Utah. BYU. The Holy War. The Deseret First Duel. Sure, the football rivalry is on hold for two years -- but that doesn't mean the basketball bloodbath is. Heck to the no. It doesn't matter when the Utes and Cougars play, or where; This game could be played at the Bonneville Salt Flats in a dust storm -- people would still show up. This year, it takes place today, Saturday December 14 at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, the home of the Runnin Utes -- which is indoors, not in some salt pond and it seats about 15,000 people.
Yes, what you heard is true; the Utes are indeed "runnin" again at 8-1 overall, averaging 86 points per game -- which is a lot better than last year when Utah couldn't score over 60 on anybody. It is not a fluke, or some kind of aberration -- because the Utes can also get after it on defense, allowing just 61 per contest. Coach K (Larry Krystkowiak) is working his "Montana Magic" on these Runnin' Utes who play defense AND get out on the fast break.
Playas (yes, playas) like wings Delon Wright and Princeton Onwas have been nice additions to Utah's already talented front court of Renan Lenz, the 7-foot Brazilian and Jordan Loveridge, the tweener 6-8 forward from West Jordan who is so hard to guard because he's too big for threes (small forwards) and too quick for fours (power forwards).
BYU is playing like BYU, scoring about 100 points per game and allowing most teams -- not all -- to score the same on them. The 8-3 Cougs haven't played defense since before Jimmer was chucking up threes from the parking lot -- and making them. But hey ... if you make them, then all is forgiven, right? Kind of. Jimmer's heir apparent is a two-headed monster named Matt Carlino and Tyler Haws, two guards who have never seen a shot they didn't like.
Carlino is also working on a mild afro -- or was -- which the BYU Honor Code Society of Bluehaired Spinsters should look into for a possible violation. As for Marty Haws' kid, Tyler just likes to take a lot of shots -- still not as many as Carlino. Look, if you make them, does it matter? Again, it depends if the shot goes in, and about 40 percent of the time it does. Inside the Cougars have freshman Eric Mika and Kyle Collinsworth -- who's never met a mullet he didn't like. Speaking of mullets, since when were they allowed at BYU? Again, someone needs to check on that.
The Believer thinks so. In fact, he thinks the Runnin' Utes are due for an upset and have a chance to get this rivalry back on track -- after narrowly losing to BYU last year in Provo. The Non-Believer can't believe the Believer is spouting such nonsense about this game being Utah's to win because for all he knows -- there is no rivalry.
If there is no rivalry for Utah vs BYU then why is the Huntsman Center close to being sold out for Saturday's game? And why are the Utes 8-1? And why can't the Cougars win on the road? And why doesn't BYU have a deep bench? Why, Why...why?
The Believer and Non-Believer debate all this and more...after the jump...
Utah vs BYU Pros:
Before anyone starts running their mouth about how Utah isn't really a part of this rivalry, let me remind you that the Utes have won 12 of their past 13 games played at the Huntsman Center.
So that basically means that Utah is unbeatable on its home court right now. Can BYU say that? No it can't. Anyone remember the Iowa State game? Well, Utah has a middle finger for you, Cougars fans. It's on.
BYU has the fastest tempo team in the country. Putting up a shot every 12 seconds or so. Never thought I would include BYU and shots, but it's been a weird sports year. BYU has a very solid starting 4 and Carlino. They can play with anyone in the country.
Utah might have the best player in the state in Wright. He doesn't have much help so he is able to play all over the court. If BYU doesn't find a way to limit him, he might be enough to steal a win at home and give Utah a much needed win that could set them up for a nice NIT run.
Utah vs BYU Cons
And by the same token...the Utes have lost seven straight to BYU. Nobody is saying that currently, BYU isn't the better team. The Cougars are, by a long shot from Tyler Haws from the University Hospital parking lot that goes swish.
What I'm saying is that Utah is due to have some luck in this rivalry series -- so that all the bandwagon jumpers and fake fans can climb back on and enjoy the ride Coach K's team will give them -- until they fall off when they realize it's football season and it's time to lose again.
BYU has a great starting 4 and Carlino. But the lack of big guys on the bench has hurt them all season. It is the reason they fade down the stretch against the ranked teams. They must find a back up big guy if they are gonna have any chance against Gonzaga this year.
