Editor's note:This is a new weekly web-only column from Deseret News contributor Nate Gagon, talking whatever else is going on with sports in the great state of Utah and around the world.
In hindsight: A look back at the week that was
Watching the Super Bowl Sunday night, I was reminded of a 2012 movie “Thunderstruck” where Kevin Durant supernaturally switches basketball ability with a clumsy 16-year-old kid when he autographs a basketball for him.
Does anyone know if the Oakland Raiders visited Denver for a sign-n-greet before the Broncos left for New Jersey?
Quote of the Week: “This game bites.”
– Everyone in America watching the Super Bowl except Seahawks fans.
Quote of the Week Part II: “This game really bites!”
– Fox executives and the companies that paid millions of dollars for second-half advertising in the Super Bowl.
That game was so boring I turned the channel to a replay of preseason WNBA basketball and felt a rush of adrenalin.
Maybe defense really does win championships. That will be a tough one for Peyton Manning to bounce back from. Personally, I was rooting for the guy to further his legacy with a second Super Bowl victory.
Meanwhile, in local news, the Jazz got back on track to finish the week with two straight losses after a disappointing two-game winning streak. Don’t look up Jazz. Keep your eyes on the prize: the lottery ping pong balls.
Last Monday the Jazz took on BYU icon Jimmer Fredette and the Sacramento Kings. With a bunch of the Kings’ players injured and the game a blowout, Jimmer was only two minutes short of a season-high in minutes played with 19.
Jimmer was loudly booed at EnergySolutions Arena by the Ute fans still hurting from Jimmermania and the 47 points he dropped at the Huntsman Center three years ago. As I told my cousin, who texted me from the game delighting and participating in the booing: "Dude, booing the Jimmer is like booing puppies, rainbows, angels, happiness and innocent little kids. It's just wrong! It doesn’t matter what team you root for — booing the Jimmer is bad karma."
Is it any wonder then that the Ute men’s basketball team is on a three-game losing streak? Ute fans, why mess with karma when you finally have a competitive team again? The Utes’ seven losses this season have been by an average of 3.7 points. Even against No. 1 Arizona, in a game the Utes ultimately lost by nine, they trailed by just four with 5:30 remaining. Yet, Utah sits on 10th in the Pac-12 with a 3-6 conference record.
Moral of the story: Don’t boo Jimmer.
Down south, the BYU men’s basketball roller coaster continues: four straight losses; five straight wins; two straight losses; two straight wins.
The variable, as with most college basketball teams, is quite simple: home court. The Cougars are 5-0 at home in West Coast Conference play and just 2-4 on the road.
In BYU’s two home wins last week over Pacific and Saint Mary’s, Tyler Haws made 22-of-37 field goals, 6-of-9 3-pointers and 21-of-23 free throws while averaging 35.5 points. His free-throw attempts in the two games nearly equaled his total number of assists on the season — 26.
We’re in the midst of a disappointing season for college basketball in the Beehive State.
The Utah State Aggies have sunk lower than they’ve been in a long time. The Ags lost at home by 13 to New Mexico and then got blown out at Wyoming. Stew Morrill’s group now has the second-worst conference record in the Mountain West at 2-7.
Even on the women’s side, the local teams are disappointing. In ESPN’s latest “Bracketology” offering, no teams from Utah are projected to make the NCAA Tournament. The Cougars, after beginning the season with a promising nine game winning streak, are just fourth in the WCC with a 7-4 conference record.
Surprisingly, the teams in the state with the best shot at the NCAA Tournament are the men’s teams at Weber State and Utah Valley, each leading their respective conferences.
Trophies: Honoring the top local team, player and moment of each week.
Local Team of the Week: BYU men’s basketball team
The Cougars were undefeated for the week and beat Saint Mary’s for the first time as a member of the West Coast Conference.
Local Player of the Week: BYU’s Tyler Haws
As previously noted, Haws averaged 35.5 points per game last week in leading his team to two important victories. He also averaged 4.5 rebounds, two steals and just one turnover in the two games.
Local Sports Moment of the Week: This was more of a could-have-been moment of the week
Gordon Hayward, the Jazz’s chosen face of the future, got the ball with 24 seconds left and the Jazz down three at home versus Golden State Friday night. Hayward drove to his right, got fouled (no call) and had the ball stripped off his leg and out of bounds, essentially ending the game. It was Hayward’s eighth turnover of the game, matching his point total.
