Kansas City

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-94.6272
Photo Credit: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Ariel Atkins gave her all to the Longhorns’ program, even down to the last second.

The senior guard walked off the court of the Sprint Center after Friday’s season-ending loss to 3-seeded UCLA in the NCAA Tournament, knowing it was the last time she’d don the burnt orange and white she’d worn with such pride over the past four years.

The journey concluded as Texas fell, 84-75, in a game that was an uphill battle the whole way through.

The Bruins outplayed the Longhorns from the opening tip, employing a full-court press that forced seven Texas turnovers in the first quarter. Even when they could break the press, the Longhorns couldn’t buy a basket as they shot an abysmal 5-for-16. UCLA capitalized on the sluggish start, claiming a 19-11 lead at the end of the first.

“We were a little uncharacteristic with the basketball,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said. “We just had inopportune turnovers, obviously way too many, (early on). You have to give UCLA a lot of credit.”

That lead ballooned to 11 for the Bruins in the second quarter with 3:28 remaining. Every attempt by Texas to chip away at the lead was answered by a UCLA run as the Bruins took a 39-31 advantage into the half.

Texas retreated to its locker room, just two quarters away from seeing its season come to an abrupt end. But Atkins held her head high as she prepared to come back out for the start of the second half.

She wasn’t going down without a fight.

Atkins set the tone in the third quarter, starting it off with a corner three that ignited the Longhorn bench. The senior guard then delivered on the defensive end, stealing the ball and dishing a no-look assist to junior forward Jatarie White on the fastbreak.

Texas rallied behind its senior leader, igniting a 14-3 run to claim a 45-42 lead with 6:50 remaining in the third — its first lead of the game.

“Our message at halftime was to stick to our game,” Atkins said. “We hadn’t played our type of basketball in the first half, but I feel like in the third quarter we found a flow.”

But UCLA held its composure, responding with a back-breaking 17-4 run to take a commanding 59-49 lead entering the final quarter of play.

Desperate to keep her season — and her career — alive, Atkins kept fighting.

The 5-foot-11 guard kicked off the final quarter by sinking a contested layup, trimming the lead to eight. She found her way into the paint once more on the following possession, snagging an offensive board and finishing from close range.

Once again the Bruins didn’t budge, extending the lead back to double digits thanks to UCLA’s Jordin Canada. The Longhorns had no answer for the senior guard as she torched Texas for 20 points in the second half.

“In the second half, (Canada) just decided to take over,” senior guard Brooke McCarty said. “When she gets going, it’s going to be a tough matchup. She really managed the game well.”

With just eight seconds remaining in the game, UCLA secured the final rebound and began to dribble the clock out. Atkins full-court pressed until the buzzer sounded.

Atkins totaled 11 points in the final quarter, finishing with a team-high 20 points to go along with seven rebounds in the loss.

The heartbreaking defeat marked the final chapter for a player who led the Longhorns to four straight Sweet 16 appearances, establishing a standard for the program for years to come.

“I’m extremely blessed to have had this opportunity,” Atkins said. “God opened up a lot of doors for me since I’ve been here. Now the stage is set for our younger players to take off. They know what they need to do.”

Lewis Hall, educational administration graduate student, won a national championship with the UT men’s club volleyball team. Hall says playing volleyball helped him cope during rough times and was his way of honoring his mother.
Photo Credit: Thalia Juarez | Daily Texan Staff

Lewis Hall stood in Bartle Hall in Kansas City, Missouri, next to the court on which he would play in the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation Men’s Division III Bronze Bracket championship game. 

Hall took out his phone, opened Snapchat and took a picture of court No. 9, his late mother’s favorite number. He captioned the photo, “Playing on Mom’s favorite number.” Glancing down at his mother’s pink water bottle, which he used all weekend, he soaked in the moment.

Last year, Hall, now a 27-year-old educational administration graduate student, was unable to play in the NCVF Championships because his mother had been diagnosed with cancer. She moved to Austin so he could take care of her, but this past February, Hall’s mother died. Two months later, he found himself in Kansas City with a chance to play for a national championship. 

“If you didn’t know what he was going through, you wouldn’t be able to tell by his outer personality,” said biomedical engineering freshman Zach Murray, one of Hall’s teammates. “It takes a strong person to push through such adversity, and Lewis is definitely that person.”

Hall and his mother were extremely close. Despite her illness, she encouraged him to continue playing, and that same encouragement allowed him to gather the strength to continue playing after her death.

“I know she would’ve been really proud,” Hall said. “I knew that [playing volleyball] was my way of fighting for her.”

Texas ended up defeating Michigan in the title game, winning the first game 25–12 and the second game 25–18. Hall was able to honor his mother by claiming a national championship, a culmination of a season Hall used as a coping mechanism ever since his mother’s death.

“It was an outlet for me to be able to play volleyball,” Hall said. “It was a good stress reliever and [gave] me peace of mind with the tough times we were dealing with.”

Hall began playing volleyball as a freshman at Quartz Hill High School in California. He simply had an interest in picking up a sport, and he had multiple friends trying out for the team. Hall went on to found a club volleyball team as an undergrad at California State University-Monterey Bay before playing on the club team as a graduate student at Texas.  

Once he completes his graduate degree in May, Hall plans to look for an opening at UT. He would be open to the idea of becoming an assistant coach for the club volleyball team and giving back to the program that gave him so much. 

“Being a part of something that really connects you to a campus and is bigger than yourself — I think those things are priceless,” Hall said. 

When Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear walked underneath the spotlight and took their seats on stage, we had no idea they’d be magic.

