• Will the men’s and women’s team go dancing?

    After spending seven weeks ranked 10th or better in AP rankings, the men’s basketball team is on the brink of missing the NCAA tournament. Before Tuesday’s loss to No. 20 West Virginia, bracketology expert Joe Lunardi had Texas entering the tournament as a No. 9 seed but said there were no guarantees that they would make the tournament. After Tuesday’s loss, Lunardi has the Longhorns as one of the last four teams to make the NCAA tournament.  Even if the men’s team had won Tuesday night, Lunardi said the Longhorns would still have some work to do. Lunardi predicted that the Longhorns would go at least .500 for the rest of their games and just sneak into the tourney. But with the loss to No. 8 Kansas and No. 20 West Virginia, Texas needs to win their final two games against No. 19 Baylor and Kansas State.
    Obviously, the men can ill afford to lose. But with Kansas State’s recent upset of Kansas, Lunardi says the Longhorn’s final game against the Wildcats could potentially be a bubble game for both teams. In a perfect world, the Longhorns end their four-game losing streak with a two-game winning streak and finish 9-9 in conference play. Anything short of that places the Longhorns below .500, which means if they were admitted into the NCAA tourney, they would be just the second Big 12 team to go to the Big Dance with a losing conference record.
    While things have been less than stellar for the men’s team, the women’s team seems to be headed in the right direction.  As of Feb. 23, bracketology expert Charlie Creme had the women’s team entering the NCAA tournament as a No. 8 seed before splitting the week’s games. Similar to the men’s team, the Lady Longhorns spent 11 weeks ranked at least tenth in AP rankings and even spent five weeks ranked third. But the team hasn’t been the same since senior forward Nneka Enemkpali suffered a torn ACL on Jan. 19 in a loss to Baylor. Since her injury, the Lady Longhorns are 5-5. They had lost four of the first five games following the season-ending injury before turning things around with a four-game winning streak.  Since Enemkpali’s injury, junior center Imani McGee-Stafford has averaged 11.4 points per game. Prior to the injury, McGee-Stafford averaged 3.75 points per game.
     

  • Austin Spurs finding themselves while the Stars are struggling

    Austin Spurs

    After a difficult start to the week, the Austin Spurs bounced back on Thursday night beating the Reno Bighorns, 112-104. 

    Trailing at halftime 59-50, the Spurs stormed back in the third quarter outscoring the Bighorn, 37-25 and out rebounding Reno, 56-37.  This provided a lead they would hang on to. 

    Jonathan Simmons scored 24 points for the Spurs as Kyle Anderson recorded his 11th double-double of the season with 17 points and 14 rebounds. 

    Austin’s Orlando Johnson nearly finished with a triple double with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists. 

    Previously in the week, the Spurs’ nine-game win streak came to an end Tuesday losing to the Santa Cruz Warriors, 109-94. 

    Five Warriors scored in double digits, led by Elliot Williams with 30 points, 8 assists, and 4 rebounds.

    James Michael McAdoo, rookie out of North Carolina, broke out by scoring 29 points on 12 of 15 shooting, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks. 

    Erik Murphy for the Spurs was outstanding with 31 points and 19 points and Johnson scored 21 points.  The Spurs, however, were trying to adjust after losing guard Bryce Cotton to a 10-day contract with the Utah Jazz.

    Starting on Saturday, Feb. 28, the Spurs will begin their week of 6 games. 

     

    Texas Stars

    This week was even more difficult for the Texas Stars after losing forward Brendan Ranford to the Dallas Stars.  Goalies Jack Campbell and Henrik Kiviaho were sent to the Stars ECHL affiliate, Idaho Steelheads.       

    Ranford will be a loss as he is fourth on the team in scoring with 13 goals and second on the team with 36 points (13 points and 23 assists).

    Tuesday on the road against the Oklahoma City Barons, the Stars came up short losing in overtime 3-2. 

