Last week was a memorable, five-star week in local sports with a couple Utah-connected stories making national headlines (Jimmer Fredette, fight at Utah Valley University game) along with several big results/developments with the Utes and Cougs, six high school basketball champions crowned, and the Jazz in action four times.
There was even a little football news and a hockey fight I philosophically experienced with my 6-year old son.
This new week has potential for a big impact as well.
Discover what’s up, where it’s at, who’s hot and what’s going down by beginning your weekly Utah Sports Ruckus.
NEXT: Memo of the week: Jazz management has poorly managed its assets this season
The Utah Jazz lost a 94-91 nail-biter to the NBA-leading Indiana Pacers Sunday night, but it was the distribution of playing time that was the real story. For just the second time all season, all five of the “Foundation Five” young players for the Jazz played at least 30 minutes in the same game.
Against Indiana, they even finished the game on the court together in the latter part of the fourth quarter, another extreme rarity.
It was also just the third time since Nov. 21 that Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors both played at least 30 minutes in the same game.
Before any Jazz fans get too excited and start thinking that maybe Jazz leadership was finally beaten with a rational stick, however, there’s evidence that suggests this sudden coherent minute distribution by the coaching staff was merely a misguided attempt to play “matchup basketball,” rather than a true light-bulb moment.
I say that because one of the other two times since Nov. 21 that Kanter and Favors both played at least 30 minutes in the same game was also against Indiana.
The minute distribution for the Jazz this season has largely defied reason.
If you are the Jazz, how do you possibly justify giving Richard Jefferson, an old veteran offseason afterthought acquisition who basically already said he doesn’t want to play for the Jazz next season and who Sports Illustrated named to its “All-Atrocious” team, more minutes than Kanter this season, a player you invested a No. 3 overall draft pick on?
Even if you want to make a highly debatable argument that Jefferson has been more effective than Kanter on the court this season (Kanter has a much better player efficiency rating than Jefferson), it doesn’t matter anyway because that argument is invalid since winning doesn’t benefit the Jazz this season.
Among Jazz players that have played in at least 40 games and averaged at least 15 minutes per game, Jefferson has the worst player efficiency rating on the team, yet he averages 27 minutes per game – the same as Alec Burks, and more than Kanter, Jeremy Evans and Marvin Williams, all of whom have significantly outperformed Jefferson on the court.
Jefferson’s player efficiency (12.0) is actually a lot closer to Rudy Gobert’s (11.0), the rookie the Jazz sent down to the D-League, than it is to Williams’ (15.1), Kanter’s (15.5), Burks’ (15.6) or Evans’ (18.2).
Not only have the Jazz invested their minutes poorly this season, but they are also now barely hanging on to a top-10 pick in the upcoming draft. That’s called mismanaging your assets on multiple levels.
NEXT: Around the state, beginning with Fredette’s sudden change of luck in Sacramento
Last week I wrote about how Fredette was seemingly cursed by being stuck in Sacramento after the trade deadline came and went without the former BYU star being moved. I concluded with this: “Here’s hoping he ends up with a team next season that can take advantage of his strengths.”
Well, it turned out Fredette didn’t have to wait until next season to find a new/better team after all. The Kings mercifully agreed to buy the NBA’s leading three-point shooter out of his contract for the remainder of the season, freeing him up to sign elsewhere.
Fredette quickly chose the Chicago Bulls as his new team, which immediately presents a serious dilemma for BYU-Jazz fans. Can Jazz fans retain their integrity while cheering for the Bulls, the team that twice kept them from an NBA championship; a team represented by the likes of Phil Jackson, Dennis Rodman, Michael Jordan and Carlos Boozer?
That’s a tough one. I guess it’s worth waiting to see if Jimmer is even going to get regular minutes for the Bulls before making such a big decision.
Next: UVU makes national headlines with its fighting fans
Speaking of cheering, the Utah Valley University fans did a little bit more than that in hosting the New Mexico State Aggies Thursday night. The Wolverines and Aggies made national headlines when fans of the home team stormed the court after the game, intersecting with grumpy Aggie players that had just lost the most important game to this point of their season.
The result was a center court mini-scuffle with a few punches thrown between fans and players. It all started when a New Mexico State player intentionally beaned a Utah Valley player with the basketball as though he was firing a baseball at his leg as time expired and fans were rushing the court.
The melee overshadowed one of the biggest wins in UVU’s history. The Wolverines knocked off an Aggie team that won at New Mexico earlier this season. By winning, the Wolverines put themselves in prime position to win the Western Athletic Conference regular-season championship and grab the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.
Ultimately, the altercation gave Utah Valley University, which really was not at fault in the mess, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of free publicity on major TV networks like ESPN and others. Fans and recruits all across the country, and Utah for that matter, now know there is a Division I college basketball program called Utah Valley University, and that they're actually not too bad.
