The Wasatch Dispatch

Eskimo_ShaneNanook of the Wasatch: Braving Cougar away games, so you don’t have to.

If any of you follow me on twitter (@longballj) and I can’t really recommend that you do, you probably know that Amieable and I were in attendance for last Thursday’s basketball debacle against the Utes. For some rage and humiliation tinted thoughts on our Men’s hoops team, as well as other musings on such topics as the basketball experience offered by the Huntsman arena, our new defensive coordinator and the abundance of national headline making heroism on the very road we live on… read on!

So while most of you were safe at home following the little weeble wobble men on a game tracker, or the University of Utah’s live Web stream of Thursday’s game, Amieable and I were in Section M, row 18, seats 5 and 6 of the Huntsman Center watching the Cougs hit rock bottom live and in 3D. The Cougs’ overtime loss to Utah may be the lowest low in the Bone era; an era that is fast becoming known for its epic, shocking and inexplicable “lows”. In fact lets go ahead and try and rank the low moments that have been brought to us by Bone ball:

  1. Losing to Utah
  2. Losing to Riverside (or perhaps the whole Anaheim tournament)
  3. Getting run out of Madison Square Garden by Wichita State (lost by over 30)
  4. Losing by 26 at Oregon in 2011 (We had beaten this bad Oregon team by 14 in Pullman)
  5. Losing by 25 at Arizona State in 2010 (We had just beaten Arizona)
  6. Losing to a BAD Arizona State team in 2011.
  7. Going 2-10 in our final 12 games of 2010 (this included wrapping up the season by losing 3 straight to the Oregon schools)
  8. 3/5 of the starting lineup getting busted for pot in 2011

Feel free to rearrange or add to this list any way you see fit. One thing that has stood out to me is how every time we are about to get excited about Bone’s teams, they ALWAYS find a way to not just disappoint us, but to completely crush our spirits. Getting all the way to the final 4 of the NIT only to be humiliated on national TV, shocking Arizona on their home floor only to turn around and get blown out by ASU, dropping both games in LA to start the 2011 conference slate after a terrific non-conference run, following a terrific win over UW with a baffling beat down at the hands of Oregon, etc, etc, etc. If the pattern holds we will beat the Dawgs this week then half the team will get arrested with a bunch of hookers and coke during the post game celebration at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel. I can’t wait.

So what was it like being there? Well, there was a sparse crowd in the Huntsman Center on Thursday and their reactions to the win were very interesting. As a whole the crowd did not really sense they could win until near the very end of regulation. With under a minute to go they got into the game and stayed vocal throughout the overtime period. There were some very vocal fans behind us who seemed shocked every time one of the Utah players did anything positive and even they were content to yell at rather than for their team for most of the night. Clearly this was a fan base that had seen some horrendous basketball. When the buzzer sounded at the end of overtime there was genuine disbelief and as Amieable and I left the arena the Utah fans seemed too stunned to even make any remarks to us at all. I say this because the Utes are not a fan base known for their sporting good behavior and I was expecting us to be on the receiving end of some comments. None came and we made it to our car completely un-molested.

Huntsman Arena: Its like Beasley and the Tacoma Dome had a baby.

While the Cougar’s performance and the sparse crowd (the Utah students were still on break) did not impress us at all, the facility did and we are happy to report that the Huntsman Center is a very nice addition to the Pac-12. First of all it looks cool, with this big crazy Star Trek Enterprise style disk hanging over the arena supporting the lights and center scoreboard. The center scoreboard had a nice big screen I could have watched the entire game on and of course the arena is adorned with the many banners from Utah’s rich basketball history. Suprisingly though, the Rick Majerus era was outdone by what appears to be a prolific women’s gymnastics program. In many ways the arena resembles Beasley, especially the concourse, with the major difference being that Huntsman is round while Beasley is octagonal. While Amieable and I splurged a bit for good seats it did seem as though there isn’t a bad seat in the house and certainly no obstructed views. I also have to give props to the announcer who does a really good job at the whole “homer announcer” shtick of wildly inflecting his voice for every score by the home team, while briefly and nearly inaudibly mumbling any score by the away team. We do have to point out that the cheerleaders were a big disappointment, but the African dance (I am using this term VERY loosely) themed halftime routine by a local high school cheer squad was one for the ages, including half the squad performing on stilts. For real. All in all, while the arena is definitely a relic of the 70’s, much like ours, it still gets high marks.

