Thursday, December 29, 2011

Undefeated Teams

Much is being made of the unbeaten teams now.   After Indiana's loss to Michigan State and Louisville's loss to Georgetown, there are only four left --  Syracuse, Baylor, Missouri and Murray State.  That's right -- Murray State!   It has been 36 year since Indiana went undefeated during the 1976 season.  That year Indiana won all 32 games they played -- having Kent Benson, Tom Abernethy and Scott May selected to the all tournament team.  May averaged 22.6 points per game that season and Bobby Knight won his first national championship. 

What follows is a list of the last team to lose and it's record to open the season:

Year            Team__________Opening Record________Notes_______________________________
1949          Western Kentucky           14-0
1950          Holy Cross                       24-0
1951          Columbia                         22-0    Columbia 1st loss in 1st Rd. of NCAA Tourney vs Ill
1952          Duquense                        17-0     Texas State opened 24-0, but not considered a major
1953         Seton Hall                        26-0
1954         Kentucky                         26-0     Rupp wins playoff against LSU declines NCAA       
                                                                     Tournament Invitation as their three top players are
1955        Kentucky                          7-0
1956        San Francisco                   29-0    USF is first team to go undefeated and win NCAA's
1957        North Carolina                 32-0     UNC finishes undefeated beats Kanasas in Triple OT
1958       West Virginia                    14-0
1959       Auburn                             18-0
1960       Cincinnati                         12-0
1961       Ohio State                        27-0     Ohio State first loss in NCAA Final vs. Cinncinati
1962       Ohio State                        21-0
1963       Loyola (Chicago)             20-0
1964       UCLA                             30-0    Won NCAA Tournament
1965      Providence                        19-0
1966       Texas Western                 23-0   Haskins knocks out UK NCAA Final, Texas Western's
               Kentucky                         23-0    first and only loss was against Seattle U.                        
1967      UCLA                              30-0    Won NCAA Tournament
1968      Houston                            32-0   Houston's first loss in National Seminfinal vs. UCLA
             St. Bonaventure                 23-0   Bonnies finish regular season undefeated lose in NCAA
                                                                 2nd round against North Carolina
1969      UCLA                              25-0   UCLA first loss against USC in final game of regular season is
                                                                 Bruins first loss ever at Pauley Pavilion
1970      UCLA                              20-0
1971      Marquette                        28-0   First loss in NCAA Tournament vs. Ohio State
              Penn                                 29-0  First loss in NCAA Tournament vs. Villanova
1972      UCLA                              30-0   Wins NCAA Tournament
1973      UCLA                             30-0    Wins NCAA Tournament
              NC State                          27-0    Also undefeated in ineligible for NCAA Tournament
1974     Maryland Eastern Shore    19-0
1975     Indiana                              30-0
1976     Indiana                              32-0    Undefeated wins NCAA Tournament
             Rutgers                              32-0    First loss in NCAA Semifinal against Michigan
1977     San Francisco                    29-0
1978     Kentucky                          14-0
1979     Indiana State                     34-0    First loss in NCAA final against Michigan State
1980     DePaul                              25-0
1981     Oregon State                    25-0
1982     Missouri                           18-0
1983     UNLV                              24-0
1984     North Carolina                 24-0
1985     Georgetown                     17-0
1986     North Carolina                 21-0
1987     Iowa, Clemson                 16-0
1988     BYU                                15-0
1989     Illinois                               17-0
1990     Kansas                             18-0
1991     UNLV                              34-0   First loss in NCAA Semifinal vs. Duke
1992     Oklahoma State                20-0
1993     Virginia                             11-0
1994     UCLA                              13-0
1995     UConn                             14-0
1996     UMass                              25-0
1997     Kansas                             22-0
1998     Stanford                           18-0
1999     UConn                             19-0
2000     Syracuse                           19-0
2001     Stanford                            19-0
2002     Miami (FL), Butler            13-0
2003     Duke                                11-0
2004     St. Joseph's                       27-0   Rose to #1 in Rankings
2005     Illinois                               28-0
2006     Duke, Florida                    16-0
2007     UCLA                              13-0
2008     Memphis                           25-0
2009     Wake Forest                     16-0
2010     Kentucky                          19-0
2011     Ohio State                         24-0

