Eye On The Y is The Salt Lake Tribune’s weekly newsletter on BYU athletics. Subscribe here.
BYU’s men’s and women’s basketball teams produced entirely different results at the West Coast Conference basketball tournaments in Las Vegas.
The men’s team played horribly and was steamrolled 80-57 by a team it swept in the regular season, San Diego, while the women’s team showed tremendous tenacity and heart in overcoming a 13-point second-half deficit in the semifinals to hold off Pepperdine and then completed a season sweep (3-0) over No. 12-ranked Gonzaga to win its third WCC conference tournament title in eight years.
Naturally, a lot of Cougar fans are scrutinizing the coaching.
Men’s coach Dave Rose took a lot of heat on sports radio talk shows and social media outlets for not having the Cougars ready to play. BYU trailed by 44 points — 44 points! ‚ early in the second half. Rose still hasn’t won a conference tournament title in 14 seasons as BYU’s head coach.
Meanwhile, women’s coach Jeff Judkins has his team back in the NCAA Tournament. The BYU women will learn their tournament destination on Monday during the NCAA Selection Show. My prediction is that the Cougars will get a No. 8 seed and will be sent to South Bend, Ind., in the Chicago Regional where it is likely that Notre Dame will be the No. 1 seed.
Some fans have wondered if Judkins, who turns 63 later this month, would ever be considered for, or consider, the men’s coaching job at BYU. I actually asked him about that a few years ago, and he downplayed the possibility, saying that at one time earlier in his career he would have loved that opportunity.
But that ship has sailed.
It was not a good weekend for Rose. Not only did his team get pummeled on Saturday night at Orleans Arena, his complaining about the the tournament setup in his postgame remarks — without even being asked about it –– came across as petty and showed bad form. Rose is usually on his game in news conferences and the like, but in this case the optics were terrible.
After answering a question about whether he had an inkling that the Cougars would play miserably against the Toreros, Rose referred back to a previous question about the slow start being attributed to San Diego having played two games in the arena before facing BYU.
“When you come to the arena that you are going to play in, and you don’t shoot [enough], and you are in the second game and you get 20 minutes? Someone’s gotta re-evaluate this. There’s too much on the line. That’s just my own opinion,” Rose said, having previously noted that San Diego was much better than a No. 7 seed.
The annual roster overhaul has already started, too, with junior guard Jahshire Hardnett announcing via Twitter that he is moving on and will try to play somewhere else as a graduate transfer. Another junior, Yoeli Childs, quite likely will move on to professional basketball, probably in Europe.
It is never easy for the players and coaches who lose conference tournament and NCAA tournament games to get up on the podium and answer questions from reporters. For some players, it is the first time they’ve been in that situation.
When the questions are, well, not good, the situation can be even more uncomfortable. Last Saturday, BYU center Luke Worthington was asked if he was aware during the game that the Cougars were losing badly to the Toreros.
“You’re definitely aware,” Worthington said, looking in amazement at the reporter who asked the question. “The scoreboard is pretty big. Coach [Rose] said it right. They are a great team led by seniors who are determined to play their hardest. They were on attack and kind of stayed that way. It was too much to overcome. We have had our fair share of comebacks this season from big deficits, but San Diego really threw it all out there tonight and credit to them for the way they played.”
• The second week of spring football practices wraps up tomorrow for the Cougar football team. Having been in Las Vegas for nearly a week, I haven’t been able to watch the last two 30-minute sessions that were open to the media. Word is that all three guys competing to be starting QB Zach Wilson’s backup — Jaren Hall, Joe Critchlow and Baylor Romney — are doing positive things and the receiving corps has especially made strides despite Aleva Hifo missing practices with an injury.
• BYU’s baseball team is 12-3 and off to its best start since going 14-1 in 2016. Currently on a six-game winning streak, BYU has won 10 of its last 11 and will start WCC play on Thursday by hosting defending WCC champion Gonzaga at Miller Park. The Cougars and Zags will play Thursday at 6 p.m., Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m.
• BYU’s softball team is playing a rugged non-conference schedule, and it shows. The Cougars are 10-11 after falling 8-2 to No. 2 UCLA last Saturday and face another tough weekend beginning Thursday when they travel to Knoxville, Tenn., to face Tennessee and Texas at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium. The Cougars don’t play a home game until April 12.
• BYU’s gymnastics team is ranked No. 12 in the country and having its best season in years, but still lost at No. 21 Arizona State on Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Ariz., The Cougars did get second place at the meet, which also included West Virginia.
BYU scored a 195.825, while ASU had a 196.550 and WVU posted a 195.750.