BYU Colorado Basketball-5

Kyle Collinsworth, of BYU, drives on Josh Scott, of Colorado, during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (Cliff Grassmick/Daily Camera via AP)

Several weeks ago I encountered a disgruntled reader at a high school basketball game. Right when I sat down, he asked if I was with the newspaper. I said I was. He then asked me what my name was, so I told him. He said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “You’re the reason I canceled my subscription to the Standard-Examiner. You’re too negative toward BYU.”

I think I had written only a couple of columns regarding BYU, but I guess that wasn’t relevant. All that mattered was that the columns I had written proved I wasn’t a BYU cheerleader.

Well, I’m about to ask questions about BYU again. Certain things can’t be ignored.

I actually had hope for the BYU men’s basketball team when it won at No. 25 Gonzaga on Jan. 14. It would be easy to view last year’s win at Gonzaga as a fluke, but the win this month proved that it wasn’t. Nevertheless, the Cougars have since lost at Portland and Pepperdine, a pair of unranked West Coast Conference teams.

I should have known better. This happens every year.

Last year, BYU started 13-4, with its four losses coming to No. 15 San Diego State (a double-overtime loss), Purdue (another overtime loss), No. 13 Utah and No. 8 Gonzaga. Hardly embarrassing, but then the Cougars lost twice to Pepperdine, at Saint Mary’s and at San Diego. None of those teams were ranked. Kind of embarrassing.

The year before, BYU played close against No. 21 Iowa State and at No. 13 Oregon early in the season but then lost on the road to Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine, Portland and Pacific (all unranked teams). BYU also lost twice to Gonzaga, which ordinarily wouldn’t be a disaster except that Gonzaga was unranked for both meetings.

During the 2012-13 season, BYU lost twice to San Diego, twice to Saint Mary’s and at home to San Francisco. None of those opponents were ranked.

BYU has suffered double-digit losses each of the last three seasons, and with seven losses already this year, it’s hard to believe this won’t be the fourth straight season. Even in BYU’s first season in the West Coast Conference (the only season it didn’t lose at least 10 games), it lost at home to unranked Loyola Marymount.

BYU has proven it can compete against some pretty good teams, but for whatever reason it can’t be trusted against what should be clearly inferior competition. It’s a trend that can’t be stopped.

What makes the struggles even worse this year is that BYU has three seniors in its starting rotation: Nate Austin, Chase Fischer and Kyle Collinsworth. And not just three seniors, but three seniors with considerable playing experience. Austin, Fischer and Collinsworth have all logged more than 2,000 minutes throughout their collegiate careers. There’s no excuse for them to not be able to provide the necessary leadership to defeat teams like Portland and Pepperdine.

Interestingly, BYU’s two worst shooting performances of the season came against Portland (38.0 percent) and Pepperdine (35.9 percent). I suppose some might look at that and say BYU was just unlucky, but those games are always going to happen. Leaders step up and make sure they don’t mean losses when you’re playing a Portland team that’s now 9-13 and a Pepperdine team that earlier in the season lost to said Portland team (and has also lost to 5-15 Drake and 7-14 Santa Clara).

Maybe BYU will be really good next year. I keep hearing about all this supposed talent that’s coming in. Right now, BYU is what it is – and what it’s been ever since joining the West Coast Conference – A giant paper Cougar.

Contact Standard-Examiner sports reporter Ryan Comer at rcomer@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @RyanComerSe and on Facebook.

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