A couple of caveats.   First I only have research available for when a poll is released accordingly, if a team opened the season 21-0 and was ranked and then was 22-1 the next week I can't tell if they lost before the 22nd victory.  Accordingly, a couple of times I have included two undefeated teams, not knowing which lost first.   See Miami (FL) and Butler in 2002.  Also, if a team was undefeated and not ranked they are not included as the rankings are the source of the information.   This was probably more so true when the small colleges were separated into a separate division.  See Texas State in 1952 (although Texas State did get ranked, there may be numerous times these schools were not ranked).  

Other interesting notes.   Everyone will talk about Indiana's 1976 team, but Rutgers was also undefeated during the regular season that year --  losing in the National Semifinal to Michigan.   In 1954, Kentucky actually finished undefeated, not losing all season, but three players were ruled ineligible and Rupp chose not to participate in the NCAA tournament.  Similarly, in 1973 NC State finished undefeated, but the NCAA ruled that the Wolfpack was ineligible for the NCAA Tournament due to a recruiting violation involving David Thompson. 

Murray State's run this season is notable because we really have not seen a midmajor or below the "Red Line" school put together an undefeated start exceeding the Racer's start since St. Joseph's 27-0 run to start the 2004 season. 

Hopefully, I have not missed something. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rick Majerus

I'm the kid who stood on the fringes of the playground courts waiting to get picked . . . and waiting . . . and waiting some more, until there was no one left but me.  I'm the teenager who got cut from the high school team.  I'm the guy who walked home heartbroken after being ignored in the CYO open gym night games.  I'm the college sophomore who got dumped from the team.   I'm the fifty-year old University of Utah coach who would think about chucking it all if I could be the last guy on Jazz bench.  Just let me wear a uniform and be part of the team.  Rick Majerus in My Life on a Napkin his autobiography written after his University of Utah team went to the Final Four in 1998.  

Majerus started his coaching career at his alma mater Marquette.  There he succeeded legendary Al McGuire whom he had worked for as an assistant coach.   But Majerus did not do particularly well in his first head coaching stop.  His team averaged 19 wins over his three years there, but the expectations following McGuire were higher.    McGuire had led the Warriors to the 1977 NCAA Championship.  A shocking victory that the alumni felt should be accomplished again.  Majerus recalls feeling that coaching at his alma mater and a school that he had been a student, player, assistant coach and now head coach was not a good situation.   It placed both too much pressure on him and he became frustrated with many of the expectations fans, administrators and the Marquette staff had of him.   Majerus differed from his mentor McGuire in that McGuire used the mantra, "If they have grass in front of their home, we're not going to recruite them."

Majerus' recruits were often projects (see Michael Doleac, Alex Jensen, Andrew Bogut, and Keith Van Horn).  By no means bad players, but players who needed time to develop under the proper coach.

Majerus left after three years for the head coaching position at Ball State in Muncie, Indiana.

I first became acquainted with Majerus in 1989.  I was only a freshman in college.  Majerus had taken this obscure school in Muncie, Indiana to the NCAA Tournament with an impressive 28-2 record in only his second season at the school.  His team appeared in the bracket as a number nine seed and opened the tournament by defeating Pitt 68-64.   From that day forward, Majerus became something of a college basketball icon.  Living a dream that I would never realize, but wished so badly I could.   Majerus had started as a walk on at Marquette, eventually forming relationships with Al McGuire, Al Harris and basketball figures that would last his lifetime.

After his victory over Pittsburgh in 1989 Majerus' team lost in the second round to eventual Final Four participant Illinois.   Majerus' success at Ball State led him to an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman.  Letterman, a Ball State alum loved Majerus.  But Majerus achieved a majority of his success at the University of Utah.  After his successful season in Muncie, Majerus accepted the Utah head coaching position.   He was phenomenally successful at the Utes head coach.  Majerus spent fifteen seasons as the head coach of the Utes, winning 362 games and appearing in 11 NCAA Tournaments.  It took Majerus only two years to take a Utah program that had gone 16-14 to 30-4 and a spot in the NCAA Sweet 16.

