Tag Archives: Utah Utes

Steve Alford: Coach of the Year

A champion once more

A champion once more

Steve Alford is the men’s basketball Coach of the Year  in the Mountain West Conference.

Alford got his first regular-season Division I conference title as a coach Saturday when his New Mexico team earned a share of the MWC title with BYU and Utah with its win at Wyoming.

Monday, he got his first D-I conference Coach of the Year honor. New Mexico, a so-called basketball school, hadn’t won a regular-season league-title since 1994.

From this article: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/basketball/ncaa/03/09/alford.mwc.ap/?eref=sircrc

Alford’s two Lobos teams have won 14 road games. New Mexico won a total of 14 road games over the previous seven seasons.

Now it’s on to the MWC tourney in Las Vegas and another game against Wyoming.  It feels like time for a poll.


Steve Alford is in First Place – and Screaming at Midcourt

Steve Alford and assistant coach Craig Neal, apparently unhappy about something in New Mexicos NIT loss at California last March

Steve Alford and assistant coach Craig Neal, apparently unhappy about something in New Mexico's NIT loss at California last March

They take college basketball seriously at New Mexico and Utah.

New Mexico Coach Steve Alford, a person with whom Iowa Hawkeyes fans are familiar, had a little to-do with Utah Coach Jim Boylen Tuesday night in Albuquerque.

From the Salt Lake Tribune: http://www.sltrib.com/sports/ci_11831091?source=rss

New Mexico’s Steve Alford had to be restrained by his assistant coaches, screaming as furiously at midcourt as he was at Utah’s Jim Boylen. Boylen, meanwhile, shouted back, and gestured menacingly with his finger for Alford to come over to his side of the floor.

“He’s competitive, I’m competitive,” Alford agreed. “We’re all trying to win a league championship. I think he’s out on the floor; he thinks I’m out on the floor. He thinks I’m nuts; I think he’s nuts. That’s just being competitive. It’s all part of the game, and it’s all fun. His staff’s holding him back, and my staff’s holding me back, so it all turned out well.”

On the same night Iowa was going down to its 13th Big Ten loss in 17 games with some of the remnants of what Alford left behind in Iowa City, his Lobos beat Utah 77-71 to tie the Utes for first place in the Mountain West Conference at 11-4.

Both teams have one MWC games left, and Brigham Young, 10-4, is also in the title mix.

I Voted for Utah


I wrestled with my AP ballot from the moment Utah drilled Alabama 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl on the night of Jan. 2 until the end of Florida’s 24-14 BCS title-game win over Oklahoma Thursday night.

What tipped me to Utah was when I entered Carver-Hawkeye Arena late Thursday afternoon, and a Per Mar security person said “Mike, you’ve got to vote for Utah.”

“OK, I will,” I said, and proceeded to watch bad basketball and then file a column on it. I had ample time to listen and then watch to the second half of the Gators-Sooners game.

It’s a good thing that Per Mar guy didn’t tell me to throw eggs on the court or drop a thousand thumbtacks on the steps leading to the arena floor, huh?

All right, before this goes any further – I made up my own mind. And I admit a Florida blowout of Oklahoma would have made it harder to hit the “send” button when I e-mailed my Utah-No. 1 pick to New York late Thursday night.

If Florida were to play Utah next week, would I bet on the Utes? No.

So what? I wouldn’t bet on Florida were it to play USC next week, but I ranked the Gators second and the Trojans third. We’re voting on a season of work, and I like what UF did slightly more than what USC accomplished.

Utah’s season was perfect. I don’t think you can do better than perfect, especially when the perfect run ended with an utterly fabulous performance against an Alabama team that was ranked No. 1 in the nation for five weeks.

Did the Utes play Florida’s schedule. They did not.

Did they get upset at home by anyone the way Florida fell to Ole Miss? They did not.

Would they be able find any SEC teams who would schedule home-and-away series with them? They would not.

The only reason Utah isn’t the national champion, as far as we’ll ever know from now until nothing remains in Salt Lake City but, uh, salt, is that it never got the chance to play for the title.

