First one fan came. Then another. Then five more. Then 10.
Their presence wasn’t a surprise in and of itself at UVU men’s basketball’s last home game. It was when they showed up. Before tip-off. Way before.
In the end, 6,602 people came to watch the Wolverines do what they’ve done without fail since Jan. 3.
Maybe word leaked out during the BYU game earlier that day. Casual Cougar fans, realizing their team is a long-shot to reach the NCAA tournament, may have said something like this:
“Hey, you know that school down the street? Yeah, they’ve won 13 in a row. You think we should check them out?”
They would have wandered into the UCCU Center sheepishly, seen the thousands in attendance and said to themselves, “This is pretty sweet. Is it like this all the time?”
No, it’s not. Teams don’t go on 13-game winning streaks all the time. At some point, it’s too long to ignore.
Those who did ignore it did so arguing the quality of UVU’s run. Seattle? Houston Baptist? North Dakota? Please. It’s easy to beat up on patsies.
Sure it’s supposed to be easy, but that’s precisely why win streaks are so hard to maintain in the first place. Winning can get boring. Whether it’s sports, video games or women, constantly winning can get old.
Great teams are the ones that keep their edge sharpened, their thirst unquenched despite constant success. It’s what made the greats great. Wins were like Pringles. One wasn’t enough. They couldn’t stop.
Apparently, neither can UVU.
This isn’t a case of bad-beating-worse. The Wolverines have a returning All-American in the state (Isiah Williams). That’s one more than BYU, Utah and Utah State.
They have a top-20 rebounder (Geddes Robinson), a top-10 closer at the free-throw line (Holton Hunsaker), a do-it-all forward (Keith Thompson) and underrated center (Ben Aird).
Williams has more reason than anyone to feel vindicated. The senior guard has made a habit of making those who overlook him pay, from Derrick Rose in high school to NCAA programs who forget he can put up 20-plus on any given night.
Yet when Williams went off for a game-high 28 points against Texas Pan-American, he wasn’t sporting a disturbing underbite like Kobe Bryant or puffing his cheeks at the crowd like LeBron James. He was smiling. He has enjoyed every minute of this remarkable run, even as outsiders debate whether or not it’s worth enjoying
“You’ve got to [enjoy it],” Williams said. “You can’t get out there and be thinking too much. A couple games early in the season, I was thinking too much and I wasn’t playing as well. Now I just go out there, try to do my best and have fun.”
The approach has the scorching-hot Wolverines potentially locking up a CIT berth, maybe even playing at home in the first round.
For those saying “big deal,” know that big deals can’t happen without precedents. A double-digit, NCAA win streak is a hell of a precedent, regardless of the competition.
In the meantime, take a note from Williams and enjoy the ride.
By Matt Petersen