Majerus usually found players who were under recruited and developed them into All Americans.   Alex Jensen was a solid recruit who played his high school basketball at Viewmont High School in Salt Lake City, his hard nosed play personified a Majerus team.  In his senior season Jensen was Utah's leading scorer, averaging only thirteen points per game, but the teams he played on went to the NCAA Tournament all four years. 

Majerus is a rotund figure, he doesn't look like a college basketball coach, "In a lot of ways, I'm just like you.  I've got to watch my diet.  I try to find two socks that match.  I go to the dry cleaners.  I worry about my mom. In some ways I think I represent everyman as a coach.  I think people kind of relate to me.  I think there's a catharsis there.  They see themselves, they see me, they think 'this guy doesn't look like a coach.'"

Indeed the attraction of Majerus is that he is so ordinary.   When I met Majerus, I had him sign my book, "To the guys, sorry I missed poker night."  He seemed like the type of guy you'd want to sit around a poker table with.  Not because he'd be a great player, but because he'd make the game more interesting, a great guy to drink beer with.

My favorite Rick Majerus story, however, never received much publicity and only the locals in Salt Lake City really heard it.   As most everyone is aware, Majerus lived in a hotel room close to the University campus.  He remained a batchelor and continues to be a batchelor to this day.

However, during a successful season an unwed youngster was pregnant.  Not feeling that she could provide the baby a proper home upon her daughter's birth, she panicked and had no idea what to do with the child (or maybe she had the best idea).  Knowing Majerus' pull within the Utah and Salt Lake City communities she dropped the child off at the door of his hotel room in a small rocker with a note that just indicated that she had heard a lot about Rick Majerus and she knew that with his connections he would find her new daughter a good home.   Majerus picked up the child, called to the hotel lobby and asked for a warm bottle of milk. 

When the adoption agency arrived they found the rotund Majerus sitting in his chair, nursing the baby with the bottle of warm milk in the babies' mouth, rocking it back and forth watching game film on his big screen television.  Majerus did just as the mother had thought and through his connections with the Utah alumni found the daughter an excellent home.   These are the type of stories not many people hear about Rick Majerus. 

Majerus' best team went 30-4 and advanced all the way to the championship game.  Losing to Kentucky by nine points in the final.   His team pulled several shocking victories enroute to the championship game, beating North Carolina in the national semifinal, Arizona in the regional final, West Virginia and Arkansas as well.   All top tier programs.   His team shot over 50% from the field that season, played stout defense and seldom turned the ball over. His key player was point guard Andre Miller.  In the title game, Jensen went 5 of 6 from the field and scored fourteen points.

St. Louis is Majerus' new home.  He has the Billikens off to a  10-1 start and last week Majerus won his 500th career game.  The Billikens are shooting 49.9% from the field, like the '98 Utah team they are lead by a steady point guard Kwaimane Mitchell, solid defense and physical and steady interior player - Brian Conklin.   Interestingly, St Louis will host a regional in the NCAA Tournament this season.   I can't help but think that if things break right, Majerus may be able to get his team out of the first two rounds and have a home court advantage in St. Louis, making another improbable run possible.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Ranked Ivy League Teams

This past week, Harvard entered the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in school history.  The Associated Press reported the story with the following article on the team and several quotes from head coach Tommy Amaker.  The article is attached

The article quickly indicates that this was "only the third time since 1970 that an Ivy League team had been ranked." 

The purpose of this blog is not to take anything away from the accomplishments of the Crimson or to somehow show up the Associated Press, however, upon reading the article, my mind quickly returned to several Princeton and Penn teams (Ivy League Teams) that were ranked.  Quite honestly, throughout most of the 1970's and even into 1990 it was not that rare for an Ivy League school to be ranked. 

First, let's not underestimate the accomplishments of Harvard and hopefully by writing this in some way I'm celebrating their recent accomplishment.  As an Ivy League school Harvard, like all Ivy League schools does not give out financial awards after acceptance for anything other than family need.  Ivy League coaches can, however, help student-athletes gain acceptance with academic qualifications that are much lower than the average applicant.   Accordingly, the Ivy League schools are playing on a different field than the rest of college basketball.   While high school student athletes across the country compete for athletic scholarships they will not get one from and Ivy League school. 

