Posts Tagged ‘Gonzaga’

They played college basketball’s national championship game on Monday night and it was a foul-fueled disaster.

Referees Mike Eades, Verne Harris and Michael Stephens apparently thought we tuned in to watch them blow their whistles.

The trio of officials prevented either team from developing a flow in the second half before North Carolina played better down the stretch to register a 71-65 victory over Gonzaga.

The championship is the sixth in Tar Heels’ history and the school will certainly cherish it after losing to Villanova in last season’s title game.

But nobody is going to remember this game as a classic, primarily with the referees calling 44 fouls.

Gonzaga’s chances of winning were diminished when freshman 7-footer Zach Collins was saddled with his fourth foul and eventually fouled out. Losing Collins was a blow with center Przemek Karnowski going 1-of-8 from the field and missing close-range shots like that tall awkward fourth grader in the elementary school league.

However, the Zags also sabotaged their own chances with 14 turnovers while North Carolina committed just four. Gonzaga simply didn’t do enough to win, shot just 33.9 percent from the field and unraveled in the final 90 seconds.

The Tar Heels also had trouble dropping the ball in the ocean as they shot just 35.6 percent from the field and went 4-of-27 from 3-point range.

North Carolina guard Joel Berry II scored 22 points and was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. He was just 9-of-33 shooting in the Final Four, which should give you a pretty good idea about the lack of quality performances in Monday’s title game.

Tar Heels forward Justin Jackson missed all nine of his 3-point attempts while scoring 16 points on Monday.

Gonzaga was in the NCAA Tournament title game for the first time ever and its season finale will prompt mixed memories down the line. But make no mistake, a 37-2 campaign is a terrific accomplishment.

Bulldogs coach Mark Few got the Final Four monkey off his back and recently passed 500 career wins. He’ll eventually make the Hall of Fame.

North Carolina coach Roy Williams is already in the Hall of Fame. Amazingly, he was won more national titles (three) at North Carolina than legendary Dean Smith (two).

Who knows — maybe the result would have been different if the refs had not taken over and gone whistle crazy.

Then again, probably not, the officials were just as poor for North Carolina.

The Tar Heels (33-7) finished the game better than the Zags and deserved their title. But none of us will remember the 2017 title game fondly.

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Somehow it is already time for the NCAA Tournament championship game. Seems like the season just started.

Time flies way too quick these days but I won’t spend too much time dwelling about that as I do know why you are here.

You haven’t forgotten that it was me who nearly hit the final score of last year’s game on the head.

While the so-called experts were all falling over themselves to pick North Carolina, I not only selected Villanova as the winner but I almost nailed the final score on the head.

The final score was Villanova 77, North Carolina 74. My predicted score was Villanova 77, North Carolina 73.

Here is the proof: http://www.reuters.com/article/bkc-villanova-northcarolina-preview-idUSMTZEC443VZQAB

Not easy to predict a college basketball score, let alone nearly hit both ends of the NCAA title game.

Perhaps it is those 16 years as an award-winning college basketball beat writer helping in a cause like that. Perhaps it is just nothing but blind luck.

That said, the big tilt between Gonzaga and North Carolina is just hours away. I wrote the national preview on Sunday and I came up with the winner and final score you have been waiting to see.

So did I pick the veteran North Carolina team that has several players back from the team that lost in last season’s title game? Or did I pick all the Gonzaga transfers who have their school in the national title game for the first time?

Either way, I think it will be a terrific game … I think it will be close down to the final minutes … may even come down to another dose of late-game heroics (don’t forget Kris Jenkins’ game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer last season) … I can see the postgame scene in my head and I have decided upon the winner and the final score.

You can find it here … http://news.lakana.com/sports/preview-gonzaga-vs-north-carolina/109634570

Pretty sure I will hit it exactly this time.

Weekly links … NCAA Tournament style

 

Reminiscing about last week’s NCAA Tournament games and I can’t help but think how fun it was to watch South Carolina defeat Duke.

Of course, it is fun anytime Duke goes home the first week of the tourney but it was especially fun because all the Duke excuse makers were out in full force.

You see, it was somehow unfair for Duke to have to play South Carolina in the state of South Carolina.

