• Wednesday evening, freshman Jake Raulerson underwent an emergency appendectomy. The Celina, Texas native, who splits his time on both offense and defense, will miss the remainder of spring practices. According to Head Althetic Trainer for Football Kenny Boyd, Raulerson is expected to make a full recovery. 

  • Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart
    Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart

    It took more than 16 minutes before the Longhorns got to take their first free throw.

    Prince Ibeh made it before airballing the second.

    That's the kind of night it's been for Texas in its first-round CBI matchup against Houston. The Longhorns trail the Cougars, 37-31, at Hofheinz Pavilion and their season could be 20 minutes away from ending.

    Cameron Ridley, making his second straight start after not having started in the previous 10 games, won the opening tip but Texas missed three shots on its first possession of the game. Four seconds later, Danuel House threw down a lob from Joseph Young to give Houston a quick 2-0 lead.

    Ridley, who grabbed three rebounds in five minutes of action, will miss the rest of the game with an upper respiratory infection.

    The Cougars maintained control of the game throughout the first half, outrebounding the Longhorns, 31-24, and grabbing 12 offensive rebounds to Texas' eight. Young led all scoeres with 12 points.

    Texas shot 32.4 percent from the floor and hit only three of 16 three-point attempts, with Sheldon McClellan going 0-for-5 from beyond the arc. Myck Kabongo, who could be playing his last game in a Longhorns uniform as the sophomore is likely to declare for the NBA Draft after this season, had a team-high seven points and three assists in the first half.

  • Plano Prestonwood Christian power forward Julius Randle, a five-star prospect, according to rivals.com, committed to Kentucky on Wednesday afternoon, picking the Wildcats over Texas, Kansas and Florida.

    After sophomore forward Jaylen Bond announced his decision to transfer from Texas this week, the Longhorns picked up a commitment from an Orlando product, shooting guard Demarcus Croaker. But Randle, widely considered to be one of the best, if not the best, high school basketball players in the country, picked Kentucky — who fell to Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT on Tuesday.

    With Bond transferring, there is room for another player to join the Longhorns' 2013 recruiting class. Texas also has a verbal commitment from Houston product Isaiah Taylor. Both Taylor and Croaker are three-star prospects, meaning that head coach Rick Barnes might go another year without signing a five-star prospect.

    Texas signed Myck Kabongo in 2011, Tristan Thompson in 2010 and Avery Bradley in 2009. Those are the last three five-star prospects signed by Barnes.

  • The Longhorns are entering a brave new world when it comes to recruiting. The rise of other Texas football programs such as A&M, Baylor and TCU, as well as heavy encroachment by SEC powerhouses like Alabama, means that in-state recruiting will no longer come as easily as it used to. If Texas wants to maintain championship-caliber depth, it has to expand its recruiting footprint beyond the Lone Star State.
     

    That expansion starts with neighboring Louisiana.
     

    The Longhorns are looking to build a pipeline into the Pelican State this year. They recently hired running backs coach Larry Porter, an excellent recruiter who has deep connections to the state after working the same position at LSU for five years, and have already offered eight of the best high school players from there scholarships.
    It’s a major change in direction for the Longhorns, whose roster is made up of 90 percent Texans and only two Louisiana natives, but it is much needed. A&M’s move to the SEC opened the floodgates for SEC intrusion, and the Longhorns need to fight back if they want to remain competitive. A year ago, Texas got Shreveport native Torshiro Davis to decommit from LSU and commit to them right before Signing Day. So landing top commits from their neighbors isn’t an impossible task.
     

    The Longhorns are a huge brand. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to recruit nationally like Notre Dame or USC, and they seem to realize this. Mack Brown and company have stepped up their out-of-state recruiting the last couple of years, nowhere more noticeably than in Louisiana. If they are unable to land any of these newly targeted recruits, it will be a bad omen for future goals.
     

    The Longhorns need to recruit nationally if they want to remain relevant nationally. That all starts now with this 2014 recruiting class. It all starts with Louisiana.
     

  • Hang on to your hats, folks, because the destiny of several teams will come down to the last week or even day of the regular season. In the West, every team has a shot with 19-20 games left. Here’s a playoff case for each of the West’s bottom seven.

    9) Phoenix Coyotes (13-12-4): They’ve never really found a consistent stride so far this year, but they’ve been able to stay afloat in the West even without critical goal scorers Radim Vrbata and Martin Hanzal for several games. Once Vrbata returns the ‘Yotes will have that all-important scorer spreading the ice on the right wing. Mike Smith might be the most inconsistent goalie in the league, but when he’s on, he’s one of the league’s best. The ‘Yotes should look at last season’s finish as motivation. They peaked at the right time and were three wins away from the Finals. This is a playoff-caliber team.

    10) Dallas Stars (13-12-3): Their season has mirrored that of Phoenix so far: ups and downs without much consistency. But this team can make the playoffs with its effective combination of young speedsters and a stabilizing veteran presence. Winger Cody Eakin and big defenseman Brenden Dillion have been absolute revelations for the Stars this season, and Jaromir Jagr seems to forget that he is 41 years old, currently leading the Stars in scoring. Kari Lehtonen has been a little inconsistent as of late, but has been by and large as advertised this season. The biggest question mark for the Stars is a constant defensive intensity. If they can establish that, they have enough offense to get into the playoffs. Dallas is also a playoff-level team.