Given these restrictions, remarkably, several Ivy League schools have found their way into the Associated Press, former United Press International and current ESPN/USA Today poll.   Polls do offer a subjective element in that they are voted on, but they are an excellent barometer of the schools that are receiving exposure from the national media and television.     

First and foremost, even the most novice follower of college basketball can remember Penn's run to the Final Four in  1979.  The same year that most experts agree college basketball began its modern era.  This was the season Bird played Magic in the final in Salt Lake City.  Clearly, this was at team worthy of ranking and the Quakers entered the poll in the final rankings at 14th. 

Prior to that magical season and throughout most of the early 1970's Penn was in fact ranked.  In 1975 the Quakers entered the poll at number 20 in the preseason, moved up to 14, 13, 9, and dropped to 12 on December 31st.  They reentered the poll at 20 on February 4th and moved up to 14, 12, 10, 10, 11, 15, and 17 before finally falling out.   That same season (1975) Princeton was also ranked entering the poll at number 13 on March 25th and finishing at number 12 in the final poll. 

In 1974, Penn was ranked 16th in the preseason, held that ranking for one week, moved to 11th in the December 11th poll before dropping out for the rest of the season a week later.  In 1972-73, Penn again started the season with a number 9 ranking, remained ranked for seven weeks before dropping out until the final poll of the season where they reentered again at number 18.  In 1971-72, Penn again was ranked for the entire season, finishing at number 3 in the final poll and reaching the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament.  Their ranking that season never dropped below 14 and they spent most of the season in the top 10.  That same season Princeton actually spent a week ranked at number 18 in the December 14 poll.

In 1970-71 Penn spent the last 13 weeks of the season in top 5, going undefeated 27-0 during the regular season before losing to Villanova in the Regional Final.   In 1969-70 the Quakers again had a remarkable season going 25-1 before losing to Niagara in the first round and settling for a final ranking of 13th.

Notably, Columbia appeared in the rankings for eight weeks during the 1968-69 season, finishing 20-4.  The prior season, Columbia went 22-4 and reached as high as number 6 in the AP poll.

Ivy League schools have also been ranked during the "modern era" of the game.  Princeton, going 24-2, in 1990-91 entered the poll on February 12th at 25th and then moved up to 23, 21, 19, lost to Villanova in the first round and finished 18th in the final poll.   Penn also was ranked in the 1993-94 poll at 24th on March 7th and then finishing at 25th in the final poll.   

During the modern era of the game which would have been after Larry and Magic played in Salt Lake City in 1979, the best run by an Ivy League school was Princeton in 1997-98.  During that remarkable season, the Tigers finished 27-2, losing to Michigan State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.   The Tigers first entered the poll at 25th on December 2nd rising as high as 8th on March 3rd and March 10th before falling to 16th after their loss to the Spartans in the tournament.   The most impressive aspect of Princeton's 1998 season may have been that there were 314 schools playing division I college basketball that season.   306 of those schools offered scholarships to their athletes, the Tigers accomplished their lofty ranking without the benefit of scholarhsips.

Subsequent to my writing of this column and I am adding this paragraph after that article appeared for the sake of being more thorough, the New York Times published an intersting article by Bill Pennington.  Pennington's piece is giving us a window into the future, it likely indicates that we will be seeing more ranked Ivy League teams and that this is likely only the beginning due to new financial aid standards and academic standards for athletes at those institutions.   A link is :

Pennington is basically saying what we are seeing with Harvard.  If a kid can get to go to an Ivy League school for basically the same cost as a public institution they are going to take the Ivy education.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out during the course of the future of college basketball. 

Most fans will also remeber the recent run of Cornell only two years ago.   The Big Red were ranked 22nd in the USA Today/ESPN poll at one point.   This is probably a result of what Pennington writes about. 

Finally, much was also made out of the fact that this was Harvard's first ranking ever.  While it was the Crimson's first appearance in the Associated Press poll, the Crimson did enter the UPI poll, albeit briefly in 1971-72 where they appeared in the preseason rankings at number 19, they probably didn't receive near the publicity for that ranking as they have for their most recent ranking.