But for some reason, it never is unfair for Duke opponents to have to play the Blue Devils in the state of North Carolina. How many times has Duke had two quasi-home games in the NCAA tourney?

Yet somehow it was really unfair for Coach K and his team to have to play in a different state.

Duke couldn’t play in the home state this year because the tournament was pulled from North Carolina due to that weirdo transgender bathroom law.

Do they have guards outside the bathroom checking your gender before you are allowed in? What a dumb law.

Anyway, South Carolina and star guard Sindarius Thornwell outclassed Duke. And Frank Martin outcoached Coach K.

South Carolina became America’s Team for a night as most people around the nation enjoyed watching another Duke early exit.

Go Mercer! Go Lehigh! Go South Carolina!

Isn’t Duke an elite program? Well, elite programs should be able to win anywhere.

End of story.

 

Interesting tidbit I dug up: Wisconsin has won more NCAA Tournament games than anyone else over the past four years.

The Badgers are looking for their 14th NCAA win in that time span when they face Florida on Friday.

Normally, I wouldn’t care who wins a game like this. Especially since my bracket has already met the shredder (thanks, Villanova).

Oh yeah, it was Wisconsin causing my bracket to become full of red ink with its impressive victory over Villanova.

But I now realize it is time for the Badgers to go home. Not their fault but I learned that the slimy politician guy named Paul Ryan is from Wisconsin.

Ryan is the dingbat who is somehow coming up with a worse health care plan than the disaster known as Obamacare (the one time Donald Trump is right). I wouldn’t trust that Ryan clown to correctly put English muffins in the toaster. Heck, my mom calls him a jackass.

Go Gators! Make Paul Ryan have a horrible Friday night.

Here is the stellar preview — http://www.cbssports.com/college-basketball/news/wisconsin-looks-to-keep-run-going-versus-florida/

 

Thursday is the night that all of those Gonzaga fans will become really sad.

The Bulldogs don’t have enough ball-handlers to deal with the “Press Virginia” defense that West Virginia is famous for. The Mountaineers have forced 724 turnovers — nobody else even has 600 — and I see them creating havoc all game long.

Gonzaga also is the team with all the pressure on it. The Bulldogs have never reached a Final Four and even coach Mark Few admitted that the Final Four thing will continue to hang over the program until it reaches one.

Well, I don’t see Nigel Williams-Goss and his teammates even reaching the Elite Eight. I see Gonzaga’s season coming to an end on Thursday.

Here is the stellar preview — http://newsok.sportsdirectinc.com/basketball/ncaab-preview.aspx?page=/data/NCAAB/matchups/g6_preview_19.html

 

 

 

Time for Weekly Links and hopefully these hot stories heat things up.

You see, it is minus-7 degrees on this Friday night and feels even colder. When my phone said feels like minus-17 last night, I really wanted to throw it out in the cold so it could find out for itself.

Oh yeah, went out to start my car tonight so the engine wouldn’t die. Too late, it was already dead. #PolarBearWeather and I don’t really get along too well.

 

So off to the links and I drew the preview assignment for the College Football Playoff title game between Alabama and Clemson.

I’ve been saying Alabama would go undefeated since early October so no reason to change now. Clemson has a ton of solid players and should make it a game — just as the Tigers did last season before losing 45-40 in the title game.

The Crimson Tide has NFL players everywhere. Lucky for Nick Saban, he doesn’t have to fit them under a salary game.

And Saban sent offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin packing after the semifinal win over Washington. Maybe we can change his name to Lame Kiffin.

Fits pretty well.

Here is the stellar preview of Monday’s national championship game — http://sun-sentinel.sportsdirectinc.com/football/ncaaf-preview.aspx?page=/data/NCAAF/matchups/g8_preview_2.html

 

My NFL preview for the week is the AFC wild-card game between the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Dolphins defeated the Steelers 30-15 in the regular season when running back Jay Ajayi rushed for 204 yards and Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted twice.

I say quarterback play will be the bigger factor in the rematch. Roethlisberger will be making his 18th postseason start – he has won two Super Bowls – while Miami journeyman Matt Moore will be making his first career playoff start.

Not saying Moore won’t step up but it also won’t surprise me if he puts together a disastrous Brock Osweiler-like performance either (translation: rotten).