    Just 1:39 into the game, the Stars scored quickly as Eric Failie was able to handle the pass in the neutral zone from Scott Valentine.

    Julius Honka later scored his own goal at the 9:33 mark of the second period.  Brandon Davidson turned the game around as he helped get the Barons on the scoreboard before the half.       

    Both offenses were quiet for the rest of the game until Jason Williams scored his 16th goal of the season for the Barons to tie the game in regulation.

    Eventually, Andrew Miller’s wrist shot from the left circle was able to sneak past Jussi Rynnas to give the Barons the win.  

    The Stars will return to the ice Friday and Saturday in Cedar Park to take on the Rockford Icehogs. 

     

  • Stadium Series provides excitement for fans and players

    The Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks clashed in an inter-state rivalry game last weekend, and the reigning Stanley Cup Champions emerged victorious with a 2-1 victory over their enemy to the north.

    The game was not played at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, nor was it played at the SAP Center in San Jose.

    Rather, the battle took place at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, the home of the San Francisco 49ers.

    Indeed, a hockey game was played outdoors in the Californian Bay Area. The temperature during the day in Santa Clara was in the 70s, and the puck-drop temperature was 57 degrees Fahrenheit. 

    Although not completely commonplace, this is not a particularly new spectacle for the NHL. The most familiar locations for Stadium Series games are cold weather cities such as New York and Chicago. Recently, however, the NHL has experimented with playing regular season games in more temperate climates.

    The successes couldn’t be much greater.

    Last year, the Anaheim Ducks defeated the Los Angeles Kings 3-0 at Dodger Stadium. Yes, an ice hockey game was played in Los Angeles, California.

    Bringing hockey to hotter outdoor climates is not the only enticing feature of the Stadium Series.  Live intermission performances by California’s own John Fogerty and the Grammy-winning Melissa Etheridge kept fans entertained even when the greatest game on ice was momentarily paused.

    The NHL has played 15 outdoor games since 2003 primarily to engage current fans and to create new ones. Levi’s Stadium filled beyond capacity for this year’s tilt with more than 70,000 people in attendance.

    Yet, the memories made at outdoor games are not just owned by the fans. The players that compete in front of these record crowds will certainly never forget their experiences, either.

    "It was incredible. From start to finish, what an atmosphere," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said after the game. "It was a once in-a-lifetime-type thing for us.”

    Sharks coach Todd McLellan also shared his thoughts on the scene. “You talk about moments where the hair stands up on your neck," McLellan said, "and tonight was one of those moments.”

    The fact that both teams are tied in the Western Conference standings and are currently battling each other for a playoff berth did not seem to matter Saturday night. Getting the opportunity to play hockey outdoors in front of a large number of passionate fans is something that even professional players and coaches cannot take for granted.

    "The fact we lost was disappointing," McLellan admitted. "But to be part of it, I wouldn't trade it for anything."

     

  • Can we fix the Pro Bowl?

    Why don’t I care about the Pro Bowl?

    This may be the million-dollar question. The Pro Bowl is the NFL equivalent of the All-Star Game, but it fails compared to the MLB and the NBA ones.

    Now, what is the reason for this? It can’t be because baseball and basketball are better than football; now that’s just ludicrous.

    Maybe it’s the lack of value in the game. The MLB All Star Game actually matters. The winning division gets home field advantage in the World Series.

    This could be a great thing for the NFL to adopt, but then they would have to have the Pro Bowl during the season.

    The recent reformatting of the Pro Bowl has only made it worse. Firstly, they moved it to be before the Super Bowl, which excluded some of the best players each year. I mean, that’s obvious, they made it to the Super Bowl after all.

    Secondly, it is no longer NFC versus AFC. This has really led to the demise of the Pro Bowl, not that it was ever great, but it was better than this. This year, for example, it was Team Irvin versus Team Carter. Each coach “drafted” players that were selected to the Pro Bowl by voting.

    Now let’s be frank, this is just unnecessary. They are trying to model a pickup game of football. Why are you ruining something that could honestly be so great?

