Elsewhere in the state, BYU’s women’s basketball team stayed hot last week by blowing out Portland at home and then upsetting No. 20 Gonzaga on the road. The Cougars are now projected as a No. 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament by ESPN.
The Utah State men’s team is No. 8 in the Mountain West Conference after beating Colorado State on the road and then losing to UNLV at home. Outside of San Diego State, the Mountain West is having a pretty disappointing season as a whole.
In high school basketball, the biggest development was Lone Peak’s loss to Pleasant Grove — just the Knights’ second region loss in three years.
BYU’s highly-ranked men’s volleyball squad scored two impressive victories last week, winning at Pacific and at No. 8 Stanford.
Local team of the week: Utah Jazz.
The Jazz followed up their upset of the Heat with back-to-back victories last week over the Lakers and Sixers.
Local athlete of the week: Alec Burks, Utah Jazz.
Trey Burke may have teamed with former Weber State Wildcat Damian Lillard to win the Skills competition during All-Star weekend, but it was Alec Burks that led the Jazz on the court last week.
In the two wins, Burks combined for 50 points on 14-of-21 shooting and led the Jazz in plus/minus in both games with a +25 and + 11. Maybe he should play a little more.
Local sports moment of the week: The other Matty Ice hits two clutch free throws for BYU to beat St. Mary’s.
Matt Ryan, the quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons, may have earned the nickname “Matty Ice” with his penchant for game-winning drives, but Saturday night it was BYU’s Matt Carlino who played the part. With six seconds left and BYU up just one, Carlino went to the foul line and knocked down two clutch free throws to seal a big win for the Cougars.
Local notable stat of the week: The Jazz’s bench.
In both games last week, every player off the bench for the Jazz had a positive plus/minus, including Alec Burks and Enes Kanter. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The Jazz have five players that should be playing 36 minutes per game, period. Those players are: Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Burke, Burks and Kanter. What’s the excuse now, Jazz management? You can’t blame it on performance.
Overall Ruckus rating for the local week in sports: On a scale of 1-to-5.
Rating: 2 – nothing to write home about.
Eye on the Prize: What’s on the line this week.
The Jazz have three games, taking on Brooklyn and Minnesota at home and Portland on the road. There are decent storylines in all three games for Jazz fans: the return of Deron Williams to Utah, the chance to see local legend Damian Lillard, and an opportunity to get revenge against the pesky Timberwolves after two blowout losses to them.
BYU welcomes Gonzaga to the Marriott Center on Thursday and then Portland on Saturday. Would anyone be surprised if this Cougar team beat a ranked Gonzaga team and then lost to Portland? If the Cougs win their last three games and then make it to the championship game of the WCC Tournament, they’ll be in the dance.
While BYU has just three regular season games left, the Utes still have five. The good news for Utah is that three of the five are at home. The bad news is that the remaining five games are against five of the top six teams in the Pac-12. The Utes probably need to win four of the five, with Arizona being one of the four, and win at least two conference tournament games to make the NCAA Tournament. This week the two Pac-12 Arizona teams visit the Huntsman Center.
Crystal ball: Predictions for the week.
1. Jazz: 1-2
2. Cougar men: 1-1
3. Ute men: 1-1
4. Aggie men: 1-1
Poll question of the week: What are your thoughts?
Which local college football program is currently in the best position to establish long-term national relevancy and success on the field — BYU, Utah or Utah State? See the column on the left to vote.
Parting thought: I hate goodbyes.
In honor of Deron Williams returning to Utah this week, here’s a link to a recent video of the top 10 plays of his career. Spoiler alert: Most are with the Jazz.
Nate Gagon is the author of the weekly sports column, Utah Sports Ruckus, and contributor for the Deseret News. He is also a tech/media entrepreneur, shoots roughly 94% from the foul line, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @nategagon.
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