Santa tends to give the nice kids bikes and stocking stuffers while he gives the naughty ones lumps of coal. If he gave presents to sports teams in the Beehive State based on their performances this year though most would be receiving a lump of coal. Here is why:
1. No collegiate basketball team qualified for the Big Dance: In a multi-bid PAC-12 Conference The Utes couldn’t get into the tournament despite being led by an NBA prospect in Kyle Kuzma. They were bounced out of the first round of the NIT from Boise State who used to be in their same Mountain West Conference. BYU also lost in the first round of the NIT a a few weeks after their miracle upset over the then undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs who went on to be the runner up in the Big Dance. The Aggies had their first losing season in over 20 years. The other small schools such as UVU, Weber State and SUU suffered from being in one bid leagues and thus only got into small tournaments such as the CBI or NIT. Better luck this year will hopefully bring more fans to events such as the unsuccessful inaugural Beehive Classic this year which only brought a four digit turnout.
2. Two teams barely qualified for a bowl game: BYU, the once powerhouse team of the 1980s, went on one of their longest losing streaks in 50 years. They lost 7 straight games before finally winning a few and improving to a poor 4-9 season. They did have plenty of injuries but they shouldn’t have lost to losing programs like East Carolina and UMass.
Utah State and Utah had plenty of talent but underperformed. The Utes showed promise when new starting quarterback Tyler Huntley was healthy but it also came with rookie mistakes. The Aggies had an All-American Corner in Jalen Davis and an honorable mention All-American kicker in Dominik Eberle but choked in some close games against Wyoming and Air Force.
The result of these 6-6 seasons? The Big Brother Utes get the Heart of Dallas Bowl on Boxing Day as they look to face the West Virginia Mountaineers. Ironically the Mountaineers have a university that is under 1,000 feet above sea level while the Utes have a campus that is over 4,000 feet above sea level and has the tall Wasatch Mountains that are a part of the Rocky Mountain range. Santa might give the Utes a lump of coal for blood doping as the thinner air will give them an oxygen advantage when they play in Dallas at a low elevation.
The Utah State Aggies might as well rename their Bowl Game to be the Aggie Bowl as they face old Big West and WAC foe in the New Mexico State Aggies in the Arizona Bowl on December 29th. The Aggies of Logan, Utah are favored to win but will have to keep a high tenacity as NMSU has a fan base who lives only a couple hours away from Tucson and will be happy to see their team that hasn’t been to a bowl game in decades. USU did choke in their last bowl game against another inferior bowl opponent in the Akron Zips who also suffered a lot of losing seasons before their win over the Aggies in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in 2015. The Aggies finished that season with a losing record of 6-7 then had a 3-9 setback last year. USU hopes a bowl win and some heavy recruiting will put them on the nice list next year.
Weber State did get on the nice list for a bit as they played in the FCS playoffs and defeated in-State foe Southern Utah but they weren’t nice enough to hold a late lead over undefeated James Madison. They can hold their heads high though as the Dukes are the defending FCS champs who are now poised to defend their title in a rematch with North Dakota State.
3. Gordon Hayward left: The Jazz did make it to the second round of the playoffs but then got swept by the Warriors. Santa then but Hayward on the naughty list as he gave Gordon Hayward to the Green Celtics of Boston as they had his old college coach and an impressive run in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Perhaps the Jazz will get back on the nice list with defensive wizard Rudy Gobert and rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell. Still, whoever scheduled Jazz games in December must have been one of Santa’s spy elves who wanted to test how nice the Jazz would play in the hardest schedule for any month of any team in the NBA. If the Jazz can survive after that brutal schedule then perhaps that will get them on the nice list and they can make another playoff run. As of now though they are currently 15-19. Maybe they will get a late Christmas present and beat LeBron in Salt Lake City as they have done the last 6 years.
Whether an angel or a Scrooge, a Grinch or a Who, naughty or nice, sports fans in Utah can only hope for some nicer results in 2018 than the lump of coal they received in 2017.