The Dolphins were badly hoping Ryan Tannehill would be recovered from his knee injury to play in this game but he appears to be another week or two away.

Here is the stellar Dolphins-Steelers preview — http://nytimes.stats.com/fb/preview.asp?g=20170108023&home=23&vis=15&action=click&contentCollection=football&region=supplemental&module=sports-stats-module-nfl&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=sectionfront

 

I was asked recently what is the best assignment to draw and that answer was easy: College basketball remote writethrus.

They pay 2 1/2 to three times more than the previews. Heck, they pay better than most live assignments I’ve handled since living in Boise.

Not leaving the house to write about college basketball and getting paid better than covering a live college hoops game from courtside is pretty amazing. Who needs to deal with snow and sliding on icy roads? Not me.

So here is how it goes: I file first-half running copy with notes at halftime, I file a first lede about two minutes after the game concludes and I finish up with the write-thru with quotes about an hour later.

And I don’t even have to deal with the egos of any coach. Perfect.

 

So this week, I learned that Hall of Famer Rick Barry has a son who plays for Florida. (Yeah, I did the math too).

Oh sure, he shoots free throws underhanded just like his famous father.

Canyon Barry matched his season best of 20 points on Tuesday as the Gators knocked off Ole Miss to land my story angle.

Here is the stellar Ole Miss-Florida remote writethru — http://www.sportsxchange.com/tsxfiles/?page_id=211&max_colums=60&story_id=155582

 

In my other one, I really didn’t learn anything new. Already knew Gonzaga was really, really good. And the Zags beating up on San Francisco is a twice-yearly tradition.

But wow, Bulldogs junior point guard Nigel Williams-Goss keeps getting better and better. He had been sick earlier in the week but he was making the Dons feel awful with his play as he established career highs of 36 points and 11 rebounds on Thursday.

Williams-Goss was a fine point guard at Washington for two seasons before departing. He sat out last season as a transfer and now looks like one of the top players at his position in the country.

His superb performance led to him landing the angle on my story.

Here is the stellar Gonzaga-San Francisco remote writethru — http://www.reuters.com/article/bkc-gonzaga-sanfrancisco-writethru-idUSMTZED16CBWTCJ

Melvin Gordon wasn’t very impressive as a rookie so naturally a lot of people wondered whether he was on his way to being a bust.

Pretty sure that topic has been squashed by the performance of the San Diego Chargers running back this season.

Gordon has already passed last season’s total for rushing yards (646) and ranks third in the NFL with 768 yards entering Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins.

Even more eye-opening is that he leads the NFL in touchdowns with 11 (nine rushing, two receiving).

Do you remember all those touchdowns Gordon scored last season? Can you recall even one?

You certainly can’t because Gordon didn’t score a single one. It was like Donald Trump built a wall and nobody with the last name of Gordon was able to gain access to the end zone.

And he kept fumbling the ball to make matters worse.

But coach Mike McCoy has gone from being a doubter to a full-fledged supporter of Gordon, who announced his budding star status with 196 rushing yards against the Tennessee Titans last Sunday.

That output ranks ninth in Chargers’ history. The great LaDainian Tomlinson holds the single-game record of 243.

Speaking of 200-yard rushing performances, Miami has an emerging star as well in Jay Ajayi, also in his second season. Ajayi has a college-like 529 rushing yards over the past three games, including becoming just the fourth player in the NFL history to rush for 200 yards in back-to-back games.

Sure made an easy preview angle for me, I can say that. Here is the stellar Dolphins-Chargers preview (and let’s say that I had no idea my work was running in the New York Times. Wow.) — http://nytimes.stats.com/fb/preview.asp?g=20161113024

 

 Feels weird to type this but the Los Angeles Clippers have been the most impressive team in the NBA over the first two-plus weeks of the season.

The Clippers (7-1) were hard-pressed to win seven games in two-plus months during most of their San Diego tenure.

But coach Doc Rivers has them playing superb defense and that is translating to victories heading into Friday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Clippers are allowing just 88.3 points per game and everybody is buying in. Chris Paul is healthy and playing solid defense. Blake Griffin is healthy and enjoying playing defense. And DeAndre Jordan, of course, is playing superb defense.

