BYU Basketball is finally coming home after nearly a full month on the road, but that road trip has irreparably damaged the Cougars’ season.
28 days and five games. From December 12th to January 10th.
That’s the road stretch that BYU Basketball has finally concluded.
That’s the road stretch that has effectively sunk their season.
Before their extended time away from the Marriott Center began, the Cougars sat at 8-4. Not great, but not horrible either. They’d just come off three straight wins, including two big ones against Utah and Utah State.
Now they’re 9-8 and far closer to finishing the season with a losing record than finishing it in the NCAA Tournament.
It’s been a road stretch that BYU has only faced once before in the last 30 years. During the 2010-11 season the Cougars went 29 days without playing at home, facing eight consecutive road or neutral games.
The results were drastically different that season, though, as BYU won all eight games during that stretch. Of course, they had one major thing that this team doesn’t:
Of course they had Jackson Emery, Brandon Davies, Charles Abouo, Noah Hartsock, and more. But Jimmer was a one-man game changer.
He was confidence personified, and it’s that confidence that’s gone with this year’s team.
It was there before the extended road trip, but look at the results of all five games:
- An overtime loss to UNLV on a buzzer-beater.
- A loss at San Diego State caused in large part from one big first-half run.
- An absolute blowout loss at Mississippi State.
- A narrow win against a less-talented team after blowing a 20+ point lead.
- Another blowout loss at St. Mary’s.
That’s a trend that perfectly sums up a team that slowly lost confidence.
The Cougars played well for the most part against UNLV, and even held their own against the Aztecs aside from that crippling run before the half.
But against the Bulldogs and the Gaels, and even in large part against the Tigers, you could see the Cougars’ confidence completely drain once their opponent started making a run. The team looked completely different in the first 10 minutes of those three games compared to the final 30 minutes.
It also didn’t help that the Cougars only played a total of three games in three weeks. For a team that struggles to shoot (31.5% three-point average), long layoffs are a killer. Yet they went three straight weeks without a weekday game.
Of course there were reasons that the schedule panned out this way. A tougher schedule was needed, and that meant playing better teams on their terms, since good teams still fear the Marriott Center. Plus, front-loading the schedule with easier teams allowed the Cougars to get Nick Emery back before most of their tough games.
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But even with valid reasons, the schedule proved to be disastrous. That five-game stretch destroyed any hope the Cougars had of making the NCAA Tournament without a miracle run in Las Vegas. It destroyed nearly every shred of confidence the team could dig into when things started to turn sour.
And it looks like BYU has also lost Jashire Hardnett, according to reports, thinning out an already-thin guard line.
Maybe the Cougars can get some of their confidence back with six of their next nine games at home. Maybe they’ll be able to turn things around enough to fight for the second spot in the West Coast Conference.
But even if those things turn out to be true, too much damage has already been done to completely salvage this season.