Locally, it's been an odd and somewhat bizarre major college basketball season so far, in case you hadn't noticed.
Let's see, at BYU the star player and the head coach have already had a feud; at Weber State the Wildcats had their most recent game, against Athletes In Action, called on account of the wind; and at Utah and Utah State, both teams are trying to live up to lofty pre-season reviews - the Utes are picked to win the Western Athletic Conference and the Aggies are picked to finish second in the Big West to Nevada-Las Vegas - while at the same time trying to find the bottom of the basket.In their game Thursday night in Logan, the Utes and Aggies played a game that brought new meaning to the word "cold."
It was one of those games that makes a coach wish videotape had never been invented. Coach Kohn Smith of the Aggies, in particular. The Utes won, 76-61, and thereby covered the usual multitude of sins in the process. Maybe they did only shoot 37.9 percent from the field, and 66.7 percent from the free throw line; and maybe they did wait five full minutes before scoring a single point in the second half, blowing most of an 11-point lead in the process . . . but they had a major consolation: the Aggies were worse.
This was a game that saw Utah State shoot 35.3 percent from the field, .500 from the line, .154 from 3-point distance, and miss enough front end of one-and-ones to hearken up images of Wilt Chamberlain in his prime.
It was curious that the pro-Aggie crowd got heavily on the referee's case, when it was obvious from very early in the evening that this was one of those nights when you'd rather NOT go to the free throw line.
Utah takes momentum, such as it is, from the Aggie win - the Utes' third straight after a 1-5 start to the season - to Purdue for a game against the well-regarded (if rebuilding) Boilermakers tonight, where if they continue to shoot 37.9 percent they'll drop to 4-7 faster than you can say "zone defense." On the home Wasatch front, Utah State is at BYU tonight while Weber State hosts Lewis and Clark in the Dee Center, where they have restored electricity and other vital utilities now that those midweek 100-mile-an-hour winds have stopped.
If you're in the mood for an intriguing couple of hours, where anything is liable to happen, it's the USU-BYU game that has the most potential.
This is the kind of game preseasons are made for. A lot more is up in the air than the opening tap.
At BYU, there's the Mike Smith Incident. It started last weekend when Smith, during the Cougar Classic championship game against St. Mary's (St. Mary's?) told an assistant coach to "Shut up," after the coach told him to box out for rebounds. Smith, everybody's All-American, was subsequently benched by head coach Ladell Andersen, who took a Lou Holtz approach to the situation. The Cougars went on to lose, by a point, and have been sitting on that unpleasant loss ever since, without another horse to get back on until tonight.
Smith was critical of Andersen in remarks to the media after the game, Andersen was critical of the media for printing Smith's remarks, and Smith was apologetic a couple of days later, when he publicly apologized to the school, student body, fans and, especially, to those who make his scholarship possible.
Tonight, Andersen may not open his locker room to the media, and it remains to be seen how Smith will come back - passively or boxing out?
That's the plight of the 2-4 Cougars, who would like a win for Christmas more than they'd like Nintendo PowerSets.
Then there are the 1-3 Aggies, whose plight was graphically evidenced by the Utah game. Shooting is their concern. They can see the basket, they just can't hit it. They're lucky they don't play in gyms that have open windows. In four games they have made 105 shots in 257 tries, for an overall shooting percentage of 40.8.
In the second half against Utah they took 39 shots and made 12, for a cool 30.8 percent.
On the plus side, they got a lot of offensive rebounds.
Will the Ags pull out of their horrendous shooting slump tonight? Will Kohn Smith finally get some sleep? Will Mike Smith and his coach speak to each other? Will Mike Smith and his coach speak to the media?
Games in December may not be state-of-the-art, but they aren't dull, either.