Way too early to predict whether or not the Clippers are finally going to hurdle their playoff hiccups but know this: They routed the San Antonio Spurs by 24 points in San Antonio last Saturday. You might recall the Spurs went 40-1 at home this season.

The Clippers try to avenge their lone loss of the season when they visit Oklahoma City. Here is the stellar Clippers-Thunder preview — http://www.usatoday.com/sports/nba/event/2016/944815/preview/

 

Michigan has a promising quarterback in sophomore Wilton Speight and it is time to share an interesting story that I have heard a few times this season.

In the spring of 2015, shortly after Jim Harbaugh took over as coach, HBO was filming a special and Harbaugh brutally ripped one of the quarterbacks.

Oh, they blocked out the kid’s face and number but that didn’t help too much in this case. You see, Speight is 6-foot-6.

Michigan only had one tall quarterback like that.

The worst line from Harbaugh was this: “If you want to look at me with that look, go (expletive) somewhere else.”

Speight thought really hard about doing that all summer long. He eventually decided against transferring.

Now fast forward to 2016 and Speight is playing tremendous football for a 9-0 squad ranked third in the nation.

Sometimes the best move a kid can make is to, well, not make a move. He stayed put and it worked out well.

You can find more detail in the stellar Michigan-Iowa preview — http://www.upi.com/Sports_News/College-Football/2016/11/09/Michigan-vs-Iowa-College-football-game-preview/2041478697219/

  

Somehow it is already college basketball season and the campaign commences on Friday night.

One of the numerous tip-offs involves No. 13 Gonzaga, a program that lost stars Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis from a 28-8 team.

But no worries, the transfer wagon paid Spokane, Wash., a visit and dropped off three pretty good players. So instead of a transition season in which the Bulldogs would roll through their weak conference but stumble against more powerful foes, Gonzaga is in terrific shape.

Former Washington standout Nigel Williams-Goss is the new point guard, former California 3-pointer bomber Jordan Mathews will be the new shooting guard and former Missouri power forward Johnathan Williams will be a fierce inside threat.

I remember being surprised Williams-Goss was leaving Washington. He was one of the top players in Pac-12 as a sophomore. Point guards on overmatched opponents such as Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount and Portland are probably already worried about guarding him.

Then the Zags have 7-foot-2 center Przemek Karnowski back. His career was supposed to be over last season but a back injury that required surgery limited him to just five games and he received a medical redshirt season.

Those four players combine with sophomore guard Josh Perkins to give Gonzaga a pretty solid lineup. The Zags won’t be taking a step back this season. Mark Few will once again have a good team.

Here is the stellar Utah Valley-Gonzaga preview — http://www.usatoday.com/sports/ncaab/event/2016/946360/preview/top25/

The biggest West Coast showdown of the college basketball season arrives Saturday.

The No. 12 team in the nation visits the No. 22 team in the nation, and the lower-ranked program seldom loses on its homecourt.

Both teams have won seven straight games and the lower-ranked team has won eight of the last nine meetings between the two teams.

Hope you’re not guessing this much-anticipated contest involves two Pac-12 teams. And no, Gonzaga isn’t part of the equation either.

Former power UNLV is back in a big-time fashion and the No. 12 Rebels (16-2) are clicking on all cylinders as they invade No. 22 San Diego State (14-2) in a Mountain West Conference showdown inside the raucous on-court arena that has become one of the toughest venues in the country.

I can recall covering games in the splendid arena during the early part of coach Steve Fisher’s stint when you could count how many students were in attendance and later questioned whether the announced attendance of 4,000 was padded.

It’s a different scene at San Diego State now and the Aztecs have a better record than people expected this season after losing four starters off a 34-3 team. Forward Kawhi Leonard – the second best player in school history after Michael Cage – moved on to the NBA after his sophomore season but the wins have continued to come.

Perhaps more impressive is how well the Rebels have played under first-year coach Dave Rice. The Rebels were loaded with talent to begin with but sophomore forward Mike Moser – a transfer from UCLA – exploded on to the scene and UNLV will certainly be playing during the second week of the NCAA tournament. Yeah, that means Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight good and possibly playing for a Final Four spot.