Unfortunately, our Harvard story does not have the happiest of endings, the Crimson lost to UConn 67-53 on Thursday, likely ending their one week run in the rankings.   They do have fifteen more weeks left to regain a ranking.       

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Jimmer, Bruce and Damian

The following was also posted on Kyle Whelliston's Midmajority Report:

The title “Nation’s Leading Scorer” is odd, it doesn’t mean you’re the best player in the country although sometimes it can be -- see Jimmer Fredette a year ago, and  Stephen Curry of Davidson  who led the nation in scoring in 2008 and 2009, each of which were at least in the discussion as the best player in the country as seniors.   Also note the accomplishments of arguably the two greatest players in college basketball history, Pete Maravich who led the nation in scoring in 1968, 1969 and 1970 and Oscar Robertson who did the same in 1958, 1959 and 1960, each of which should come up on the greatest college players of all time list.  Additionally, a player need not have a brilliant career, it only takes one season.  One season of scoring more than anyone else.  Sometimes, the players scoring can become larger than the game.  Maravich was scoring over 40 points per game, still the only player on the list to average over 40 AND he did it three years in a row.   His father Press was his coach, accordingly Pete shot often and shot a lot - some would argue at the expense of the team doing better.  

The most intriguing account of how one player can dominate a team and a season can be found in Shooting Star, The Bevo Francis Story, a recap of Bevo Francis’ remarkable career at tiny Rio Grande College who once scored 116 points in one game written by Kyle Keiderling.  Francis’ did most of his scoring against schools below the black line as we call it now and his own program was a below the black line program.   However, for a time, Rio Grande did step up and play schools like Providence, Villanova and North Carolina State.  Bevo’s scoring much like Maravich was an example of how a player can become bigger than the team.  

The complete list of the nation’s leading scorers for each year is shown below.  Please note that prior to 1948, scoring statistics for regular season games was not available.  I have included the leading scorers in the NCAA Tournament in the list for a few years for the sake of getting to 1943, the year the Wyoming Cowboys won the national championship.    

Adam Morrison in 2006 and Glenn Robinson who put up 30.3 in 1994 also were probably the best player’s in the country during their senior seasons.    More often though, following the list, the leading scorer in the nation is aided by his situation, a team that lacks other scorers and allows him to shoot more than other players at other schools – see  Kevin Houston of Army who averaged 32.9 in 1987 and once remarked that he had been passed over being picked when eleven guys were organizing a pickup basketball game at West Point.   The most obscure leading scorer was likely Greg Guy who led the nation in 1994, yet played on the team with the worst record.  Texas Pan American went 2-20 that year.  

With the advent of so many midmajor and lower level division I programs, leading scorers in the 1950’s, 1960’s and 70’s were more likely to be the best players in the country while more recent decades, it’s just a great player at a smaller program.   I have spent time at both Pepperdine University where Bird Averitt worked his magic and Portland State University where Freeman Williams starred.  Both schools fielded division I programs at the lower level long before there was “mid-major” or a “red-line” and their star players did it before college basketball became a mainstream sport.  

Williams was a first round choice of the Utah Jazz who once score 83 points in a college game.   Averitt’s coming out party was legendary.  As a freshman he scored 43 and 44 points against a UCLA freshman team that included Bill Walton.  Averitt went on to play for the San Antonio Spurs and for the Kentucky Colonels in the ABA where he played for one time Niagara standout Hubie Brown (see below for much more on Niagara and Hubie).

A year ago Jimmer Fredette led the nation in scoring while leading Brigham Young into the top 10, he scored 28.6 points per game.   Tonight I sit in the building where Fredette scored a majority of those points watching his old teammates struggle to find scoring opportunities that he made look so easy a year ago in leading the Cougars to the Sweet 16.   The Cougars opponent tonight, Weber State features the current “Nation’s Leading Scorer”  Damian Lillard.  Accordingly, tonight’s game is all about individual performance of both last year for Fredette and this year for Lillard. 