Local Notable Stat of the Week: Versus Golden State, rookie point guard Trey Burke registered a plus/minus of -29 in 22 minutes played
In 26 minutes, back-up point guard Diante Garrett had a plus-24. Saturday night coach Tyrone Corbin said of Burke: “His body is probably hurting in places he didn’t think he had before.”
Too much information, coach. Wouldn’t “he’s probably a little tired and banged up” have sufficed?
Overall Ruckus Rating for the local week in sports: On a scale of 1-to-5.
Rating: 3 — about average. Fredette’s homecoming, Haws’ scoring outbursts, the Utes’ overtime game at Colorado and the Jazz’s honoring of Jerry Sloan highlighted the week.
Eye on the prize: A look ahead at the upcoming week.
This week has some intriguing potential for local sports fans. The Jazz have two home games sandwiched by a roadie at Dallas. The highlight is Miami dropping in Saturday. Something interesting almost always seems to happen when LeBron James comes to Utah.
At present the Jazz are tied for the sixth-worst record in the NBA at 16-31, despite having the third-worst average point differential at minus-6.3. For those fans hoping the Jazz would finish with a good shot at a top-3 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, this season seems to be slipping away.
It will be interesting to watch Corbin’s minute distribution this week. I detailed what I believe the Jazz's minute distribution should be in a previous column on the future of the Jazz.
The BYU men play host to Santa Clara and San Francisco this week. They are must-win games for the Cougars if they want to be on the opposite side of Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament bracket and have any shot at the NCAA Tournament. San Francisco is surprisingly tied with BYU for second in the conference standings.
The Ute men host two teams from the Super Bowl-winning state of Washington this week. The Washington Huskies, currently eighth in the Pac-12, visit on Thursday, while the Washington State Cougars will play at the Huntsman Center Saturday night. With a few tough games still remaining on the Utes’ conference schedule, they need to win these two home games if they have hopes of finishing with a respectable conference record and perhaps earn an NIT postseason bid.
Nationally, keep an ear out for any developing stories regarding the Broncos having their talent stolen by the Raiders.
What to watch: Best games of the upcoming week.
NBA: Miami at Utah, Saturday, 7 p.m.
NCAAM: San Francisco at BYU, Saturday, 7 p.m.
NCAAM: Washington at Utah, Thursday, 7 p.m.
NCAAM: Boise State at Utah State, Saturday, 4 p.m. (appetizer for the Saturday night games)
NCAAM: Big Sky Conference No. 2 Northern Colorado at Weber State, Saturday, 7 p.m.
NBA: Portland at Indiana, Friday, 5 p.m. on ESPN
NCAAM: No. 16 Iowa State at No. 8 Oklahoma State, Monday, 7 p.m. on ESPN
Crystal ball: Predictions for the week (leave yours in the comments).
1. Jazz: 0-3
2. Ute men: 2-0
3. Cougar men: 2-0
4. Aggie men: 1-1
Comment Question of the Week: Leave your answers in the comments and the results will be tallied in next week’s feature.
Who, in order, are the three most valuable long-term players currently on the Jazz’s roster?
Vote in poll on the left of this text.
Utah Sports Ruckus local team Power Rankings: Teams ranked relative to their competition level (only teams currently in-season considered).
- University of Utah women’s gymnastics team (ranked No. 4 in the country)
- BYU men’s volleyball team (ranked No. 4 in the country)
- Lone Peak High School men’s basketball team (ranked No. 30 in the country after winning Max Preps national championship last season)
- Bountiful High School men’s basketball team (ranked No. 43 in the country)
- Alta High School men’s basketball team (ranked No. 48 in the country)
In honor of the iconic Jerry Sloan having his jersey raised to the rafters of the ESA last week, here are links to some great interviews or profiles on Sloan.
Memory Lane: Honoring the history of Utah sports.
Again in honor of Sloan:
Here’s footage of Sloan and Greg Ostertag both getting ejected early in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers:
Sloan making friendly small-talk with Jerry Stackhouse:
John Stockton sending the Utah Jazz to the NBA finals:
Parting thoughts: I hate goodbyes.
If you have any friends or loved ones that are Denver Broncos fans, give them a hug or send them a Get Well Soon card.
More important parting thought: “Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you.”
– H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Nate Gagon is the author of the weekly sports column, Utah Sports Ruckus, and contributor for the Deseret News. He is also an entrepreneur, shoots roughly 94% from the foul line, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @nategagon.