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Monson: Try to ask it with a straight face: Can BYU beat the country's top team?

Published January 31, 2017 4:33 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The question sounds stupid.

It sounds outrageous.

Even worse, it sounds hilarious. Like it was written into a cartoon. Like you get the squirt of a seltzer bottle up your nose or thumped over your head with a rubber chicken at its end. Like the kind of question Moe would slap Curly across the mug for so unwittingly daring to ask.



It's a question that kind of answers itself, punctuated with a … duh. It seems more the punch line to a bad joke than any kind of sensible inquiry. Like something Woody Woodpecker would answer with 10 pecks and a cackle before flying away to more serious matters.

You can't even get it out without busting up laughing along the way.

Let's try.

Can BYU … ha-ha-ha-HA-ha … beat … ppfffwww … the No. 1-ranked … hehehehe … team … bwahahaha … in … yukyukyuk … the … no, no, no, please, stop … country?

You're killing us.

We're talking basketball here, not volleyball, not cross-country, not drill-team dancing.

Can Dave Rose's squad, which has been sort of all right on some nights, really put a big ol' L on a team currently thought to be the best in the land? Better than Kansas, better than Villanova, better than Louisville, better than Kentucky, better than Carolina.

Can a team that lost on its home floor to Utah Valley by 13 points, a team that got beat by San Diego, a team that fell to Santa Clara, find enough within itself to suddenly rise up and defeat the 22-0 Gonzaga Bulldogs?

Sniff. Chortle. Guffaw.

There are some things BYU has going for it … and as soon as we think of any of them we'll let you know.

Hold on …

Still waiting …

There's this: The Cougars are playing the freshly elevated Zags on Thursday night in the friendly confines of the Marriott Center, where, despite the loss to UVU this season and the loss to Pacific last season, they usually play much more aggressively and confidently.

There's also, however, a lingering thought that a not-as-good Gonzaga team last season came to Provo and defeated BYU.

Maybe the notion that it's Gonzaga, a fellow WCC team, a program with which BYU is familiar, a team it beat in Spokane last year, despite the subsequent home loss and a loss in the league tournament, will spur on the Cougars, give them more hope against the nation's top-ranked team. If it were the Jayhawks or the Wildcats or the Cardinals or the Blue Devils coming in, it might freak out a young BYU team a bit more.

Thing is, this is a different bunch of Bulldogs this time around.

They beat the same UVU team that beat BYU, by 23 points. They beat San Diego State by 21. They beat Florida, Iowa State, Arizona and Tennessee. They beat Washington by 27. And they've cleaned up against WCC opponents.

In league games so far, Gonzaga has won by a combined margin of 280 points, including a 23-point victory over Saint Mary's. The Zags took out a weak Pepperdine team on its home floor by 47 points in their last game.

It is the second time in school history that the Bulldogs are ranked No. 1, having accomplished the same in 2013.

"We've done it before," said Zags coach Mark Few. "You have to understand the only poll we want to be No. 1 in is the one at the end of the year. These things just kind of track who's winning and who's losing. I will say, as we get deeper into the season, the polls get more accurate because everybody begins to get a feel for everyone's schedule."

Right now, everybody seems to think highly of Few's team.

One not-so-laughable thing the Cougars might have going for them is the vulnerability of the teams ranked in the top 10. That's how the Zags floated to the No. 1 spot — when seven high-ranked teams lost last week. There have been five teams ranked No. 1 thus far, including Duke, Kentucky, Villanova and Baylor. All of those teams subsequently got beat.

Gonzaga is the only undefeated Division I team left.

The Bulldogs will stay at No. 1 until somebody knocks them off. Their remaining regular-season schedule reads like this: at BYU, Santa Clara, at Loyola Marymount, at Saint Mary's, San Francisco, Pacific, at San Diego, BYU.

Where's the loss?

Is it at Saint Mary's, where BYU was crushed by the count of 81-68?

Is it … ha-ha-ha-HA-ha … Thursday night?

Gonzaga scores more points per game than BYU, gives up fewer points and shoots a better percentage. In case you missed it, the Bulldogs are No. 1, BYU is … what, No. 97?

Exactly where that will leave the Cougars on Friday morning is either … a) as surprising conquerors of the formerly unbeaten, left now to giggles of their own, or b) as the punch line to a joke of which they hate being any part.

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson. —

Gonzaga at BYU

P Thursday, 9 p.m.

TV • ESPN2

 

 

 

 

 

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