    11) Edmonton Oilers (11-11-6): I am in love with the offensive core of the Oil. They’ve been suffering in the standings for years but all that time in the cellar has finally paid off with established players like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov, Sam Gagner, etc. They are one of the league’s youngest teams, and are right up there with the league’s most entertaining. They, like Dallas, will rely on the spirited energy of their young legs to simply outskate their opponents. But they do have a lot of talent. Their forwards constantly circle around the offensive zone, the puck is never stagnant and they have the ability to just wear opposing teams down. Their defense has been spotty, but G Devan Dubnyk has been solid. They can be a tough out in the first round.

    12) Nashville Predators (11-12-6): Pretty disappointing record for a team as well constructed as this one. Their offense has been anemic and their penalty kill ranks 26th league-wide: a self-destructive combination. Their blue line has clearly dropped a bit with the loss of star D-man Ryan Suter, yet they are still the league’s eighth best defense. They are leaning harder on their goalie, Pekka Rinne, than any team in the league leans on theirs, but if their offense can just become average they will be able to stay in games. Rinne is that good. They’ll be a lower seed at best, but elite goaltending can carry you.

    13) Columbus Blue Jackets (11-12-6): If there was a “Most Improved Team” award, Columbus would get it. Sixteen games in and I thought they were done, but they have slowly clawed their way back into the playoff race. Although they have some exciting players, they are probably the least likely playoff team in the bottom seven. If anything, sheer momentum could slip them into the top eight.

    14) Calgary Flames (11-12-4): They’ve featured a solid offense highlighted by Curtis Glencross, Alex Tanguay and Lee Stempniak, and their power play is in the league’s top 10. Their greatest concern is consistent goaltending – Miikka Kiprusoff has been in and out of the lineup this whole season. If he can re-establish himself in the pipes, they have they firepower to compete in a first round series.

    15) Colorado Avalanche (10-14-4): Somehow they are in the bottom 20 in the league in every major category. Go figure. Despite their place in the standings, this team is not the worst in the conference. They have highly coveted centers Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny and winger Gabriel Landeskog. G Semyon Varlamov needs to be better, along with everything else. But it really is a mystery why this team only has 24 points after 28 games. I think they are better than Columbus.

    Hang on to your hats folks, because the destiny of several teams will come down to the last week or even day of the regular season. In the west, every team has a shot with 19-20 games left. Here’ s a playoff case for each of the West’s bottom seven.

    9) Phoenix Coyotes (13-12-4): They’ve never really found a consistent stride so far this year, but they’ve been able to stay afloat in the West even without critical goal scorers Radim Vrbata and Martin Hanzal for several games. Once Vrbata returns the ‘Yotes will have that all-important scorer spreading the ice on the right wing. Mike Smith might be the most inconsistent goalie in the league, but when he’s on he’s one of the league’s best. The ‘Yotes should look at last season’s finish as motivation. They peaked at the right time and were three wins away from the Finals. This is a playoff-caliber team.

    10) Dallas Stars (13-12-3): Their season has mirrored that of Phoenix’ so far: ups and downs without much consistency. But this team can make the playoffs with its effective combination of young speedsters and a stabilizing veteran presence. Winger Cody Eakin and big defenseman Brenden Dillion have been absolute revelations for the Stars this season, and Jaromir Jagr seems to forget that he is 41 years old, currently leading the stars in scoring. Kari Lehtonen has been a little inconsistent as of late, but has been by and large as advertised this season. The biggest question mark for the Stars is a constant defensive intensity. If they can establish that, they have enough offense to get in to the playoffs. Dallas is also a playoff level team.

    11) Edmonton Oilers (11-11-6): I am in love with the offensive core of the Oil. They’ve been suffering in the standings for years but all that time in the cellar has finally paid off with established players like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov, Sam Gagner, etc. They are one of the league’s youngest teams, and are right up there with the league’s most entertaining. They, like Dallas, will rely on the spirited energy of their young legs to simply outskate their opponents. But they do have a lot of talent. Their forwards constantly circle around the offensive zone, the puck is never stagnant, and they have the ability to just wear opposing teams down. Their defense has been spotty, but G Devan Dubnyk has been solid. They can be a tough out in the first round.

    12) Nashville Predators (11-12-6): Pretty disappointing record for a team as well-constructed as they are. Their offense has been anemic and their penalty kill ranks 26th league-wide: a self-destructive combination. Their blue line has clearly dropped a bit with the loss of star D man Ryan Suter, yet they are still the league’s eighth best defense. They are leaning harder on their goalie, Pekka Rinne, than any team in the league leans on theirs, but if their offense can just become average they will be able to stay in games. Rinne is that good. They’ll be a lower seed at best, but elite goaltending can carry you.

    13) Columbus Blue Jackets (11-12-6): If there was a “Most Improved Team” award, Columbus would get it. 16 games in and I thought they were done, but they have slowly clawed their way back into the playoff race. Although they have some exciting players, they are probably the least-likely playoff team in the bottom seven. If anything, sheer momentum could slip them into the top eight.

    14) Calgary Flames (11-12-4): They’ve featured a solid offense highlighted by Curtis Glencross, Alex Tanguay, and Lee Stempniak, and their power play is in the league’s top ten. Their greatest concern is consistent goaltending – Mikka Kirprusoff has been in and out of the lineup this whole season. If he can re-establish himself in the pipes, they have they firepower to compete in a first round series.

    15) Colorado Avalanche (10-14-4): Somehow they are bottom 20 in the league in every major category. Go figure. Despite their place in the standings, this team is not the worst in the conference. They have highly-coveted centers Matt Duchene, Paul Stastny and winger Gabriel Landeskog. G Semyon Varlamov needs to be better, along with everything else. But it really is a mystery why this team only has 24 points after 28 games. I think they are better than Columbus, and they will be in the hunt at end.