I have been a Texas Rangers fan my entire life. Well, except for when I was a kid and loved the A’s but that was just because they were the best team of the era and as a kid you always pick the winner.
It has not been easy being a Rangers’ fan, and despite their debateably unexpected success last season it is still not easy. I am convinced that even if the Rangers had beat the Giants the media would have come up with excuses as to why the Giants lost.
Now there is a silver lining on this cloud of disdain for my beloved team; when they prove how little experts know and shove the media doubt right back down their throats.
There has been no bigger moment than with the World Series appearance last season, but the past does little to help the present and future, so lets look at how the Rangers started their American League title defense.
As the commentators of today’s game repeatedly pointed out, the Red Sox are widely considered the World Series favorite. This is no surprise with the players they acquired and the team they already had.
They are going to have a great season and may very well win it all, but today they had no such luck.
This Rangers team, who opted to start the season with a guy who is only one year removed from the bullpen, fought through adversity and brought down the giant.
It started with a terrible defensive play that is the part of entirely different discussion, and ended with the most underrated player on the team coming through once again.
What I loved most about this game was how the team fought back after going down early and often.
They went down two runs in the first, but tied it back up in the second. Down two more in the third, and answered with 3 more in the fourth.
Lost the lead on a home run in the eighth, and answered with four more runs in the eight to close it out.
Obviously they will not be successful if they have to fight back every single game, but this team has acquired a swagger that I have never seen on a Rangers team before.
My only guess is that the World Series did it to them, but whatever it was I am sure glad it happened.
Now don’t get me wrong, this is only one game out of 162, Josh Hamilton looks like he is disinterested right now, Michael Young obviously struggled in his new role, and CJ Wilson did not perform to his exceptionally high standards, but it is still just one game.
The bullpen that is such a major question gave the team a chance to win, and that is about all we can ask for at this point.
As a side note to the commentators, it was the Rangers who added a bunch of runs after the fifth inning, not the Red Sox. It was also the Red Sox who used five relievers, and not the Rangers.
Finally, I have to give all the props in the world to David Murphy. I have regularly commented on how big of a class act Michael Young is, but David Murphy is right there with him.
Despite having consistently quality numbers he has never broken through as an everyday player.
However, the guy gives everything he has everyday, and this team would not have succeeded last year, and will not make it far this year without him.
After putting up 32 against Wofford people kept talking about he could never do that against a good team and that Gonzaga would show him what’s up.
You can’t win in March with a one man show they said, and they are right. What they did not take into account is that there is more talent on this team than just Jimmer. The funny thing is most of us BYU fans really didn’t know about it either.
We are all aware of the amazing defense that Jackson Emery plays, and he did it again tonight. He also had a solid offensive night with 16 points and four assists.
Charles Abouo had another strong performance though the stat line really isn’t that impressive. He seemed to make plays at all the right times that had a big impact.
Noah Hartsock is another one of those players that quietly makes a solid impact. His 13 points on 5-5 shooting, including 3-3 from long range, provides a tremendous benefit to the team forcing the opposing big men to step out on him.
Stephen Rogers is probably the most up and down player on the team, but tonight he rounded out the double digit scorers with ten points. He looks to have a bright future in Provo.
What more can you really say about Jimmer?
He had an average night with 34 points, six assists, and two rebounds. Gonzaga did a great job of keeping him from penetrating so he just kept stepping back and draining threes; seven to be exact.
And for everyone out there who says he doesn’t play defense I hope you were paying attention tonight. He may have only had one steal, but he poked away numerous balls to his teammates and did an excellent job of making it tough on his opponent.
I’m not under the delusion that BYU is somehow the favorite to win the national title, or that they are even a major contender, but, if they play like they did tonight they can compete with anyone in the country.
I’m ready for all you naysayers to talk about how BYU will never compete with an SEC team like Florida, but I hate to remind you that this is not football.
Florida is a quality team that will be tough to handle for BYU because of their size, but BYU is quick and if they shoot like they did tonight Florida’s size won’t mean nearly as much.
At this point BYU has met my expectations and anything else is icing on the cake. Hear’s hoping that they continue to impress and knock Florida out for the second year in a row.
This game played out as most games do when one team is ultimately better than the other. Wofford kept it close for most of the game, but ultimately BYU, as the better team, pulled away.
Now before people start crying about how it was only Wofford, just think back, and you are probably the same people that said BYU would lose to Wofford because they are a one man team.
First of all I have to make one comment about how terrible the officiating was in this game, on both sides of the court. It has been bad in every game I watched today, but this game seemed exceptionally bad.
That being said BYU found a way to overcome serious foul trouble with an already shortened bench to move on to the next round. It was the kind of win that heartens me as we move on to the next game.
They were hustling for balls, and really scrapping to get everything they could in any way that they could. This was another team effort as you look back at the whole game, and there is no other way they would have won.
