Eye on the Y: Earthquake rattles Cougar women’s basketball coach and player

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) BYU women's basketball coach Jeff Judkins with his retired jersey in the Highland High School gym, Tuesday August 1, 2017.

Eye on the Y is The Salt Lake Tribune’s weekly newsletter on BYU athletics. Subscribe here.

Provo • Y’all, it’s been A WEEK.

Since my last newsletter, it seems like it's been a constant downpour of despair. College sports have come to a halt, schools of all levels are closed, restaurants are closing their lobbies and dining rooms, people are working from home or losing their jobs altogether, and people have emptied out grocery stores in panic.

As if all of that hasn't been hard enough, yesterday's earthquake definitely took things up another level.

Women’s basketball coach Jeff Judkins, who will celebrate his 64th birthday next week and is a Utah native, said the experience was a weird one.

“I have not experienced that — I felt a little one, maybe, but I had never felt one like that,” Judkins said. “That was crazy. I guess the last big one was in St. George, so none of us never really felt it. That was pretty scary.”

West Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year Sara Hamson hasn’t gone home yet (although home’s just 15 minutes away, so she’s not too worried about it) and was in Provo when the earthquake hit.

She, like me, slept through it (in my case, my room is underground and I did kind of wake up around that time but went right back to sleep), but having campus close down to be inspected was something Hamson didn’t see coming.

And having the earth shake, on top of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, brought upon a new reality for Hamson.

“That was very startling, that was kind of shocking,” she said. “And it felt very real, especially because they’re closing down the Annex and we’re not allowed to go even in small groups and work out anymore. Then it became like, really real because it’s going to be an entirely different offseason for us. Before, it was going to be a couple changes, but now it’s going to be very different. I never even imagined something like this happening. It’s always an adjustment when something like this happens.”

We’ll never know, but we can imagine

The BYU men’s basketball team is still a hot topic of conversation as we try to adjust to a sports-less world, but on Wednesday they popped back into the radar in an alternate reality.

ESPN's Seth Walder used Joe Lunardi's final bracket and ESPN's Basketball Power Index (BPI) to simulate the 2020 tournament. And let me tell y'all, it was a ride.

Walder had the Cougars going all the way to the title game!

It certainly would have been fun for Cougar Nation had that been how everything transpired, but, alas, it could have gone a multitude of ways had it not been for the coronavirus outbreak.

My coworker Josh Newman, who covers the Utes for The Tribune (don’t hold it against him), wrote up his own bracket and predictions. In his alternate reality, he had the Cougars losing in the second round via an upset by Vermont and put Kentucky and Duke in the title game.

Not as exciting (for BYU) as Walder's predictions, but I'll let it pass.

Also, BYU wasn’t the only team who’s season got cut short. Another coworker of mine, this time Julie Jag, wrote about the opportunities lost for five Utah teams that were in the midst of magical seasons.

More thoughts

• More than a month after running back coach AJ Steward left BYU for the same position at Arizona, Kalani Sitake finally named Steward replacement: Harvey Unga. It shouldn’t come as a big surprise to anyone that’s been following along. Unga is one of the best running backs to come out of Provo and has been on the offensive staff the last four years as a graduate assistant.

The two Italian members on the men’s volleyball team have had to deal with the coronavirus, not just locally, but internationally. Sophomore outside hitter Davide Gardini can’t leave campus to head home because of Italy’s total and dramatic lockdown. Volunteer assistant Giuseppe Vinci’s mother had been visiting her son and daughter-in-law to help them with a newborn, but her return flight was canceled and her tourist visa was expiring. So Vinci took his mother on a flight to Mexico, waited three hours in the airport and then flew back into the U.S. to try to explain her situation to immigration.

Other voices

• Jared Lloyd of the Daily Herald spoke to BYU gymnast Shannon Evans on how she’s dealing with her career coming to an abrupt and devastating end.

The transfer portal started humming earlier than usual this year and KSL Sports’ Sean Walker compiled a list of Utah athletes on the move, which includes BYU men’s basketball’s Blase Nield.

• The Deseret News’ Brandon Judd takes a look at former BYU quarterback Taysom Hill and how the NFL restricted free agent received a 1st-round tender.