was on my mission and heard we offered Yoeli and I was like, ‘really?’”
The best part of the story was Nixon’s deadpan delivery, followed by a sly smile.
BYU senior guard T.J. Haws is No. 3 all-time in 3-pointers at BYU.
Haws was 3 of 6 from distance against San Francisco, giving him 233 triples in his career. That pushed him past Jackson Emery (230) and put him on course to maybe catch Jonathan Tavernari at 265.
He’s coming for you, J.T.
The ‘Zags have to go
Gonzaga strolled into Moraga, California on Saturday -- a place where BYU hasn’t won since 2014 – and routed Saint Mary’s 90-60. It’s the biggest home loss for the Gaels since 2001.
Really, what are these guys doing in the WCC? They are the school yard bully that picks on the third graders because he knows they can’t do anything about it. Shouldn’t the ‘Zags find a bigger playground?
The century mark
I don’t know what the fuss was all about when BYU men’s volleyball coach Shawn Olmstead won his 100th match on Saturday.
I mean, he already broke 100 a long time ago – he won 103 matches with the Cougar women’s team from 2011 to 2014.
Seriously, though, Omstead has been terrific and joins the legendary Carl McGown as the only other BYU men’s volleyball coach to crack 100 wins. McGown won 205 matches, so Olmstead has a ways to go to catch him.
His sister, women’s volleyball coach Heather Olmstead, has won 144 matches since 2015.
Man, those Olmsteads can coach.
The men’s team is 12-0, tied for the second-best start in program history. The only better start was the 1999 Cougars, who began 18-0 and went on to win the program’s first national title.
The expectations are high for BYU, which is ranked No. 2 in the AVCA Coaches Poll and No. 1 in the media poll. The Cougars have a big showdown in Honolulu against Hawaii on March 5 and 6. The Warriors are the No. 1 team in the AVCA poll but haven’t played nearly as difficult a schedule.
BYYU has won five of its 12 matches in sweeps, six in four and one in a five-setter. The Cougars haven’t been as dominant as Hawaii but 10 of their wins have come against ranked teams.
BYU is big, physical and talented. I would like to see a more consistent defensive effort before the MPSF Tournament and beyond, but I think this group can reach some dizzying heights.
How many stars?
I know that football recruiting rankings give the media a lot to talk about. It’s fun to speculate on which recruit will make the most impact and other similar topics during the offseason. BYU fans would love for the Cougars to be rated a lot higher than the mid-70s as a team but that’s not happening now.
Consider this, though: BYU isn’t going to get the four and five-star recruits who are already mostly fully formed. The Cougars are going to get two and three-star guys that have to be molded and shaped into good college football players. That’s up to the coaching staff and the individual to put in the work. There are plenty of examples of guys who came to BYU as a two or three-star recruit and left as a much better player than they were ranked.
That’s where this program lives. BYU has to bring in players who really want to be in Provo, love the team concept and the environment and flourish in it.
That’s how the Cougars can move beyond the recruiting rankings and have better success than those numbers initially indicate.
Oh say can you see ...
As I’ve mentioned many times, I have heard probably more national anthems than any human being alive. This week at Orem High and at Westlake High, I heard two of the best high school singers perform the anthem. I didn’t catch their names because honestly, I wasn’t expecting very much. Sorry, girls. You don’t get your name in the column but you know who you are.
The popular kids
Feeling lonely? I discovered something you can do.
Start researching “health insurance” online. Within minutes you’ll received dozens of phone calls and texts from people who would love to talk to you.
That’s it for now, but for this: The reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail instead of his tongue. That’s how our new Cocker Spaniel, Cooper, has got us wrapped around his paw so quickly.
Have a terrific week.