The biggest question I have is why in the heck was Lon Kruger in such a hurry to beat it out of town and go live in Oklahoma with the cupboard full and a 30-win season awaiting? Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

By the way, UNLV’s leading scorer is forward Chace Stanback. Guess where he started his college career before heading to Las Vegas: Yep – UCLA.

How good would UCLA be if coach Ben Howland wasn’t intent on being the Benito Mussolini of Basketball and knew how to relate to all the star players he successfully recruits?

Moser and Stanback are at UNLV and there’s also Drew Gordon serving as a double-double machine at New Mexico and guard Matt Carlino is BYU’s second-leading scorer. Not-so-gentle Ben booted star Nelson Reeves off this season’s squad and now the Bruins are just one of many ragged, underachieving teams in the Pac-12.

The abysmal shape of the Pac-12 is the Mountain West’s gain. The conference is seldom in the national spotlight due to being overshadowed by the Pac-12 and also because of having a weak television contract.

Instead of being on CBS like last season’s huge showdown between the Aztecs and Jimmer Fredette-led BYU, Saturday’s game is on something called NBC College Sports. I have no clue where on my cable system you find that channel.

A channel you have to search for is hardly the place on the dial for the top West Coast matchup of the season to be found. But I have equally bad news – February’s return engagement in Las Vegas is also slated for the same broadcast entity.

Not having a relationship with ESPN has killed the Mountain West’s basketball programs in recent years and is also a huge reason so why so many schools have been happy to skip out of the league for greener pastures.

But no matter how few people are able to watch the game nationally, that doesn’t take away from this fact: Aztecs vs. Rebels on Saturday is the top game on the West Coast thus far this season.

That is something that has never once been uttered before. You can thank the Pac-12 for helping ensure it.

We got a reminder on Wednesday night why they insist on playing games that appear to be complete mismatches.

Sometimes, it would just seem easier to tell the Los Angeles Lakers not to bother to show up to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Or notify the University of San Diego Toreros that it might be better for the Saint Mary’s Gaels to save travel costs and not travel down for the game.

On second thought, it sure looks like the Lakers didn’t show on Wednesday. And I’m not sure what you call that Saint Mary’s fiasco. Laying an egg is much too kind.

Talk about your Weird Wednesdays – the Lakers lost to the lowly Cavaliers just five weeks after drubbing Cleveland by 55 points. Guess the Lakers started their All-Star break a couple days early.

And a Toreros squad that looks like it would be hard-pressed to beat some of San Diego’s better high school teams upset No. 23 Saint Mary’s. The Gaels were flat-out dominated in the second half.

Who had the apathetic USD student body storming a court on Wednesday night?

The Toreros made No. 6 San Diego State improving to 26-1 by beating New Mexico the No. 2 basketball story in town. The outcome makes you wonder why coach Bill Grier’s squad entered the contest with a 5-21 record, including an embarrassing 1-10 mark in West Coast Conference play.

Saint Mary’s was 22-4 and playing to clinch a share of the WCC regular-season crown. Now the door is open for Gonzaga to perhaps sneak away with another conference title.

The Toreros were down 11 early in the second half and looked destined to suffer loss No. 22. But the 50-point second half was their best 20-minute half of the season and Saint Mary’s ended up being serenaded with the dreaded “overrated” chant in the final minute.

Somewhere, the players on the famous Chaminade team that upset No. 1 Virginia in 1982 were smiling. That tiny program’s epic win still ranks as the biggest upset in college basketball history.

Obviously, the Lakers weren’t clicking like two-time defending champions entering the game against Cleveland. They were spanked by the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday – losing to Charlotte is becoming a trend – but apparently that disturbing defeat didn’t prompt feelings that they needed to bring a better effort against the Cavaliers.

Cleveland has the worst record in the NBA for a reason. It’s because the Cavs aren’t any good since LeBron James departed town. Cleveland State would beat the city’s NBA team in a best-of-5 series.

But somebody forget to tell Cleveland’s Ramon Sessions that this was “Guaranteed Win Night” for the Lakers. The Cavaliers’ reserve had 32 points and eight assists during a 104-99 victory that improves Cleveland’s porous record to 10-46.

It’s not every night that Ramon Sessions is the star of a contest that Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are playing in.

