BYU basketball: Cougars must go back to the drawing board

BYU basketball fell prey to their youth once again, dropping a game to San Diego 88-75. Now they have to ask themselves: what’s next?

Imagine the sound­ of a grape, gradually being crushed underfoot. The skin compressing bit by bit, until the juices burst out in a slow, pathetic gurgle. To my mind, that was the sound of BYU basketball’s NCAA hopes Saturday night.

Smashed flat.

After a lackluster first half played at San Diego’s pace, the game was still close. Despite Eric Mika playing one of his most mediocre halves of the season, despite Nick Emery and Eli Bryant barely being on the court due to foul trouble and Yoeli Childs looking lost, it was merely a one score difference.

So when TJ Haws burst into the second half hoisting Jimmer-range shots and Leprechaun-ing into the lane for an around the back, off-balance and-one, his brows down and face flushed almost as red as his hair and snarling like a hungry animal, I had hope. Hope that he would spark the Cougars to a much needed strong finish. Hope that they’d put away a foe that frankly was one of the worst that they’d played this season.

Yeah, nope.

The same 3-point defense that doomed BYU basketball against UVU reared it’s ugly, ugly head. As time grew short, San Diego hit a hailstorm of free throws to salt the game away.

They may have taken the BYU basketball’s NCAA opportunity with it.

Now, BYU’s chances to go back to the big dance aren’t zero. Sweeping the rest of the regular season gives them a slight twinkle. But judging by the fact that a Saint Mary’s team that the Cougars looked thoroughly outmatched by just got slobber-knocked by Gonzaga to the tune of 23 points, I wouldn’t put many chips on that bet.

Their other avenue is the traditional route for teams on the outside looking in: get hot at just the right time, and win the conference tournament. And it’s okay to hope for this. Just make sure you pay no attention to the fact that no BYU basketball team has accomplished this since 2001.

So what now? Are we all throwing away our tickets? Stowing our stretch Y’s in some dark place for a while? Maybe you’re thinking it’s time to pack it all up and start focusing on next year’s football team.

Resist that voice, my friends. That’s the fair weather fan talking.

Instead, it’s time to reset expectations. This team’s youth has predictably spelled out a (highly likely) NIT trip, but there are still a lot of fun things to watch. When the lights are just right and the wind is southerly, the Cougars are perfectly capable of taking down the Zags or the Gaels.

It’s time to just enjoy this team game by game. Stow the “Dave Rose hot seat” drama, and watch the way the Cougars grow and improve. Marvel as they show glimpses of their potential with alley oops and furious attacks at the basket.

And as for the Cougars themselves, they simply have to go back to improving, man by man. Their defensive consistency could stand some revamping. Or maybe guys just have to finally buy in if they want a sniff of the air near the top.

Twinkling dreams of banners were probably a year early, but the Cougars are never boring to watch. Frustrating, sure, but never boring.

And you never know. That conference tournament losing streak has to end someday.

This article originally appeared on