Collinsworth with 11 rebounds, and Magnusson with 7 made a huge difference in this game. You can also look at the 10 big points from Charles Abouo who played limited minutes because of foul trouble (two of which were total garbage calls).
Maybe the biggest contribution that will get overlooked, as it usually does, was the work done by Jackson Emery. He played some amazing defense for the entire game. He only had two steals, but he stopped more drives by getting in front of his man than I can count.
We all know who the star is on this team, but Jackson has been the perfect compliment to Jimmer their entire careers.
Speaking of Jimmer, he had another stellar night despite a relatively slow first half. He put up another solid 32 points while also dishing 7 assists, for those of you that think all he does is shoot.
Early on it seemed as though they were almost avoiding going to Jimmer which resulted in lower numbers than you might expect from him.
However, in true Jimmer form he lit it up the second half with his amazing drives to the lane, and a couple of beautiful threes. He did take a few ill advised shots, but I will take a few of those with as many as he does make.
His greatest contribution was those seven assists as he really did a lot to get his teammates involved. This will become even more vital if they are going to succeed in future games. While they will still not have the inside presence that Davies brought, they can make up for that by simply spreading the scoring around.
I wasn’t so sure about how I would feel going into the second round, but watching the game today gave me hope that BYU can make a solid run.
Man I love this time of year!
Jimmer Fredette Scores 30 as Cougars fall in Letdown Loss: What does it mean for the NCAA tournament?
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, but who really knows what kind of times we are in right now as BYU fans.
The last two weeks have been a major roller coaster of emotions for the Cougars and their fans. Going into the last week of the regular season this team was on the high of highs having just beaten San Diego St. for the second time this season.
Then came the news that Brandon Davies would not be playing for the rest of the season. BYU answered by losing to New Mexico for the second time, and at home none the less. This was followed by a convincing win over Wyoming.
On the heels of a shared MWC regular season title BYU entered the conference tournament as the number one seed and easily handled TCU. Naturally BYU fans were a little anxious when they saw that New Mexico would be the next opponent.
This was one of only two teams to beat BYU this year, and they did it twice. Fortunately, BYU was on another upswing and they dealt relatively easily with the Lobos on the back of 52 points from Jimmer Fredette.
While Jimmer did most of the scoring, it is important to note that the rest of the team provided a nice contribution of rebounds, assists, and steals.
Saturday would be another downswing for this team as they got manhandled by San Diego St. It really doesn’t help when you shoot 32% as a team, but it is a lot to ask of any team to beat the same team three times in one season.
So what have we learned about this team after the two most turbulent weeks of the season?
We have learned that Brandon Davies was a very important part of this team as evidenced in the two heartbreaking losses.
We have also learned that he was not an absolutely essential part of the team as evidenced in the three convincing wins.
Going into the tournament there are two huge things that we have learned about this team.
First of all, this team can light it up with the best of them. When this team is firing on all cylinders no one really stands a chance. At the same time, when this team goes cold from outside they are really in a lot of trouble.
While I have all the confidence in the world that this team will show up, we would be crazy to not have some apprehension about how much this team relies on having a high shooting percentage.
The second thing we have learned is that Jimmer Fredette has the ability to take his team on his shoulders and carry them to victories. He has shown this on numerous ocassions, but none more convincing than his 52 points against New Mexico.
There are numerous ways to be successful in the NCAA tournament and one of them is to have a player who can single-handedly take over a game and get the win. BYU has a player like that in Jimmer, and that is why I am at peace with the loss today.
I will never be okay with a loss, but at the same time it is much easier to move on to the next game when you know you have a player of Jimmer’s caliber to lead you into the tournament.
This has been the greatest season in BYU basketball history, and I have all the hope in the world that it will get even better. A lot depends on the draw BYU gets, but I am confident that this team will make it to the second weekend.
For however much of this season is left, this is Jimmer’s world, and we are all living in it.
Who would have thought that a kid from Provo would garner national attention for a second week in a row? If you said his name was Jimmer Fredette then almost no one would be surprised this year.
However, this Cougar’s name is Brandon Davies.
While I seriously doubt this is the kind of attention that Davies would like to garner as his team prepares for the closing weeks of the most successful season in team history, he is definitely getting his fair share of support.
There have been some ridiculous comments from people who have no idea what they are talking about, like Amare Stoudemire who tried to make it a race issue, but there have been some others who truly support Davies and the school’s decision.
The most important support is coming from people who were athletes at BYU, specifically those who went through similar situations.
Reno Mahe was a successful football player at BYU who was also suspended for a year before returning and being named to the All-MWC first team on two occasions. He went on to be a quality special teams player for the Eagles.
Mekeli Wesley also missed a year of school at BYU before returning and being named the MWC player of the year. Like Davies he prepped at Provo High School, and has taken a personal interest in this matter.
At this moment, what really matters is taking care of a young man who made a bad choice. You can argue whether the actions themselves were right or wrong, but there is no arguing that Davies not keeping his word is wrong.
