Blue Blood: Cougars try to avoid college hoops’ ‘Frustration zone’

COMMENTARY – I call it the frustration zone.

We make so much about NCAA football not having a playoff system and for good reason. We also complain about there being too many bowl games and again, it’s probably true.

But this past football season, BYU would not have made any kind of playoff and the Cougars did go to a bowl game. It was a nice reward for having an above average season and finishing with a win over a good San Diego State team was nice.

But college basketball is another story. Here we sit with 9-10 games left for most teams and most already know if they will be playing in the NCAA Tournament.

And that’s the frustration zone. BYU has a very good (but not great) basketball team this season. The Cougs will win 23 or 24 games and will likely take third in a good West Coast Conference. But will they make the NCAA tournament? Probably not.

In fact, the only ways BYU gets in at this point are to win out (which means victories at Saint Mary’s and against Gonzaga, plus BYU always drops a road game to someone like San Francisco that they shouldn’t) or to get hot and win the West Coast Conference Tournament.

Neither scenario is likely, which means BYU will probably be relegated to the NIT or one of those other weirdly-named postseason tourneys. As fans, we will watch and cheer for them, wherever they end up. But playing in one of those lesser tourneys is even worse than getting a minor bowl game. No one wants to be in the NIT. It’s like having a loser’s bracket in a state tournament. Once the opportunity to win it all is gone, the players’ (and fans’) hearts just aren’t in it.

Of course, hope springs eternal and BYU will begin their quest to “win out” tonight at Pepperdine. A team the Cougars beat 76-51 in the Marriott Center on Jan. 10. This is exactly the kind of game that worries me as BYU occasionally lays an egg on the road. The Cougars trailed the Waves by five at halftime back in January before out-scoring them by 30 in the second half. We’ll see which team shows up tonight.

By the way, the game will be on Root Sports (683 and 687HD on DirecTV) at 8 p.m.

The BYU football schedule was released this week and there is some cause for optimism, with some of the tougher games on the schedule at home.

In my conversation with football columnist Scott Young, we have agreed the Cougars could go anywhere from 8-4 to 11-1 or even 12-0 with both of us adding one big asterisk – BYU has to click quickly under new (old) offensive coordinator Robert Anae and young, but talented quarterback Taysom Hill.

The BYU defense should be close to as good as last season, though it will be hard to replace Ziggy Anseh. So the offense is the key. Here’s a quick glance at the schedule and how we see it turning out.

Aug. 31 at Virginia – Even though it’s a road game, both Scott and I saw BYU getting this against a Cavaliers team that was 4-8 and had a terrible defense last year.

Sept. 7 Texas – We both counted this as a toss-up game. Texas continues to have QB issues, but a 9-4 Big 12 team will be tough, even in Provo.

Sept. 14 Bye

Sept. 21 Utah – I have BYU slightly favored at home against the Utes, but Scott says BYU is already pumped for this game. The series takes a couple of years off after this game, so the bragging rights will have to last awhile.

Sept. 27 Middle Tennessee State – MTSU is a decent Sun Belt team, but then again, it is the Sun Belt Conference. Easy win.

Oct. 4 at Utah State – Scott had BYU winning this one easily and with Gary Anderson gone, it will be interesting to see if the Aggies can keep it going. Remember, USU won the WAC and went 11-2 last year.

Oct. 12 Georgia Tech – The Cougars thumped the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta last year and BYU generally handles the triple-option well. But this one scares me a little as well.

Oct. 19 at Houston – UH was 5-7 last year and lost to Texas State and Tulsa. But Houston was also one of the top passing teams in the nation. This could be an upset special on the road, though Scott says no way.

Oct. 26 Boise State – This will be a pick ’em game in my opinion. Last year, the Broncos beat BYU 7-6 in Boise and also went 11-2 and won the Las Vegas Bowl. Scott is guaranteeing a W in this one.

Nov. 2 Bye

Nov. 9 at Wisconsin – Hello again, Gary Anderson. The former USU head coach has more talent and more money to work with at Wisconsin. And it wasn’t a bad team (8-6) last year. I have it as a BYU loss. Scott Young says it’s a pick ’em game. We’ll see.

Nov. 16 Idaho State – Money game for the Bengals. Easy win for the Cougars.

Nov. 23 at Notre Dame – BYU was in the game last season, even with all the offensive issues, losing 17-14. Still, the golden dome and all is hard to overcome. Again, I have it as a BYU loss and Scott has the Cougars winning this one (he even called me a Notre Dame fan, ouch!).

Nov. 30 at Nevada – Scott has BYU winning this one easily. I think the Cougars will win, but it will be close. The Wolf Pack is a bowl team from last year that beat Cal and lost to South Florida, San Diego State and Arizona by just one point, plus a 6-point loss to Boise State. Nevada could easily have been 11-2.

By the way, football season begins for the Cougs exactly seven months from today.

~

Andy Griffin is a sports commentator. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: sports@stgnews.com

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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