Lillard’s play is not surprising, a year ago he received a medical redshirt and as a sophomore in 2009 he averaged 19.9 points per game and was named the Big Sky MVP.  In 2008, as a freshman, Lillard put up 11.5 points per game.  I have seen him play numerous times and Lillard strengths are his quickness combined with shooting.  At times, his three point shooting can be unstoppable.  Keep in mind, Lillard is only a junior, he’s likely to become the all time leading scorer in Weber State history passing legendary Bruce Collins. 

I am not happy about this.  Collins is from Rock Springs, Wyoming.  I see Bruce a couple of time per week now whenever I am in Rock Spring, Wyoming.  He works as a recreation director at the Rock Springs rec center.  I have not asked him yet if he know Lillard will likely break his scoring record.  I’m sure I will, just looking for the right time. 

Leading Scorers

Year    Player                             School                                          Points per Game
2011  Jimmer Fredette              BYU                                                   28.8
2010   Aubrey Coleman           Houston                                              25.6
2009   Stephen Curry               Davidson                                            28.6
2008   Stephen Curry               Davidson                                             32.0
2007   Reggie Williams           Virginia Military                                 28.1
2006  Adam Morrison              Gonzaga                                             28.1
2005  Keyden Clark                 St.Peters                                             25.8
2004  Keyden Clark                 St.Peters                                             26.7
2003  Ruben Douglas              New Mexico                                        28.0
2002  Jason Conley                 VMI                                                      29.3
2001  Ronnie McCollum         Centenary                                             29.1
2000   Courtney Alexander     Fresno State                                          24.8
1999  Alvin Young                 Niagara                                                  25.1
1998  Charles Jones                Long Island                                           29.0
1997  Charles Jones                Long Island                                           30.1
1996  Kevin Granger              Texas Southern                                      27.0
1995  Kurt Thomas                 Texas Christian                                      28.9
1994  Glenn Robinson            Purdue                                                    30.3
1993  Greg Guy                      Texas Pan American                              29.3
1992   Brett Roberts                Moreghead State                                   28.1
1991  Kevin Bradshaw            U.S. International                                  37.6
1990  Bo Kimble                     Loyola Marymount                                35.3
1989   Hank Gathers                Loyola Marymount                               32.7
1988   Hersey Hawkins            Bradley                                                 36.3
1987   Kevin Houston              Army                                                     32.0
1986   Terrance Bailey             Wagner                                                  29.4
1985    Xavier McDaniel          Wichita State                                        27.2
1984    Joe Jakubick                 Akron                                                    30.1
1983   Harry Kelly                   Texas Southern                                      28.8
1982   Harry Kelly                   Texas Southern                                      29.7
1981   Zam Frerick                   South Carolina                                      28.9
1980   Tony Murphy                 Southern University                             32.1
1979   Lamar Butler                  Idaho State                                            30.1
1978   Freeman Williams          Portland State                                       35.9
1977   Freeman Williams          Portland State                                       38.8
1976   Marshall Rogers             Texas Pan American                            36.8
1975   Bob McCardy                Richmond                                              32.9
1974   Larry Fogle                    Canisius                                                 33.4
1973   Bird Averitt                    Pepperdine                                            33.9
1972   Dweight Lamar              Louisiana-Lafayette                              36.3
1971   Johnny Neumann           Mississippi                                            40.1
1970   Pete Maravich                LSU                                                       44.5
1969   Pete Maravich                LSU                                                       44.2
1968   Pete Maravich                LSU                                                       43.8
1967   Jimmy Walker               Providence                                             30.4
1966   Dave Shellhase              Purdue                                                   32.5
1965   Ollie Johnson                San Francisco                                         36.0
1964   Howard Komives          Bowling Green                                      36.7
1963   Nick Werkman              Seton Hall                                              29.5
1962   Billy McGill                 Utah                                                        38.8
1961   Frank Burgess              Gonzaga                                                  32.4
1960   Oscar Robertson          Cincinnati                                                33.7
1959   Oscar Robertson          Cincinnati                                                32.6
1958   Oscar Robertson          Cincinnati                                                35.1
1957   Grady Wallace            South Carolina                                         31.2
1956   Darrell Floyd              Furman                                                     33.8
1955   Bob Patterson              Tulsa                                                        28.5
1954   Frank Selvy                  Furman                                                    41.7
1953   Frank Selvy                 Furman                                                     29.5
1952   Clyde Louvellette        Kansas                                                     28.6
1951   Bill Mikvy                   Temple                                                     29.2
1950   Paul Arizin                  Villanova                                                 25.3
1949   Tony Lavellie              Yale                                                         22.4
1948   Murray Wier                 Iowa                                                         21.0
1947   George Kaftan            Holly Cross                                               21.0*
1946   Bob Kurland              Oklahoma A & M                                      24.0*
1945   Dickie Wilkins           Oregon                                                       22.0*
1944   Nick Buzolich            Pepperdine                                                 22.5*
1943   John Hargis                Texas                                                          29.5