Next: BYU women’s team rolls to huge win at home
The college basketball team with the best record in the state of Utah, the BYU women’s team (24-5, 14-4), clinched second place in the West Coast Conference and probably a bid to the NCAA Tournament by convincingly beating San Diego (22-7, 11-7) Saturday.
The balanced Cougars have a bye into the semifinals of the WCC Tournament where they will play Saturday afternoon for a spot in next Monday’s title game. Statistically, BYU is led by the best basketball player in the state of Utah in 6-foot-7 senior center Jennifer Hamson.
Hamson is averaging 18.5 points, 11.4 rebounds, 4.2 blocks and better than an assist per game, while shooting 57 percent from the field and 72 percent from the foul line.
I wouldn’t bet against Hamson, Lexi Eaton, Kim Beeston and the Cougs in the WCC Tournament.
Next: BYU men pick up crucial, underrated road victory
Meanwhile, as the BYU women were wiping the Marriott Center floor with San Diego, the other BYU basketball team was in San Diego simultaneously battling the San Diego men’s team in a tight game.
BYU led by just two points with two minutes remaining until Kyle Collinsworth hit a desperation 3-pointer with the shot clock running down to ignite the Cougars on a 9-0 run to put the game away.
The underrated road victory clinched second-place for BYU. The San Diego Toreros may not be a household name, but this was a big win for BYU. The Toreros, who blew out Saint Mary’s and nearly beat San Diego State earlier this season, were coming off an upset win over Gonzaga and a three-game winning streak.
Tyler Haws played one of his best all-around games of the season at the perfect time for the Cougs, who have a bye into the quarterfinals of the WCC Tournament and will play Portland or Loyola Marymount on Saturday.
Next: Utes with another impressive win, now eye an NCAA Tournament run
Back in Salt Lake City, the University of Utah men’s team improved to 7-2 at home in the Pac-12 with another impressive victory — this time over Colorado.
As usual, the Utes were led by Jordan Loveridge and Delon Wright who combined for 42 points on 16-of-23 shooting, 12 rebounds, six assists, three steals and three blocks.
If the Utes can find a way to finish the season with road wins over California and Stanford, both currently one game ahead of them in the Pac-12 standings, there is a good chance they will finish fourth in the conference. Add one conference tournament win and I think the Utes are in the NCAA Tournament where they would have a legitimate shot to do some damage as a No. 10-12 seed.
Ute fans need to cheer for BYU to win the WCC Tournament, since the better the Cougs do, the better the Utes’ victory over them looks.
Next: High school basketball begins crowning champions, as does hockey
In high school basketball, six teams were crowned state champions Saturday. Congratulations to:
- 5A girls champ Fremont (beat American Fork by an astounding score of 60-27 in the final)
- 4A girls champ Springville (won a thriller over Skyline)
- 3A girls champ Desert Hills (beat Morgan 57-43)
- 2A girls champ Enterprise (easily beat North Sevier 43-28)
- 3A boys champ Morgan (beat Cedar 59-45)
- 2A boys champ Wasatch Academy (another blowout for the title, 76-47 over Enterprise)
Next: Elite volleyball, gymnastics, track, rugby and softball, with a little more college basketball
Elsewhere around the state, the Weber State men suffered a bad home conference loss to Northern Arizona Saturday, and have now lost 3-of-5 overall, but have already clinched a share of the Big Sky Conference title and are still in good shape to win it outright.
BYU’s men’s volleyball team, ranked No. 2 in the country, had a phenomenal week, sweeping No. 7 USC and No. 4 Pepperdine to push its winning streak to six.
Up on the Hill, the University of Utah’s women’s gymnastics team, ranked No. 5 in the country, easily defeated Washington. The Red Rocks have just two more meets until the PAC-12 championships in late March.
BYU had a busy week in other sports as well with its softball team beating No. 2 Tennessee, its national champion rugby squad kicking off a new season and its track team setting a new school record.
Next: Eye on the prize – what’s on the line this week?
Men’s NCAA: BYU vs. Portland or Loyola Marymount, Saturday, Approx. 3 p.m. (BYUtv): NCAA Tournament at-large bid likely on the line for Cougs
Men’s NCAA: Utah at Cal, Wednesday, 9 p.m. (ESPNU): Lose and Utah’s hopes for an at-large bid to NCAA Tournament are likely over
Men’s NCAA: Utah at Stanford, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Network): See disclaimer for Utah at Cal game above
Women’s NCAA: BYU vs Santa Clara or Pepperdine, Friday, Approx. 3:30 p.m. (BYUtv): Cougs want to win this to erase any doubt about NCAA Tournament
Boy’s prep basketball: 5A and 4A championship games, Saturday at the Huntsman Center. Several nationally ranked teams will be in action
College baseball: Utah at BYU, Tuesday, 6 p.m.
