BYU-Utah Basketball: Be Afraid, Cougars, Be Very Afraid
Rivalries tend to bring out a wide variety of sports clichés. The most oft-repeated one seems to be "throw out the records when X and Y get together," or some variation thereof.
As timelessly insufferable as the phrase may be, it seems to have been tonight's BYU-Utah matchup at the Huntsman Center.
Here are four reasons Cougar fans should be on pins and needles leading up to the 7PM tipoff.
1. A Lingering Lobo Letdown
The words "hangover" and "Provo" don't usually go together, but it appeared that the Cougars hadn't fully shaken off their crushing loss to New Mexico by Monday's practice.
Jay Drew of The Salt Lake Tribune reported that BYU coach Dave Rose was "visibly upset with his team's effort and raised his voice" several times Monday.
Only once has BYU lost consecutive MWC games under Rose: last year at New Mexico, then at home to UNLV.
This year's loss to the Lobos could result in a similar tailspin if the Cougars aren't focused.
2. "Marshall" Law
Revenge is a common rivalry theme, but it will be amplified tonight when BYU's Jackson Emery and Utah's Marshall Henderson both find themselves on the floor.
Henderson served a one-game suspension after hitting Emery in the face near the end of Utah's 82-69 loss in Provo on Jan. 30.
While the basketball version of Utah's MUSS is nowhere near the numbers or volume of its football counterpart, there's no telling what sort of ridicule they will hurl Emery's way.
“Anytime you go up there you are not going to be liked," Emery told the Tribune. "But whatever happens, happens. You just gotta focus on playing the game of basketball and ignore the rest of the things that happen.”
3. Does "Ute" Mean "Giant Killer" or "Pushover?"
Utah has been the definition of average this season: 14-14 overall and 7-7 in the MWC, good enough for fifth in a nine-team league.
For nearly every unfathomable loss to Seattle or Idaho, there is a comparably stunning victory over Illinois or UNLV (twice).
Even some of the Utes' losses have been impressive: A two-point loss to San Diego State and a three-point overtime loss to mighty New Mexico come to mind.
Chances are the Utes will come out ready to play hard and embarrass the Cougars.
4. In Jimmer We Trust?
Despite what some in Cougar Nation have speculated after he sat out the second half against New Mexico, Jimmer Fredette is one tough hombre.
As much as every sports fan wants his favorite player to pull a Michael Jordan and play through whatever illness sets in, the expectation is beyond lofty, especially for a college kid.
Fredette sat out Monday's practice, but all signs point to him playing tonight after practicing Tuesday. The question of how long Fredette will play is another story.
The stellar performance of Michael Loyd, Jr. should help Cougar fans take heart if needed, but BYU is simply not the same team when Fredette is not at 100 percent.
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