Monson: Gods willing, conference tournament belongs to BYU, New Mexico
This is all setting up prim and proper.
The Mountain West Conference tournament in Las Vegas, with any luck, with any justice, will come down to the two best teams in the league: New Mexico and BYU.
No other outfit deserves to be in the title game.
No other show, in the city of shows, would satisfy the greater audience more.
No other ending could right the wrongs of a script's jaundiced middle scenes.
If UNLV gets there, it will simply be on account of its home-court advantage.
If San Diego State gets there, it will be because the Aztecs got hot at the right time.
If Utah gets there, it will be because the ball finally went in the hoop.
Chances of that, hopefully, are fat to slim.
Basketball gods willing, this whole song and dance down at the Thomas & Mack will be, should be, about the Lobos and Cougars going at it one last furious time. Everybody else should get out of the way.
Any upset to either team, any run by Cinderella, would just screw things up.
Because the only difference between BYU and New Mexico this season is one possession, one stuffed Noah Hartsock layup, one missed three-point shot.
You start official practices in October, run up and down the floor what, 8,000 or 9,000 times, play games from November until March, and the only thing that differentiates two teams, one of them 28-3 and the other 28-4, one of them ranked eighth in the national polls, the other 14th, is 8.6 seconds and one flushed attempt.
We all want more.
We all want Jonathan Tavernari versus Steve Alford.
We don't want Vegas to take advantage of its friendly, familiar environs. We don't want Steve Fisher's team to get on a roll. We don't want Utah to take the oven mitts off its hands.
Not because we have anything against those guys.
Not because we root against them.
Just because we want to see the best basketball this league has to offer, and if the Lobos play their best and the Cougars play their best, no other team playing its best can touch either one of them, no other team should touch them.
And this time, it would be fitting if Jimmer Fredette could find the good health to play his best.
As terrific as watching New Mexico's scintillating 83-81 win over BYU was in Provo, a game that had a bit of everything, a game still wedged into our memory banks, it was tainted by the image of Fredette, the league's top player, sitting on the bench through the second half. His head drooped, his stomach churned, his feet and legs nervously pumped up and down like jackhammers, his energy spent, his body unable to go.
That ain't right.
Mono shouldn't strike a guy who leads the league in scoring, who ranks near the top in so many important statistical categories, who dropped 49 points on Arizona in its own building. Mono shouldn't weaken the biggest name in the conference, and make him susceptible to any and every germ swirling around the gym. Mono shouldn't take away player of the year honors.
But it did.
And now Fredette seems to be doing, feeling better, although some of the effects of mono may linger for months to come.
The announcement Monday that Darington Hobson beat out Fredette for the league's top player award just adds to the anticipation of another BYU-UNM matchup. Fredette was gracious about losing out, but anyone who knows him will acknowledge that being edged in that manner fuels his competitive fire all the more.
He even admitted as much.
Yeah, this is going to be good.
Should be good.
If it doesn't work out that way, if UNLV or San Diego State or some other infidel pulls an upset and messes things over, then we'll know the basketball gods are not only crazy, but that they have no ultimate sense for what's reasonable and right.