They will not get into the NCAA tourney without a win over the Zags. Utah has one been a bad basketball team for years. They have been poorly coached and lost any swagger they once had. They are better this year. But that doesn't make them good. They have a great coach who will get them back to a winning team. Just not this year. They only have one player. One player in the PAC 12 is not enough.
Utah vs. BYU Prediction
Like I said, the Utes are due. Any team that has lost seven in a row to its rival is probably ready to do just about anything short of murder to accomplish this feat. The Utes went out and picked up Delon Wright, who is probably as good as any recent Utah player since Aussie sensation Andrew Bogut was long boarding around campus and slam dunking fools in his spare time.
The Utes also picked up some athletic, long wings that can run the floor with Wright and cause matchup problems. Plus, they still have guard Brandon Taylor and forwards Renan Lenz and Jordan Loveridge from last year -- so the Utes are in a much better place than they were last year, that's for sure. Utah 65, BYU 55
So there is still a rivalry game played in Utah? But in basketball? That's right. See nobody really talks basketball ever since Utah decided it doesn't know Jack.. Then they finally get a new coach and schedule a bunch of nobody's and all the sudden they are talking like this is their year? Please. The only thing that Utah will get out of this game is another "growing experience" -- not anything else.
BYU is better in all areas of the game. Utah might have a player or two. But the Cougars have a team. Team records are not as they seem. Where BYU has only lost to three ranked and undefeated teams, Utah has beaten no one and lost to the only team that was any good in Boise State. Utah plays better than expected but can't keep up with the fastest tempo in the nation. BYU wins this "rivalry" game.
Utah Jazz Recap
The Jazz are living up to their billing of being the absolute worst team in the NBA -- barely. A 20-point win over the Sacramento Kings is not good news for fans who want this team to stink so bad that the Energy Solutions Arena smells like the Great Salt Lake after 10,000 seagulls fly over the briny waters, infiltrating it with perfume-y pellets.
Five wins in 25 games is just barely cutting it to get Andrew Wiggins who by the way had a 26-point, 11-rebound night in a loss the other night. So those who say Maple Jordan can't play at a high level don't know what they're talking about. And Jabari Parker of Duke is still putting up monster numbers every night -- though dude can't fly like Wiggins.
Talking to a guy the other day, he starts telling me that this Jazz team is a playoff team. Maybe if they played in the east. If the Jazz find a way to actually win, like they have been doing since Trey returned. It will be a disaster of a year. It is the worst possible scenario.
A first round exit, a bad draft position, and lose out on what is looking like an epic draft. I like watching this team. When the shots are falling they are really good. But it can't continue. It won't continue. anything over 25 wins is a bad thing. Not a good thing. Change your expectations, Jazz fans. Watch the games. Watch them grow. But if they
don't get a top three pick, they will stay a 500 team for the next 5 to 10 years. The only way to be a contender tomorrow is to tank today.
Utah Jazz Preview
Let's see ... at Denver, home to San Antonio and at Miami and Orlando ... sounds like three or four losses in a row to me! Bring on losses 21,2,3 and 4!! And yes, I'm serious; there is absolutely NO need for the Jazz to start winning games and raise my blood pressure. The goal is simple: GET Andrew Wiggins.
There is no other goal, other than to play good enough to make us think you have a chance of winning. Only then, will the evil -- but temporary -- jaws of defeat come snatch the stupid little pebble out of your hand, you know, the one you thought you were going to make a shot with.
Now that the Jazz are healthy; now that they are showing the rest of the league they can play some ball? It's not an easy win. They can beat the Denvers and most of the east. They will be exposed by the big dogs. That starts with San Antonio. While the Jazz will make things interesting, play hard, and stay in the game, they will fade down the stretch and lose to a better team.
That doesn't mean the Jazz lost; it is these games they will learn most from. After all ... The Jazz are molding themselves after the Spurs. So learn what a real team looks like. Figure that out and the Jazz can be contenders for the next ten years. Again ... This season is not about winning. It's about becoming a team of the future. Adding Parker or Wiggins is a MUST to do this....
Our guest columnist "Non-Believer" is actor/comedian Jim Stevens. You've seen him on Arctic Circle commercials playing the "blond astronaut", and he's one of the infamous "Stevens Brothers" in Adam Sandler's cult classic "Punch-Drunk Love."
Jim also teaches acting, and more information is available at: http://thesugarspace.com/classes/actors-anonymous-with-jim-stevens/