This isn’t a Mid-American Conference or Sun Belt Conference team that ran the table and finished with a win in a Motor City or GMAC Bowl, both of which are seeking government bailouts.

No, this is a team from the Mountain West Conference, which won six of eight games against the Pac-10 this season. It’s a legit league, one that deserves a place at the BCS trough. Not that the six greedy-pig BCS conferences will ever start sharing with others. 

By the way, Iowans, I had the Hawkeyes 16th. That may actually have sold them a little short. Had they won one more game, I think you could have made a loud argument to have them at 10th or 11th in the final rankings.

Ifs and buts. Like what if Utah had played Florida …

My top 25 ballot:

1.       Utah

2.       Florida

3.       USC

4.       Texas

5.       Oklahoma

6.       Alabama

7.       TCU

8.       Penn State

9.       Ohio State

10.   Boise State

11.   Oregon

12.   Mississippi

13.   Texas Tech

14.   Georgia

15.   Oklahoma State    

16.   Iowa

17.   Virginia Tech

18.   Cincinnati

19.   Oregon State

20.   Missouri

21.   Pittsburgh

22.   Northwestern

23.   California

24.   Michigan State

25.   Rice


Comparative Results: Iowa, Iowa State, UNI and Coe College All Better Than Florida and Oklahoma

I’ve caught some grief from USC supporters who think I’m being unfair to the Trojans by noting Utah beat Oregon State and USC did not, thus, no No. 1 AP vote from me for USC.

You can’t compare scores, they’ve bleated. It’s not fair. Utah played Oregon State at home. USC played the Beavers in Corvallis.

Boo hoo. Lots of things aren’t fair. USC having a recruiting advantage in southern California and a budget that is probably about the size of Utah’s government may not be fair, either, but why bring that into this discussion?

If you can’t compare scores in making judgments, what are we left with in college football? Besides torn ACLs, intoxicated chest-painters, and millionaire coaches, that is?

Hey, I may vote Iowa State No. 1 if Florida beats Oklahoma for the national title. Why? Because … Iowa St beat
Kent St who beat
Buffalo who beat
Ball St who beat
Navy who beat
Wake Forest who beat
Mississippi who beat
Florida, while Mississippi beat Texas Tech who beat Texas who beat Oklahoma

Then again, I may opt for Iowa No. 1 ahead of Florida and Oklahoma since …

Iowa beat
Florida Int’l who beat
Middle Tennessee St who beat
Maryland who beat
Wake Forest who beat
Mississippi who beat
Florida, while Mississippi beat Texas Tech who beat Texas who beat Oklahoma

Heck, Northern Iowa outclassed Florida this season. Proof:

Northern Iowa beat
New Hampshire who beat
Army who beat
Louisiana Tech who beat
Mississippi St who beat
Vanderbilt who beat
Mississippi who beat
Florida, while Mississippi beat Texas Tech who beat Texas who beat Oklahoma

For that matter, I may vote Coe College No. 1, since the Kohawks established dominance over Florida and Oklahoma. How so?

Coe beat
Simpson who beat
Northwestern MN who beat
Malone who beat
Marian who beat
Valparaiso who beat
Davidson who beat
Jacksonville FL who beat
San Diego who beat
UC-Davis who beat
Portland St who beat
Eastern Washington who beat
Weber St who beat
Cal Poly SLO who beat
San Diego St who beat
UNLV who beat
Wyoming who beat
Tennessee who beat
Vanderbilt who beat
Mississippi who beat
Florida, while Mississippi beat Texas Tech who beat Texas who beat Oklahoma.

Hey, you USC whiners, you aren’t even as good as Penn State.

Penn State beat
Oregon St who beat

Wait, you say USC beat Penn State in the Rose Bowl?

OK, I’ll give you that one.

Why do people keep calling for a playoff every year when these things are all so obvious? Just look at who beat who.

Now who was it that beat Utah?

Hlas Column on Utah Lobbying Me for a No. 1 Vote in the AP poll

I know what its like to be the guy on the left - well, not really

I know what it's like to be the guy on the left - well, not really

The “colorful” governor of Illinois appointed a former attorney general of his state to replace Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate.