NBA (Utah Jazz): At Bucks (Monday), at Wizards (Wednesday), at Knicks (Friday) and at Sixers (Saturday)
NBA (Jimmer’s Bulls): At Nets (Monday on NBAtv), vs. Grizzlies (Friday on ESPN), vs. Heat (Sunday on ABC)
NEXT: Crystal ball predictions for the week
Last week the Ruckus went 9-1 in its predictions, bringing the four-week record to 29-7.
This week’s predictions:
Jazz: 2-2 (wins over Bucks and Sixers, losses to Wizards and Knicks)
Utah men: 1-1 (win over Cal, loss to Stanford)
BYU men: 1-0
BYU women: 1-0
Other men’s basketball: Utah State over Wyoming; Weber State over Portland State; UNLV over No. 13 SDSU; No. 1 Florida over No. 17 Kentucky; No. 6 Duke over No. 19 North Carolina
Other NBA: Rockets over Heat; Clippers over Suns; Spurs over Heat; Pacers over Rockets; Heat over Bulls
College baseball: Utah over BYU
4A High school boys basketball champions: Bountiful
5A High school boys basketball champions: Lone Peak
NEXT: Parting thoughts – I hate goodbyes
Great news: Travis Wilson, the Utes’ injured starting quarterback, has been cleared for spring ball. He’ll have a new guy to compete with at the position, though. The Utes brought in Kendal Thompson, a transfer from Oklahoma.
BYU and Utah announced their 2014 schedule and this is what I see at this premature stage:
BYU Cougars 2014 football schedule
- at UConn – loss
- at Texas – loss
- Houston – loss
- Virginia – win
- Utah State – win
- at Central Florida – loss
- Nevada – win
- at Boise State – win
- at Middle Tennessee State – win
- UNLV – win
- Savannah State – doesn’t count
- at Cal – win
Utah Utes 2014 football schedule:
- Idaho State (doesn’t count)
- Fresno State – win
- at Michigan – loss
- Washington State – win
- at UCLA – loss
- at Oregon State – win
- USC – loss
- at Arizona State – loss
- Oregon – loss
- at Stanford – loss
- Arizona – loss
- at Colorado – win
In other football news, former BYU tight end, Dennis Pitta, picked up a nice five-year contract with the Baltimore Ravens worth $32 million. Personally, I was hoping to see Pitta hit the free-agent market and land with my Atlanta Falcons.
It turns out Ty Detmer can’t make a sales pitch like he can throw a football. It was announced last week that his nephew has decided to commit to LSU.
Lastly: Hockey fight leads to parenting dilemma
So, I took my 6-year old son to the Grizzlies’ hockey game Friday night, and we sat right up next to the ice. The game was physical with lots of big hits taking place, but was still pretty boring overall until a fight broke out on the ice.
The Grizzlies dude came to the defense of a teammate who had been leveled into the wall, found the Alaskan scoundrel responsible and started pummeling him relentlessly in the face while holding his jersey down with his other arm.
The officials, right or wrong, let them have their brute moment and after a couple minutes it was over. As the two fighters made their way to the penalty box, however, a massive roar came over the crowd in rowdy acceptance and appreciation for what the Grizzlies player had done.
I looked down at my son and saw him punching the air, mimicking the actions and vocalizing the words he imagined the Grizzlies player had said to his foe as he punched his face repeatedly: “Don’t mess with my teammate, buddy, or that’s what you get!” “How did you like them apples?” etc.
I bent down to remind my adorable, innocent little boy that fighting is bad, that it is never cool to fight, etc. But the communication was difficult over the thunderous frenzy of the home crowd, some just shouting, “Yeah!," others yelling profanities, and yet others making mostly finger signs in glorious support of the fight that had just taken place before us.
It was a surreal moment and I was reminded that the world generally enjoys great advantages over parents in the ongoing war of attempting to impact young people with words and messages.
How does a father teach a young son, for example, that striking another human being is dangerous and wrong, at the same time that the young son is being enveloped by a crowd-fed frenzy well beyond his years, complete with music, lights and lots and lots of cheering, powerfully demonstrating to him that intentionally trying to harm another person is not only not bad, it’s triumphant and amazing too. People love for you doing it. It makes you cool.
When the initial energy of the fight settled down somewhat and my son turned to me and said: “Dad, did you see that fight? That was awesome!”
I looked into his joyful eyes for a moment, scanned the high-fiving crowd, watched the players still jawing at each other and then turned back to my son and said: “Yeah, it was pretty awesome. The Grizzlies guy kicked his butt for taking out his teammate, didn’t he?”
My son gave me an approving glance and said: “Oh, yeah.”
I quickly leaned down then and whispered in his ear: “But you know fighting’s bad and you should never do it, right?”
“Right,” he answered seriously. And then we bumped fists and went back to watching the hockey game. “Cool.”
Fatherhood, life and sports — such a beautiful joint jungle for bonding, teaching and learning lessons.