Hopefully those of you who watched Thursdays game did not make the same mistake we did and tune in for Saturday’s game at Colorado. For those that did, we feel ya… hugs. To compound our misery we followed up Saturdays loss by watching Tony Bennet’s Virginia Cavaliers grab a last second win over Miami to continue one of the best starts at Virginia since Ralph Sampson was running around in the short shorts. The part that was a real kick in the beans was that they won it with a last second defensive stand. Awww, the memories. It wasn’t pretty, but it was the kind of win that we used to savor on the Palouse… a win that was the result of a complete effort on both ends of the court that baffled and frustrated the opponent. Perhaps most importantly, it was a conference win achieved on a night when the team did not have its best game. I miss the days when we played the game well enough that even on our worst nights nobody blew us out and more often than not we still found a way to win. Currently if we have an off night, we can’t even beat some of the worst teams in the country.

#23 Virginia 1-0 1.000 14-1 .933 W12
#4 North Carolina 1-0 1.000 14-2 .875 W8
#3 Duke 1-0 1.000 13-2 .867 W1
North Carolina State 1-0 1.000 12-4 .750 W6
Wake Forest 1-0 1.000 10-5 .667 W1
Clemson 1-0 1.000 9-6 .600 W2
Virginia Tech 0-1 1 .000 11-4 .733 L1
Maryland 0-1 1 .000 10-4 .714 L1
Miami (FL) 0-1 1 .000 9-5 .643 L1
Florida State 0-1 1 .000 9-6 .600 L1
Georgia Tech 0-1 1 .000 7-8 .467 L4
Boston College 0-1 1 .000 5-10 .333 L3

Don’t look at these standings, it won’t make you feel any better.

How about we talk about something that is not depressing, like our football team! When was the last time we could say that with a straight face? This weekend it was confirmed that the Cougs have hired Mike Breske as their new defensive coordinator. There is some handwringing going on in the Cougar nation over how long it took to make this much-anticipated hire and also over the hiring of a name not familiar to most fans. While it appears Breske did not start out at the top of Mike Leach’s wish list and it very well may be that some other candidates said “no thanks” to the opportunity to join Leach on the Palouse, I still think there is a lot to be excited about in this hire. For one, this wasn’t a nepotistic hire of one of Leach’s good ‘ol buddies, which is notable because Leach has largely built his staff with guys from his past. This is the result of Leach going out and finding a guy that he was impressed with. What impressed coach Leach? I would venture a guess that the Pirate wants an aggressive, risk taking, ball hawking defense and that is exactly what Breske has been running in his nearly 30 years of coaching. He is also known for defenses that shut down the passing game and in the Pac-12, that is going to be paramount. By now we have probably all heard of coach Leach’s new found interest in the defensive side of the ball and the time he spent studying up on the Ryan’s and their approach to defense. Whatever he learned from that experience I guarantee you played a big part in this hire. I feel pretty confident that while we aren’t throwing a big name and a lot of money around in our D-coordinator hiring, we may have landed the right guy anyway. You think guys like Kaufusi, Sua, Mayes, Monroe and Mizell like the sound of blitz crazy scheme? And hell, if it doesn’t work out, at least we won’t be on the hook for over 600 large like some people we know.

Finally, I have to comment on the incredible spate of opportunistic heroism that has taken place recently just up the road from our humble abode here in Logan, UT. First of all back in September a group of bystanders moved a burning car off a trapped motorcyclist. Not only did this happen just a few hundred yards up the road from our house, but I actually drove up to this scene as it was happening with a co-worker. Our faith in humanity was briefly restored by the actions of all these on-lookers who, thanks to the construction worker, kinda resembled the Village People. Then recently as our faith in humanity again began to waver thanks to Casey Anthony, Bashar al-Assad and the Connell-North Franklin boys basketball team, yet another dramatic act of heroism just up the same road from our house. A car full of kids ended up in the Logan river and tragedy was averted when passers by leapt from their own vehicles into the icy water to rescue the children. Wow, way to go Utah where apparently there is a Hero on every corner. I guess if we are going to fit in here its time to brush up on our first aid.

Finally, stay tuned to the recruiting news this week as Coach Leach had a number of big visits this weekend. Some exciting guys on that list and hopefully there will be some new commits very soon.

Well that’s all for now, but it is Apple Cup basketball week so good luck to Christian Caple on the first big test of his objectivity and GO COUGS!