• Despite crazy weekend, Horns capture first Big 12 title since 2004

    Despite shooting an 8-over-par 288 in the final round, the Longhorns won their first Big XII Championship since 2004 on Wednesday.

    The Longhorns came into the final day of competition with a six-shot lead over Oklahoma State; however, Oklahoma State had troubles of their own, shooting a 6-over 286 in the final round.

    Because of inclement weather, the tournament was shortened from four to three rounds. On Monday, rain caused an hour rain delay during the first round and forced six teams to finish their second rounds Wednesday.

    Freshman Brandon Stone took home the individual championship with an even-par 210 during the week. Senior Cody Gribble was five shots off of Stone’s pace with a 5-over 215.

    Texas had a rough start to the tournament after shooting a 10-over 290 in the first round. In the second round, however, the Longhorns took over the lead with a 1-over 281 and were one of the few teams to finish their second round on Monday.

    The Big XII is Texas’ first since 2004 which was the end of three straight conference championships. Texas will compete next in the NCAA Regional Championship May 16-18 at a site to be determined.

  • NASCAR: Despite the lifetime contract and legendary status, should Jeff Gordon call it quits?

    After more than 20 years of racing in the Cup series, Jeff Gordon remains as elusive as ever. The best thing he’s done in recent memory was a prank test drive for Pepsi – and he didn’t even play himself.  Let’s take that as a sign that we’re losing touch with Gordon and he’s losing touch with NASCAR. These days, his hair is a little more gray than it is rainbow. Sure, the Wonder Boy hasn’t caught too many breaks this season and it's too early to worry about the Chase, but does he really deserve that lifetime contract Rick Hendrick handed to him?

    If anything, Gordon is having more success as the co-owner of the 48 car, driven by teammate and five-time champion Jimmie Johnson. Though Gordon has the lifetime contract, he has only four championships to Johnson’s five – and Gordon’s last championship came 12 years ago. That was in 2001, when Michael Jordan returned to the NBA and Lance Armstrong won his third consecutive Tour de France. 2001 was also the year Johnson began racing in Cup. Let’s just say it’s been a long time since the 41-year-old Gordon and his Rainbow Warriors have won a championship.

    So long, in fact, they aren’t even dubbed the Rainbow Warriors anymore. Gordon’s crew has been swapped around extensively, and he has had three different crew chiefs in the time since he last won a championship. Maybe the days of Gordon spraying Pepsi in Victory Lane have passed. Though he’s won races in the last two seasons, he went winless in 2008 and 2010, something he hadn’t done since his first 30-plus race season in 1993. He may have catalyzed the youth movement in the sport, but now the youth are leaving him far behind.

    Maybe it’s time for Gordon to call it quits. He has a wife and two children now, and wants to spend time with them. Gordon doesn’t look the same anymore, and I’m not just talking about the mustache. He’s a huge figure in the sport, that’s for sure. But sometimes it’s better to quit before your shadow outruns you. 

  • Big 12 basketball: Are the Cowboys the “Smart” pick to end Kansas' Big 12 reign?

    In a move that shocked the college basketball world last Tuesday, reigning Big 12 Player of the Year, Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart, opted not to make himself eligible for the 2013 NBA Draft so he could return to Stillwater for another season. Smart was considered a Top 5 pick by most experts, even a Top 3 pick by some, but chose to give up millions in guaranteed money to play his sophomore year.

    ​Smart averaged 15.4 points per game last season while grabbing 5.8 boards and dishing out 4.2 assists per game. He helped lead the Cowboys to a 24-9 record, including a 13-5 mark in Big 12 play. But the year ended in disappointing fashion when Oklahoma State was upset by Oregon in the NCAA Tournament Round of 64.

    ​Returning alongside Smart are his backcourt teammates Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash, who averaged 15.3 and 14.0 points per game last season, respectively. The only starter the Cowboys lose is Philip Jurrick, but fellow bigs Michael Cobbins and Kamari Murphy split starts last season and will be ready to take his place. So the Cowboys will return the equivalent of four starters and their sixth man (Phil Forte) to a team that wants redemption after its apathetic effort against Oregon.

    ​The other contender for the Big 12 is quite obvious  the Kansas Jayhawks. The Jayhawks have won nine straight Big 12 titles, winning it outright four of the past five seasons. The team almost won it outright last year but was blown out by Baylor in its regular season finale. The top-seeded Jayhawks went to the Sweet 16 this year, but blew a 14-point lead in the last seven minutes to Michigan in an 87-85 overtime loss.

    ​Now the Jayhawks will be tasked with reloading yet again, after losing all five starters from last season to either the NBA Draft or graduation. This includes Ben McLemore, who is a consensus Top 5 draft pick, and is almost certain to go in the Top 3 now that Smart's coming back to Oklahoma State. Kansas' returners have combined for a total of four starts, three from sophomore Perry Ellis and one from sophomore Jamari Taylor.

    Bill Self has had to rebuild before, losing Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor in 2012, the Morris twins in 2011 and Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins in 2010. Kansas missed out on Class of 2013 five-star prospect Julius Randle, who could have instantly helped the Jayhawks remain Big 12 favorites but committed to Kentucky instead. The Jayhawks still landed Wayne Selden, the No.12 overall recruit according to ESPN, and Joel Embiid (No. 28 overall), who should both make an immediate impact for Kansas. But neither is good enough to make up for the Cowboys’ returning talent. Self will keep the Jayhawks in contention, but reloading again will be too much for Kansas.

    It is because of all of this that Kansas’ reign in the Big 12 will end this season. The Jayhawks will not beat the Cowboys at Gallagher-Iba Arena two seasons in a row, and the Cowboys will start the year a vastly more experienced team. The Cowboys knocked off the Jayhawks in Lawrence last season, and may be poised to do it again.

    Oklahoma State is the "Smart" pick to win the Big 12. It made tremendous strides last year and with Smart continuing to develop it will be even better next season. I bet the team finishes 16-2 in Big 12 play and should be favorites in every matchup, with the possible exception of the showdown in Lawrence. The Jayhawks will be good, and probably the second-best team in the conference, but I see them losing four or five games in Big 12 play next season and, more importantly, failing to win a 10th consecutive Big 12 regular season title.