Oh yeah, that score when the two teams played Jan. 11: Lakers 112, Cavaliers 57.

Zen master coach Phil Jackson has some work to do when the Lakers reconvene after the break.

Just to show that the world isn’t coming to an end, NAIA school Montana Western was playing at No. 25 Utah State for some odd reason on Wednesday, and got crushed 100-66.

You can rest easy knowing that Utah State’s 30-game homecourt winning streak is intact.

Take it from somebody who grew up attending San Diego State basketball games and covered the program for 13 seasons, the Aztecs’ victory over No. 11 Gonzaga on Tuesday night is the biggest win in school history.

By a long shot.

Granted, there aren’t many big wins to choose from for a program that has never won an NCAA tournament game and is currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in school history.

But that doesn’t diminish what occurred Tuesday in a nationally televised basketball game at “The Kennel” in Spokane, Wash.

The Aztecs notched a 79-76 victory over a team that lost for just the fifth time in 82 games in its raucous building that opened in 2004. San Diego State had lost 33 consecutive road games against ranked foes before beating the Zags.

Billy White had a game for the ages with a career-best 30 points on 14-of-18 shooting and Kawhi Leonard contributed 18 points and 12 rebounds.

What was really impressive to me was how much more athletic the Aztecs were than Gonzaga, the well-respected program that has made 12 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.

The Bulldogs couldn’t cope with San Diego State’s frontline and star Elias Harris was a nonfactor. Gonzaga guard Steven Gray tried to be a one-man show – he did a pretty good job of that with a career-best 35 points – but couldn’t will the Zags to victory.

San Diego State even answered Gonzaga’s late charge. An eight-point lead had dwindled to three and Gonzaga was looking to force overtime. But White knocked the ball away from Gray to save the victory.

The late-game heroics were good to see for a team that lost a close battle to Tennessee in last season’s NCAA tournament and melted down against Indiana in the 2006 NCAA tourney.

San Diego State has a team that should finally notch that elusive first NCAA victory. All five starters are back from last season’s 25-9 squad and the Aztecs should have a solid chance at nabbing a 5, 6 or 7 seed.

Beating Gonzaga is a good start. It is a victory that looks great on the resume and signals to the nation that San Diego State finally has a program to be reckoned with.

“This one got us some national attention and people were watching,” Aztecs coach Steve Fisher said afterwards. “I think they found out we have a pretty good basketball team at San Diego State.”

It’s a team that just notched the biggest victory in Aztecs’ history.

I’m struggling with the notion that college basketball season is just around the corner, particularly since it seems that last-second midcourt heave by Butler’s Gordon Hayward that nearly took down Duke in the NCAA tournament title game seemed to occur about six weeks ago, not six-plus months ago.

I had some summer assignments for national entities like Athlon Sports magazine and USA Today’s College Basketball preview issue (both periodicals are now in your favorite bookstores) but neither task hammered home the point that the start of the season was nearing.

But Friday’s start of practices that includes televised coverage of Midnight Madness certainly drums it home.

One of this season’s intriguing programs to watch will be one that never is in the national spotlight for hoops: Boise State.

The program has never won a single NCAA tournament game – hey, sounds eerily like that San Diego State program I covered for 13 seasons – and was prone to late-game meltdowns last season while finishing eighth (out of nine teams) in the Western Athletic Conference with a 15-17 overall record, including a 5-11 WAC mark.

But the school is beginning a new era under Leon Rice, a Gonzaga assistant the past 11 seasons. You might have noticed that Gonzaga has had a bit of basketball success over the years. The school is the mid-major basketball version of what Boise State’s non-BCS football program has become on the national stage.

If you study the situation closely, you will see a lot of parallels to the circumstances former Gonzaga assistant Bill Grier inherited when he became coach of the University of San Diego prior to the start of the 2007-08 season. Grier molded a talented yet underachieving group into a team that cracked the 2008 NCAA tournament and notched a first-round upset of Connecticut for the Toreros’ first-ever NCAA tourney win.

As Rice said Thursday, the cupboard isn’t bare at Boise State. He returns four of the top five scorers from last season’s team, including double-digit scorers Robert Arnold and Daequon Montreal. Guys like La’Shard Anderson, Paul Noonan and incoming junior-college recruit Tre’ Nichols give Rice some pieces to work with in his first season.

