By Robert Weiler
BYU men?s basketball coach Steve Cleveland talked about a lot of the same things at the conclusion of each of his teams 21 losses this season.
One phrase sticks out among them all.
?We just weren?t good enough tonight,? was the reason he repeatedly offered.
While the blowouts against North Carolina, Utah State and Air Force will linger in the minds of the teams? doubters, the six losses by less than five points are reason for optimism heading into next year.
“This was not the season we wanted or expected, but it”s over and we can”t dwell on it,? Cleveland said. ?We”ll focus on the future and how to fix this thing. We”ll get it done.”
Facing arguably the most difficult non-conference schedule in school history, BYU limped through the fall semester after a physically taxing trip to the Maui Invitational. The Cougars played seven teams that made it into the NCAA tournament, including No.1 seed North Carolina, accounting for nine of their losses.
Finishing the season at 9-21, BYU matched the worst record since Cleveland?s arrival to Provo. In that first year, Cleveland was building a team that went through a 1-24 season, opposed to working with a group of players that experienced minimal playing on an NCAA tournament team last year.
?That first year, we were trying to build something, and I understood the circumstances,? Cleveland said. ?It?s [this year] been my most difficult experience of my coaching career.?
The Cougars were on the wrong end of many other statistics that contributed to the pain of losing. After going 57-1 in three years at the Marriott Center, BYU was 6-8 at home this year. And for many of the conference opponents like San Diego State, Air Force and Wyoming, this year ended losing droughts to BYU on the road that stretched back to Chris Miles? elementary school days. With their three conference wins against New Mexico, Colorado State and UNLV, the Cougars failed to sweep any conference team since joining the Mountain West Conference.
A big part of not being good enough was a result of not knowing who would be able to play one night to the next. In addition to two of the Cougar recruits from BYU?s top 20 class never suited up from injury, point guard Josh Reisman left the team early in the season, Garner Meads was in and out of the lineup, Derek Dawes watched most of the teams? practices and Keena Young ended his season early with a broken hand.
BYU has been spending much of this season in preparation for the future, working on the fundamentals in practice more than Cleveland said he was planning on doing. Cleveland has also been out recruiting during the season, something he has not done before since joining the Cougars.