Southern Utah Men’s Basketball team is coming off their second four game win streak of the season. The team is 9-7 and on pace for their first winning season since 2006-07.
SUU is off to a strong start, but it’s important to understand the historical context of this season. In today’s news cycle it can be easy to caught up in what happened last night and context has lost its footing in the media world. This SUU Basketball season has the potential to be the best in program history.
Over the last five years, SUU is a combined 37-116. The team has won just under 32 percent of its games and in the 2013-14 season, lost 26 straight games. For comparison’s sake, the Big Sky’s most consistent teams, Weber State and Montana, are 97-60 and 100-59 over that span. If the top of the Big Sky is where the Thunderbirds are aiming, they’ve been pretty far off over the last five years.
Before head coach Todd Simon took over SUU was in rough shape. Since 2000, the team has two winning seasons.
In 2000-01, the team was led by Fred House and Jeff Monaco and started five upperclassmen. The fourteen seeded T-Birds made the NCAA tournament and lost a three point game to Boston College in the first round. The dynamic duo of House and Monaco was hard to stop. Monaco won conference player of the year and House was an absolute force on the offensive end.
The other winning team of the last two decades was the 2006-07 team that went 16-14. Cedar’s own Steve Barnes dished out six assists per game but the team finished in the bottom half of their conference.
So, SUU is not only battling their opponents, but also has to shred the stigma of losing that has followed the program for so long. There are a few things that the 2019 T-Birds can learn from their predecessors.
The first is that winning at home is essential. The 2000-01 T-Birds were 13-0 at home and dominated opponents in Cedar City winning by an average margin of 14.3 PPG. The 2006-07 team was 12-2 at home and were able to create a buzz about the team in Cedar City.
Both teams were led by stud upperclassmen and played with confidence. The 2018-19 version of the team is has similar qualities. The T-Birds are 6-2 at home and are lead by stud upperclassmen Cameron Oluyitan, Andre Adams and Brandon Better.
Each of these players transferred from other universities and they point to the key of the program’s turnaround. SUU has become a premier landing spot for talented transfers that for whatever reason didn’t fit with the program they originally committed to. Those transfers could lead the program to brand new heights.
This year’s team feels like the first step toward a sustained run of success instead of the one off winning teams of decades past. Simon is building something special and the evolution is happening before our eyes.
Southern Utah is on pace to have one of the program’s best seasons ever, but more importantly the program is constructed to be successful in the future. The previous two winning teams both experienced significant drop offs after their stars graduated. Now the team has talented underclassmen like Dre Marin, Harrison Butler, Maizen Fausett and Kenton Eskridge.
If Simon continues to recruit talented freshmen and bolster the squad through transfers, SUU is going to be good for a long time.
Story by: Connor Sanders
Photo by: SUU Athletics Strategic Communication