If you were Roland Burris, you might have been torn between two reactions when Gov. Rod Blagojevich called. “No thanks, it’s not worth the aggravation,” comes to mind. So does “I have the chance to help steer this nation I love to a safer, smarter path. It’s my obligation as a citizen to say yes.”

Those were the two reactions I had in November when the Associated Press asked me to be a replacement voter in its college football rankings.

OK, it’s not really how I felt at all. What I thought was, “I should be able to get some easy column and Hlog material out of this, and it shouldn’t cause any real problems.”

After all, AP’s rankings no longer factor into the BCS championship formula. To its credit, AP wanted nothing to do with being involved in that masquerade.

Besides, don’t you just go with whoever wins the BCS title game, and make that your No. 1 team, anyway?

Uh, not necessarily.

Let’s backtrack. AP called me, for some bizarre reason, when Eric Page left the Quad City Times to work for a college near his home. You can always spot the young sports writers who won’t make a career of it. They get lost thinking about other things, like life and stuff.

Page was Iowa’s representative on the 65-member AP football voting panel. When he abruptly fled to academia, AP decided it wanted to continue to have an Iowan who covers college football participating in its poll. It was for the same reason the Senate still wants two representatives from Illinois, I guess.

So, AP came to me. Maybe it was because I voted in its poll in the mid-1990s. Or maybe it’s because they don’t vet their candidates very well.

It was only for a few weeks, I thought, so why not? But I didn’t see what was coming. Namely, an avalanche from Utah.

Know that the AP championship remains a legitimate national championship unto itself and isn’t beholden to FedEx, Tostitos, or the rest of the BCS cabal. The voters are media people, not coaches. The AP voters actually watch games and pay attention. The coaches are preoccupied with trivial matters like, well, coaching.

But more years than not, the winner of the BCS title game is the slam-dunk pick for No. 1 in the final AP poll. No controversy, no worries.

That will be the case again Thursday if the winner of the Florida-Oklahoma game has a decisive victory, or prevails against an opponent that gave a very determined battle.

But what if those two teams slog around like Texas and Ohio State did for much of Monday’s Fiesta Bowl? What’s to stop a voter from jumping Utah, the lone unbeaten team, to No. 1 on the heels of the Utes’ impressive Sugar Bowl win over Alabama, which had been ranked No. 1 for five weeks during the season?

If Oklahoma wins, it would be very hard for me not to tab it No. 1 with its wins over Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Kansas, TCU, Cincinnati, and finally, Florida. Look, the Sooners have scored 58 or more points in each of their last six games. Their 45-35 October loss to Texas in Dallas is a scratch, yes, but not a gash.

But don’t use the “strength of schedule” argument with me if Florida beats the Sooners. The Gators trailed Alabama for three quarters before winning in the SEC title game, 31-20. Utah jumped on the Crimson Tide for a 21-0 first-half lead, fought off a staunch ‘Bama rally, and put away the Tide with authority, 31-17.

Florida, for all its dominant wins over the likes of Georgia and LSU and Florida State, lost at home to Mississippi. Ole Miss had a really good team, as it turned out. But it lost four games.

As for USC fans, don’t even chime in. Your Trojans lost to Oregon State. Utah beat Oregon State.

And Texas Longhorn people should know deep in their hearts that their 12-1 team didn’t pass the eyeball test for No. 1 in its 24-21 Fiesta Bowl win over Ohio State.

Utahans and others have spent the last few days making their feelings known to AP voters.

“Make a statement against the failure of a system we call the BCS and give the Utes the recognition they deserve,” one e-mailer urged me.

“It has to be Utah. No question,” wrote someone else.

“Choose from an exclusive collection of replica watches,” offered another e-mailer. But that was just spam.

So here’s the deal, Florida and Oklahoma: Show me something Thursday night.

Not that I’ll see most of it. I’m covering the Minnesota-Iowa men’s basketball game Thursday.

But since when did you have to be a totally informed voter to participate in the democratic process?

Thanks to Utes, 2009 is Off to a Great Start

A day that had a rather severe start for yours truly is having a wonderful finish.

