Eye on the Y: It was an NCAA Tournament to remember, even if it ended sooner for BYU than fans would have liked

Not only did both BYU men’s and women’s basketball make it back to the Big Dance, but it was this reporter’s first time covering the NCAA Tourney

BYU guard Brandon Averette (4) reaches for a rebound with UCLA forward Kenneth Nwuba (14) and BYU forward Caleb Lohner, second from left, and BYU forward Matt Haarms (3) during the second half of a first-round game in the NCAA college basketball tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Saturday, March 20, 2021. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

After a most unpredictable, uncertain year, it’s finally over.

Both BYU men’s and women’s basketball returned to the Big Dance, but have since bowed out — the men got eliminated in the first round Saturday and the women in Wednesday’s second round. And today, after finishing up the follow-up coverage, I bow out of the NCAA Tournament. It was my first appearance in my almost 32-year existence.

If you would have asked me 16 years ago, when I started covering basketball in high school — or even 10 years ago when I was covering my college team — I never would have imagined I’d be covering the biggest event in college basketball.

I also never would have imagined I’d be covering it the way I did — remotely, in a pandemic.

Although I would have liked to have the normal NCAA Tournament experience that other journalists have had in the past, I’m also grateful to have been able to do it from the comfort of my own home. Like this, I was able to cover both men’s and women’s games at the same time. I didn’t have to coordinate around flight times, hotel check-in’s and whatever other time conflicts arise through traveling for a game.

It’s also been a completely different experience going from casual fan to being part of the coverage. So, in that sense, thank you BYU.

Now, I have to figure out what to do with my life now that the basketball seasons are over, but I’m sure I’ll get that squared away quickly.

BYU guard Jesse Wade enters the transfer portal

Before the Cougars even took to the court in Indiana, they were winners. Two viral videos instantly made BYU a fan-favorite team. The first video was of the team coming together to, literally, rip open an elevator door to free their teammate Jesse Wade, who had been stuck for 40 minutes. The second video was of the team getting tested and dancing their way through the lineup (it ended with Wade’s dance interpretation of his elevator saga).

But while Wade became known even more to Cougar Nation and other fan bases around the country, he is at least considering hanging up his BYU jersey and entering the transfer portal.

Wade came to Provo from Gonzaga, where he averaged 1.3 points and .4 rebounds in 5.2 minutes of play his freshman year. After redshirting the 2018-19 season, Wade was expected to get into the Cougars’ rotation, but a knee injury prevented him from doing so.

This season, Wade played in just nine games.

“I had a great talk with Coach Pope today and I will be entering the transfer portal to explore possible options,” Wade said in a Twitter post. “There are multiple ways this can go and no doors are closed anywhere, including BYU. I just simply want to explore options and see what is out there.”

Brandon Averette says goodbye to BYU fans

In an Instagram post, grad transfer Brandon Averette shared numerous photos from throughout his collegiate career, including in his Oklahoma State and Utah Valley jerseys. The post read:

“You ever heard good times don’t last? Love all the brothers I’ve made along the way and thank you all for following my story.”

While Averette had previously commented that he wouldn’t take advantage of the NCAA’s blanket waiver to come back one more year, fans were holding their breath when, at the end of the regular-season finale, coach Mark Pope said he’d try re-recruiting his three seniors.

It seems even Pope’s pitch for a return couldn’t get the 5-foot-11 guard to stay.

More thoughts

• Although the men’s basketball team looks to be losing all three of its seniors (Alex Barcello hasn’t been fully clear about his decision just yet), women’s coach Jeff Judkins said all — not just his seniors — are coming back. That should make for a dangerous squad next year.

• For those that were looking forward to attending Friday public spring football practice, it will no longer be open to the public. Due to inclement weather (it’s forecasted to snow on Friday), the practice got moved from LaVell Edwards Stadium to the Indoor Practice Facility. Because of the change of venue, and COVID-19 precautions, fans cannot be accommodated. (News media has also been bumped off the list).

Other voices

• Read my former colleague, the Arizona Daily Star’s PJ Brown, and his game coverage of the BYU-Arizona game.

• The Indy Star put together a piece on Matt Haarms returning to Indiana, and how his “hair is still glorious.”

• The Daily Universe wrote a feature on Chandon Herring, and how the former Cougar is bound for the NFL.

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