I have no doubt that Davies is an upstanding young man that has a bright future whatever he decides to do, but I hope that he takes some good from this situation to help his team in the future.
There is no doubt that BYU would have benefited from Davies’ abilities in the upcoming MWC tournament, but I would also venture to guess that not a single guy on the team would not have Davies’ back in a second.
This is exactly the kind of situation that could bring this team together and push them over the top. It is in our moments of greatest difficulty that we find out exactly how strong we are, and how much we can accomplish.
I really hope that the Cougars continue to support Davies like they did by having him on the bench, letting him cut down part of the net, and getting a standing ovation from the fans.
This has already been a historic season, and it is only going to get better.
This was exactly the type of game every BYU fan should have been hoping for.
This game has been highly anticipated since the last time these two teams met, and things have only gotten more intense as the game got closer. It could be argued that leading up to the game it was the biggest game of the college season.
You have two teams in the top 7 in the country that had lost a combined total of 3 games on the season. They are both having the best seasons in their teams history and the stakes never could have been higher.
It also featured the most publicized player in the country this season. If you have heard of ESPN you have likely heard the name Jimmer as well. Whether the publicity is deserved or not is a whole different debate, but there are not many individuals with more pressure on them right now. When expectations are high people either excel, or fall apart.
Jimmer continues to excel.
He put up 25 points as well as 9 assists for a guy that some have criticized as a selfish scorer. The way that he started it looked like he was going for another 40 point game or better, but credit the Aztecs for slowing him down.
They played some stifling defense at times through the game that really frustrated Jimmer. However, anyone would find some difficulty when you are being double and triple teamed. The real story of this game was the contributions of the team as a whole.
Jimmer remains the star of this team, and no one would be surprised by that assessment, but on this day it was the contributions of his teammates that made the difference.
Four of five starters scored at least 13 points, with Jackson Emery being the low man. However, Jackson’s contributions on the defensive end are what made him so vital. He cut off angles and caused all kinds of difficulty for the Aztecs passing the ball. He was only credited with two steals but he created many more for others.
Charles Abouo knew he was going to have a good night shooting when his first three early in the first half from the corner banked in. He ended up going 4-5 from behind the arc and 6-11 overall. He also was one rebound shy of getting a double double.
Charles Davies was the lone starter not in double figures, but his work down low cannot be overlooked. He was banging all day with players that were noticeably bigger than him. He brought down some hard fought rebounds and had an excellent defensive showing.
The player who came the closest to stealing the spotlight from Jimmer, like that is going to happen, was Noah Hartsock. Hi fifteen points and six rebounds were a valuable contribution, but his four blocks could not have been more valuable.
San Diego St. owned the offensive glass, but had very few second chance point in large part due to the blocks from Hartsock and the tough defense of Davies. While no one is expecting Hartsock to go to the NBA, he is an extremely valuable big man that is an inside out threat who really sowed up huge today.
The Aztecs made a valuable effort today, but right now there is no stopping BYU. They threw everything they had at BYU and the Cougars responded every single time.
If I was looking at teams going into the tourney that I would not want to face, BYU would be one of them. There is always the high likelihood that Jimmer will just go off, but this team can also put it all together and get those vital team wins like they did today.
The sky is the ceiling with this team, and I really think they are going to push that ceiling high as March Madness kicks into full gear starting next week.
Jerry Sloan was the last coach in professional sports that could have stayed as long as he wanted. It was the unique combination of a quality coach and an organization that was willing to stand by their guy through good and bad.
There was definitely some bad, but for the most part it was an amazing run.
Jerry Sloan was the greatest coach that I have ever seen, and let me emphasize the word coach. He was not merely a manager of great players, or someone who showed up at just the right time and road a perfect storm to temporary success.
He found great success while coaching arguably the most complimentary teammates in NBA history. While John Stockton and Karl Malone were never in the spotlight like Pippen and Jordan or Magic and Kareem or any number of other players there could not a been a better tandem who helped each other to success.
During their heyday there was no doubt that 75-90% of the plays Utah ran would be a pick-and-roll, but Sloan had coached them so well that you just couldn’t stop it. Their success was a result of their excellent abilities being applied to a beautiful system by a brilliant teacher of fundamentals.
What truly shows Sloan’s greatness is the success he has had in years when no one expected anything of the Jazz. In 23 seasons with the Jazz he had one losing season. He did not always have superstar players, but he found a way to win.
He taught fundamentals and intensity and if you didn’t have that, he didn’t want you. It wasn’t that he didn’t appreciate great athletic ability it was that he believed in the game in its purest sense.
Say what you want about other coaches and their style and success, but there is no other coach I would have rather had lead my team. He was an old-school, class act that I would have been happy to see coach until the day he died. It was an honor to have watched the fruits of his abilities and I wish him the
Thanks for all the success Coach Sloan. You will be missed.