You get up at 3 a.m. (Iowa time) to get to the Tampa airport for the first of three flights that get you back to Cedar Rapids, two of them on American Eagle planes that would make sardines claustrophobic.

That was after eight days on the road, and eight nights of not getting one decent night of sleep. Maybe that came from staying in a hotel that was too close to an airport. Or too close to a freeway. Or too close to a Waffle House.

But the first blast of Midwest winter air felt great as I stepped outside The Eastern Iowa Airport. Tomorrow, it will probably feel like winter. Which is less than great.

So I got home, settled in, turned on the tail end of the Cotton Bowl, and fell asleep. I completely missed the Liberty Bowl, which was intentional. I slowly came to with the Sugar Bowl on in the background. I’d see Utah was ahead, and assume I was dreaming. Especially when it was 21-0.

Then I woke up, and naturally Alabama clawed back to 21-17. Yecch.

But the Utes got even tougher, and held on to vanquish the Crimson Tide.

I love this for two reasons. One, Alabama Coach Nick Saban is a joyless mercenary. Every game his teams lose is good for sports and the planet.

Two, I had Utah No. 5 in my latest AP Top 25 ballot. No one in the AP panel had the Utes any higher. I had them above USC and Penn State, and caught grief from fans of both because of it

But look at me (and Utah) now, my babies! That’s a Top Three team at the worst, the end. At 13-0 with wins over bowl-winners Oregon State and TCU, and now this disposal of the vaunted Crimson Tide in New Orleans, which is in SEC country.

Utah took its BCS bowl invitation and rubbed the power conferences’ faces in it. Just like Boise State did two years ago.

I’m under no obligation to put the winner of the Florida-Oklahoma BCS title game No. 1 on the final AP ballot next Thursday night. I probably will, anyhow, unless it’s a lousy game.

But let’s see what Texas does against Ohio State first. I may vote Texas No. 1. Or USC. Or, dare I say it, Utah.

Utah 31, Alabama 17. Such dire predictions for 2009 have been issued in many circles, but the year is fabulous so far.

Hawkeyes Coldcock Gamecocks


Well, well, well. That was quite a display of efficiency the Iowa football squad displayed against a South Carolina team that showed all the poise and precision of a home video during an earthquake.

I said it at the end of my column that should be posted Thursday night on http://www.hawkeyebowlgame.com,  and I’ll elaborate here. I think Iowa is one of the 10 best teams in the nation.

Where will the Hawkeyes be ranked in the Associated Press poll late next Thursday night after the BCS title game? Probably 21st or 22nd, maybe 23rd.

But if you went on how teams were playing in November into December and January, can you honestly name 10 teams that are better?

The obvious ones on their bodies of work: Florida, Oklahoma, Alabama, USC, Penn State, Texas, Texas Tech. That’s seven. Although, you take Penn State with a grimace the way it fell so far behind in the first half of the Rose Bowl against USC.

Add Utah if it plays Alabama close in the Sugar Bowl. If Ohio State isn’t routed by Texas, you probably have to include the Buckeyes. I’d certainly include 11-2 TCU, as well.

OK, that’s 10 if Utah and Ohio State hold up their ends. And 11 if Cincinnati wins over Virginia Tech in Thursday night’s Orange Bowl, though I’d take the Hawkeyes over the Bearcats on a neutral field 10 times out of 10. But a BCS league-champ with a 12-2 record has earned its place.

But that’s it. A 10-3 Georgia? Not sold. A 10-3 Oregon? Very good, but I think the Ducks-Hawks game would be a coin-flip. If Ole Miss upsets Texas Tech Friday in the Cotton Bowl, I rank the Rebels on an even keel with Iowa.

You know how this works, though. Those four losses hang over Iowa’s heads, and not being ranked all year makes it hard for the Hawks to ascend very far once they do get into next week’s rankings.

No matter. They had the bowl scene all to themselves for the first two hours Thursday and wasted little time showing America (and poll voters) what they had.

They’ll get a nice spot in August’s preseason Top 25 for the 2009 season. What they do with that is up to them instead of the pollsters.