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Inside Darnell’s Head: Getting lost in Minny plus bowl season is still fun

December 17, 2018
Portrait of Darnell Dickson.

Here’s what’s going on inside Darnell’s head.

Do you know how easy it is to get lost in Mall of America? I felt like I was in the largest, most confusing, fanciest airport in the world. There are actually amusement park rides in that place. Fortunately, I was able to remember where I parked my car.

Turns out Mall of America is only the fifth-largest shopping mall in the U.S. by retail space with 2.5 million square feet. King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania is No. 1 with 2.9 million square feet of retail space.

Then again, maybe “square of feet of retail space” is like “announced attendance” at sporting events, so I’m not sure what to believe now.

The

ride is over

The BYU women’s volleyball team and its run to the Final Four in Minneapolis brought a lot of excitement to Provo at a time when the football and men’s basketball teams are performing in less-than-stellar ways. The Cougars were ranked No. 1 for 11 weeks and took down perennial powers Florida and Texas to get to the NCAA semifinals. The Smith Fieldhouse was a fun place to be.

It was a spectacular season. Which makes Thursday’s 3-0 loss to No. 1 Stanford all the more disappointing.

There were a few things at play here. BYU beat the Cardinal in a five-setter back in late August at the Fieldhouse, so there is the revenge angle to consider. This was certainly a situation where having McKenna Miller healthy (she tore her ACL late in the season) would have helped the Cougars, who simply didn’t have enough offense. BYU had been a strong defensive team all season, displaying a dependable serve receive game and a solid block.

All of those things fell apart in the semifinals. The Cougars never really threatened to make it competitive and that was puzzling.

Give credit to Stanford. The Cardinal were very, very good, especially with their block. But BYU, which had been mentally strong all season, went pretty meekly.

It was interesting to hear the Stanford players and coach Kevin Hambly talk about last season, when the Cardinal lost in the NCAA Final Four. Their expectations are so high that losing in the semifinals just wasn’t acceptable. They weren’t exactly looking past BYU but the Cougars were in their way to reaching the finals. It was almost as if Stanford felt like it was their right and destiny to get to the championship match.

That’s what happens when you’ve won seven national titles in volleyball.

Make that eight. The Cardinal (34-1) edged Nebraska 3-2 in the finals on Saturday, so the only team to beat Stanford this year … BYU.

I expect the Cougars to remain one of the country’s top 10 teams next season, but replacing Roni Jones-Perry and Lyndie Haddock-Eppich is going to be difficult. Some of next year’s success depends on Miller’s rehabilitation from her knee injury and the return of 6-foot-7 Sara Hamson, who was hurt at the beginning of the season. Having a new setter takes some adjusting and Haddock-Eppich was one of BYU’s best ever.

With AVCA Coach of the Year Heather Olmstead running things, the Cougars will still be a force to be reckoned with for a long time.

Thro

w out the numbers

When a poor-shooting team has a career game against you, some of the credit goes to the up-and-down, streaky nature of sports.

UNLV was that team on Saturday, burning the Cougars for 13 3-pointers and the game-winning triple in overtime. Dave Rose has talked about how his team is “challenged” defensively against teams with athletic, springy guards — so basically, just about anyone BYU plays.

He went to a zone against UNLV and that helped some in the second half. But this Cougar team has to defend the 3-pointer better or this is going to be a very long season.

Y’al

l headed to Boise?

Bowl games get a bad rap sometimes. It’s true, in the grand scheme of things, only the national semifinals and finals truly matter. That’s how a champion is determined. But the bowl games mean a lot to players and coaches for a number of reasons.

They get to spend some more time with each other before everything resets in January. Young players get more time to develop with the extra practices and everyone wants to end with a win to springboard into the next season. Players get bowl swag and become heroes because they give cool Christmas presents.

All I know is, one more football game, even in Boise in December, is a good thing.

Hidd

en talent

Here’s a name you need to know: Lavender Briggs. She’s a senior basketball player at Provo High School and she’s making a run at several season scoring records in the state of Utah.

Briggs has signed with Florida but remains a little bit of an unknown because the Bulldogs are not one of the elite powers in Utah. After five games, Briggs is averaging 36.6 points per game with a high of 43. The record for most points scored in a season in girls basketball is by Becky Trimble of Woods Cross (664) and points per game belongs to former American Fork and Utah standout Julie Krommenhoek (28.9).

Ah,

memories

On Friday, we learned Salt Lake City will bid for the Winter Olympics in 2030. A couple of thoughts jumped into my head. One, I will be retirement age by then, and two, I have great memories from the Olympics in 2002.

Our family got up at 4:30 in the morning to watch the Olympic torch run by in Orem (I think Marie or Donny Osmond was carrying it). We went to the biathlon event at Soldier Hollow and my kids had a lot of fun sliding down a small hill using their jackets as sleds. Through some contacts, I was able to get U.S. hockey tickets and I gave them to my mom and dad to go watch a game in Provo. We drove to Olympic Plaza in Salt Lake City to experience the thrill of the event. Watching the closing ceremony on TV and the fireworks going off at the end was an unforgettable experience.

I think my wife still has her Olympic beret somewhere in the garage.

Bring it on again, right?

That’s all for now. I want to wish all of you a very happy holiday season. Family is everything. Mine is a little kooky but I love them anyway. I’m grateful they put up with me. We get to spend even more time with each other this time of year and I love it.

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