    Think about it. A game where Aaron Rodgers is throwing to Odell Beckham Jr. Does that sound awesome or does that sound awesome?

    On paper, it should be. In reality, it is similar to watching paint dry.

    So, why can’t we have the Pro Bowl midseason like the NBA and MLB do?

    Maybe the reason the NFL is opposed to this is because of the physicality of the sport.

    However, the NFL plays the fewest games per season compared to these sports. Yes, I understand football is literally running into someone and getting hit. But playing 82 basketball games a season probably isn’t too easy either.

    Regardless of the levels of physicality, you play any sport at a professional level that often, your body will feel it.

    I’m not asking for the NFL to play 50 games. I’m asking for one more game halfway through the season, I’m asking for 17 games. Give these guys an All Star break.

    There won’t be any defense until the fourth quarter. It will just be exciting and electrifying plays for the fans. That’s all they really want.

    Does anyone watch the NBA All-Star Game for a good matchup? No. We watch it to see a dream team that will never exist elsewhere. We watch it to see Chris Paul lob the ball to James Harden. We watch it to see LeBron throw the ball to the perimeter for Carmelo to shoot a three.

    Why can’t we have this in football?

    I want to live in a world where I can see Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy in the backfield together for one game a year.

    Am I really asking for that much? No, no I am not.

    So please, give me an NFL All-Star Game that everyone will watch.

    Millions tune in to watch the NBA All Star Weekend. Millions tune in to watch the MLB All Star Game. Let’s add the NFL to that list.

    There won’t be a dunk contest, but there could be a 40-yard dash contest, a one-handed catch contest, and a throwing contest.

    Basically, it could be a casual combine. I mean, why not?

    Do it for the fans. Bring the Pro Bowl back to life. Honestly, the NFL could use all the good press it can get right now.

  • MLB: pace of the game

    For years, baseball fans have complained about how long an average baseball game lasts: around three hours and two minutes in 2014. Their complaints have been reconciled.

    In his first year as MLB commissioner, Rob Manfred is doing his best to speed up the game. Manfred announced on Friday that significant changes are being made to speed up the pace of an average baseball game. These moves hope to accelerate the instant-replay process and decrease the average game time.

    The new rules changes will require hitters to keep one foot in the batter’s box at all times, establish a time limit for breaks between innings and speed up the process of challenging a call during the game.

    The rule changes will be implemented during spring training and the MLB will evaluate the results after the season.

    “The most fundamental starting point for improving the pace of the average game involves getting into and out of breaks seamlessly,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a news release. “In addition, the batter’s box rule will help speed up a basic action of the game.”

    Another element added to the rule change is the installation of timers on the outfield scoreboards and behind home plate. Immediately following the last out of a half inning, the timer will count down from two minutes and 25 seconds for locally televised games and two minutes and 45 seconds for national games. The next hitter is expected to be in the batter’s box with 20 seconds left on the clock.

    There will obviously be some exceptions to these rules, including if the pitcher or the catcher were the last out of the inning or on base. These rules will be enforced through a warning and fine system but no fines or warnings will be granted during spring training or April 2015.

    Another component to the rule change is that managers will no longer have to walk on the field to issue an instant replay challenge. The manager may make the call from the top-step in the dugout.

    "After a year of just going out there and biding time and having friendly conversations with an umpire, I think we got tired of going through that whole charade," Philadelphia Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "I used to take my time going out there. To just get to the top step of the dugout and hold play for a second and then get the replay, which takes about 10 or 12 seconds, I think that's all good. I think it's all for the betterment of the game.

    One rule that is not in place yet is the 20-second pitch clock, where pitchers would only have 20 seconds between deliveries. No plans have scheduled this rule change in the majors but it was implemented in the Arizona Fall League last year and will be utilized in Double-A and Triple-A in the upcoming season.

    Hopefully Manfred’s rule changes will speed up the game and eventually make baseball America’s sport again.

     

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