The Dixie State University men’s basketball team had many memorable experiences — however, a tournament win was not one of them.
Total wins, 21. National ranking, No. 8. Total stormed courts, two. Total post season wins: zero, again.
The Red Storm showed both promise and disappointment in its roller coaster-of-a season this year. A year that ended rather abruptly as the Red Storm got tossed early in another crushing loss in the first round of the NCAA postseason tournament 73-65 to Cal Poly Pomona.
My hopes were high coming into the season for DSU. And being one of maybe 14 diehards, I even took the trip to go see a preseason game for the Red Storm as they went to take on the Runnin’ Rebels of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
While I was partly predicting a blowout, it was a celebratory victory when the Red Storm knocked off a Division I opponent on their home floor.
“Where is Dixie State from, anyway?” UNLV fans asked as they were left scratching their heads on their way out the door.
That was when I knew this team could be something special.
With the win at UNLV and a win at No. 2 Seattle Pacific University early on in the season, Dixie State got some national props, eventually, being ranked as high as No. 8 in the country. And there was no question that they really were that good.
The way I see it, DSU men’s basketball owes all the praise in the world to head coach Jon Judkins. Juddy has fielded a competitive Division II program since his first season at Dixie State. Unlike some sports on campus that have yet to make a winning transition (football), basketball has been something DSU can count on.
Juddy’s four Pacific West Conference championships and five PacWest Coach of the Year awards speak for themselves.
But this 2013-14 team also had some really talented players on it. I grew up watching four of DSU’s top players play in high school, and I was glad to see all of them have their time to shine this year.
Of course, nobody can forget when senior forward Louis “Bonesaw” Garrett scored eight points in the final minute, including a 3-pointer to send the game into overtime against Brigham Young University-Hawaii. Or when junior forward DeQuan Thompson dunked the ball so hard that he blew the roof off of the Burns Arena with a vicious attack on the rim during a blowout against the Academy of Art.
To put it simply, DSU had multiple talented players.
The combination of senior forward Dalton Groskreutz and Garrett put an insane amount of experienced playmakers on the court at one time. And the big men this year were some of the best in the conference. Junior forward Zach Robbins was a double-double machine and nearly averaged double digits in points and rebounding for the season.
Unfortunately, as we all know, after an 11-0 start, this wasn’t the fairy tale ending DSU was hoping for.
For some unexplainable reason, it seemed like the wheels came off somewhere around the Hawaii trip. The Red Storm lost their first game to Hawaii Pacific by 19, and it was like they remembered how to lose again after that.
Dixie ended the rest of the season with a limp 10-7 record and a graceful exit out of the top 25. Add that with a quick loss in the PacWest Conference tournament and the team was left to wonder if it would even get a bid into the NCAA postseason.
Luckily, it did.
But the #whynotus tweets didn’t last long. The Red Storm got bounced out of the NCAA tourney just as quickly as they did in their conference tournament. Dixie lost in its first game, and then it was all over.
After a “better luck next year” speech and a long bus ride home, that was it. The season that started with high hopes was over.
DSU will definitely need to reload on playmakers next year as the seniors from this year move on. And we all hope DSU will have a more memorable playoff run next year. But we should never doubt whether or not they will be good. We have Juddy. We are going to be all right.