Only time will tell whether Rice is cut out to be the guy who can take Boise State to new levels in basketball. But there are worse things than giving the Gonzaga blueprint a try.

Here’s a stellar Associated Press story on Rice’s task as Boise State begins a new era of basketball: http://www.greenwichtime.com/sports/article/Boise-State-basketball-beginning-new-era-707234.php

Must say that Brigham Young made out much better than I thought it would with the decision to leave the Mountain West Conference and become a football independent.

Wednesday’s official announcement included news that BYU had negotiated an eight-year agreement with ESPN in which every BYU home game will be televised nationally and that the Cougars and Notre Dame will meet six times between 2011 and 2020.

Reports estimate that once the details are finalized, BYU will make about the same amount of money per each home game from television that it was making over an entire season under the Mountain West arrangement.

That’s a lot of money and television exposure for a once-visible program that had become hidden per the Mountain West’s poor decision to leave ESPN in the middle of last decade.

Of course, BYU had a hand in the Mountain West’s decision to pursue its own network. BYU president Cecil Samuelson was the chairman of the Mountain West board of directors that approved the decision in 2004 to part ways with ESPN. Samuelson raved about the deal and its potential at the time.

However, I always felt forming The Mtn. was a bad gamble from the start and time has proven that the conference has gone from highly visible to practically invisible on a national scale.

So perhaps BYU fans need to worry a bit since Samuelson’s foresight wasn’t so good the last time around.

You might recall that the Cougars used to be rolling up points on ESPN all the time. BYU had many memorable games on the network, including an infamous one for San Diego State fans – that 52-52 tie in 1991 in which the Aztecs led by 28 points late in the third quarter behind Marshall Faulk and then watched a conference title slip away.

Because of the ABC/ESPN partnership, some BYU games will end on up ABC – Texas has an upcoming game scheduled at BYU – and of course road games at Notre Dame will mean appearances on NBC. That type of network exposure doesn’t happen if BYU remains in the Mountain West.

On the other end, I don’t buy into the concept that BYU will have an easier path to a BCS bowl game as an independent. Recent BCS appearances by Utah (two) and TCU of the Mountain West and Boise State (twice) and Hawaii of the Western Athletic Conference bury that theory.

It would have been far easier for BYU to crash the BCS party by delivering an unbeaten season as part of the Mountain West than it will be without a conference tie-in. Especially since I don’t see the Cougars going unbeaten with foes like Texas, Notre Dame and Utah on the slate, not to mention what other national powers enter agreements with BYU.

In the short term, the scheduling nightmare won’t be so daunting. Utah athletic director Chris Hill was quoted as saying that both Utah and BYU plan to continue their longstanding rivalry. Also, five WAC teams announced agreements to play BYU and that doesn’t even count Utah State’s series with BYU that runs through 2012. So you can consider the following teams as being on BYU’s 2011 and 2012 schedules even before the independent press release ink has dried.

2011: Texas, Oregon State, Utah, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State and Utah State.

2012: Oregon State, Utah, Boise State, Hawaii, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State and Utah State.

Texas, Utah and Boise State are already contracted to play BYU in both 2013 and 2014. Notre Dame will likely be on the schedule one of those two seasons if not both.

Overall, I felt it would be best for BYU to stay in the Mountain West but in today’s college football landscape, each school has to look out for itself. While I think BYU’s solid basketball program will take a minor hit by joining the West Coast Conference – Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s are tog dogs in the WCC – the overall economics and exposure involved greatly dwarf what BYU gets by staying in the Mountain West.

Heard some concern about BYU’s bowl prospects as an independent and there’s nothing to do but laugh about that. The Mountain West has negotiated itself horrible bowl agreements, best attested by the fact that the Cougars have played in the pre-Christmas Las Vegas Bowl each of the past five seasons.

BYU’s records the last four years: 11-2 in 2006, 11-2 in 2007, 10-3 in 2008 and 11-2 in 2009. That’s a 43-9 record with nothing better to show for it than playing in the dreary Las Vegas Bowl.

As I stated at the top of this article, I was amazed by what BYU was able to negotiate to make being an independent look like a good move. Only time will give us the definite answer.