Damian Lillard wears number 1 for Weber State, he’s number 1 in the country in scoring.  I’ve seen Lillard play on numerous occasions before.  He sat out last year due to an injury, but in prior seasons he has been a remarkably good player.   He also benefits by having a good set of role players around him.   Weber State is the classic midmajor looking at a good year.    They are the Big Sky favorite. 

Weber State has never won at the Marriott Center.  Tonight’s game, like all games involving Utah schools will count towards the Oquirh Bucket – a traveling trophy awarded to the team with the best record against all other Utah school during the year.    The court seems funny.  The West Coast Conference logo on opposite ends doesn’t quite fit yet, and as a long time follower, not fan of BYU, I’m used to thinking of them as a Mountain West Conference school.   It will be hard to adjust to thinking of BYU in the same league as Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount and Portland. 

The Marriott Center does not possess the atmosphere that it did when Jimmermania was in full force.   The excitement level has gone down and it easier for the opposition to remain focused.  It’s also easier for opponents to remain close in the foul count.  When players are leading the nation in scoring as Fredette did last year, they seem to get more calls from especially when playing at home.   Lillard who wears number 1, is on the road tonight, so I’m anxious to see if he can get any calls or how the road game will affect his performance.

Weber’s leading rebounder and a fellow Wyoming native – Kyle Bullinger – is apparently out with a dislocated elbow and he’s not in the starting lineup and does not play which is odd because he’s noted for being a tough hardnosed player who has started almost his entire career for the Wildcats, he gives them an element of toughness that makes them the Big Sky favorite.

Lillard misses his first attempt, a long three.  Lillard Misses another long three and gets checked on a drive to the basket (the first time he has not gotten a whistle while attacking, but could have).  Brock Zylstra of BYU scores ten early points and the Cougars open up a 22-15 lead at the ten minute mark.   

At this point, someone in front of me points out that Jimmer Fredette is in attendance tonight.   I’m surprised as I thought he would be in Sacramento, his NBA home. 

Weber State’s second leading scorer picks up two quick fouls and has to sit out, but BYU opens up a thirteen point lead and Weber coach Randy Rahe is forced to bring him back in with five minutes left in the first half.  It doesn’t help that Lillard has only four points during the first fifteen minutes and has not hit an outside shot.  Bullinger’s absence is felt as BYU controls the paint and is able to get the ball inside and gets multiple second chance opportunities.  Lillard finally hits a long three at the three minute mark, but then gets called for a questionable travel shortly thereafter.  He misses a long three at the end of the first half and is struggling to get into rhythm that the great scorers all seem to have.  Yet at the half he still has nine points in a mediocre performance.  BYU leads by thirteen at the half. 

At the start of the second half, Charles Abouo hits two three pointers and the Cougars open up a twenty point lead and Weber is forced to take a time out.   The only question is what the final score will be and can Damon Lillard hold onto his national scoring lead.  Coming into the game Lillard led Boston University’s Darryl Partin by almost five points per game, but with so few games played even one subpar night can have a huge impact.  Lillard finishes with only fifteen points.   But BYU looks impressive and appears to have more depth and  size than they had when Fredette carried them over the past couple of seasons.  BYU wins easily 94-66.   

Next up for the Cougars is a showdown in the Marriott Center against tenth ranked Baylor meanwhile I can tell Bruce Collins that his Weber State scoring record is safe for another game.