On Friday, at the South By Southwest Radio Day Stage, Ruth and Madisen Ward unexpectedly drew us in from the moment they strummed the first note on their acoustic guitars. The Kansas City native mother-and-son duo will release their debut album, Skeleton Crew, on May 19.

The duo’s quiet, strong stage presence commanded the audience’s attention. With nothing but guitars, the younger Ward charmed the room with deep, husky vocals.

“Whole Lotta Problems,” the set’s second song, was an emotional, feel-it-in-your-stomach experience. The elder Ward’s background vocals grew more bellowing as the song progressed. She let go of the guitar, clenched her fists and closed her eyes, making it apparent that this was her story.

In between songs, the younger Ward cracked a joke about Kansas City's barbecue outshining Austin’s. The duo’s personable interactions made it feel as though the crowd had been welcomed into their home for a family reunion.

The Wards played a few upbeat songs, such as “Crazy Days,” before ending with their solemn “Sorrows and Woes.”

As they rose from their chairs to leave, the audience jumped from their seats to give Madisen and the Mama Bear a standing ovation. There is no doubt that they were our most surprising and most endearing find of SXSW.

MLS Touchline- Week One

Friday marks the start of the 20th season for Major League Soccer.

Or at least it should.

Currently, there is still no CBA, Collective Bargaining Agreement, between MLS and the players, which, if unresolved by Friday, could result in a player’s strike and games not being played.

But we’re going to  go on the assumption that the games will be played as scheduled this weekend.

This season should be an exciting and intriguing year for MLS as soccer is at an all-time high in the U.S. after a tremendous showing in television ratings for the World Cup last year and heightened popularity of the English Premiere League.

Attendance last year for MLS was up across the league, if you take away the stats from now-defunct Chivas U.S.A. The average attendance for the league was just over 19,000, which is roughly near capacity for most of the teams’ stadiums (CenturyLink Field obviously notwithstanding).

There are a number of key storylines going into this year that should keep things intriguing from March to Decemeber. (We’re going to hold off on the CBA issue here.)

First, there are the two new teams coming into this season: New York City F.C., a joint venture between Manchester City and the New York Yankees, and Orlando City F.C. The intrigue here is both on and off the pitch. Both teams ought to do well with their solid rosters and the fact that they’re both in the weaker Eastern Conference. And then there’s the attendance watch for both teams in their first years. Orlando has already announced that their first match on Sunday, coincidently enough against New York City, at the Citrus Bowl is sold out. Whether that keeps up and whether New York City can put up good numbers at Yankee Stadium will be something to keep an eye on.

Then there’s the Western Conference that, much like it’s NBA counterpart, is absolutely stacked with competitors. Last year the conference produced about six or seven teams that would have made the postseason had they been in the Eastern Conference. That goes off both points and the fact they would have had an easier schedule. This year it only gets stronger with the addition of Houston and Sporting Kansas City, though MLS has added an extra playoff slot for each conference which helps. It’s still a long season, but I’d venture a guess that there are four to five teams in the conference with a legitimate shot to win the MLS Cup and another two that could be contenders.

Within that conference are two teams are the biggest contenders to win it all, each with its own big storyline.

First, the Los Angeles Galaxy are going to have to figure out a way to play without Landon Donovan, who retired after last year. The Galaxy are in a good spot, however, with Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes up front on the attack. Still, it’s worth watching to see how the defending champs without the league’s best player.

And then there’s the Seattle Sounders who, despite their regular season success, find their trophy cabinet MLS Cup-less. Last year the Sounders were one round away from making it to the MLS Cup final, but fell short to the Galaxy. Seattle returns the same basic squad, minus defender Deandre Yedlin, so expect them to be contenders this season.

These storylines, along with a host of others, will (hopefully) be answered this year in what will likely be the best season in the history of the league.

That season has to start without a strike, but hopefully those differences are settled before the season begins or without a work stoppage. But that’s another story for another day.

Predictions

·      Supporters’ Shield – Seattle

·      Western Conference playoff teams – Seattle, Los Angeles, Sporting Kansas City, Real Salt Lake, FC Dallas, Houston

·      Eastern Conference playoff teams – D.C. United, Orlando City, New York City F.C., New England, Columbus Crew, New York Red Bulls

·      MLS Cup matchup – Seattle vs. Orlando City

·      MLS Cup Winner – Seattle

Power Rankings

1.    Seattle – The Seattle Sounders were the best team in the regular season last year, taking home the Supporter’s Shield and winning the U.S. Open Cup. But the Sounders couldn’t quite catch that elusive MLS Cup title that has dogged them the past few years. This year they’re set up once again to be favorites to take the title with forwards midfielder, and Texan, Clint Dempsey and forward Obafemi Martins, as well as a talented supporting cast. With the experience and passionate fan base, Seattle has to be considered a top team in MLS, if only for the start of the season.

2.    Los Angeles – The Galaxy will take a hit in their chance to repeat with U.S. legend Landon Donovan retiring, but there’s more to this team than Donovan. Forwards Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes made a significant impact up front for Los Angeles last year and will again team up to be a potent attacking duo. Add in Steven Gerrard at the summer transfer window and the Galaxy are in a great spot to repeat as champs once again.

3.    Orlando City – Of the two expansion teams joining the league this season, Orlando City is the most likely to make some noise and potentially find itself in a position to make it to the MLS Cup. Of course, everyone knows about Brazilian forward Kaka, but City features more than that. Orlando should set in goal with Jamaican national team goalie Donovan Rickets. And if midfielder Brek Shea can find the same success he had a few years ago with FC Dallas, City might have a solid attack.

4.    New York City F.C. – Of course, the biggest name team coming into this year is New York City F.C. under the combined ownership of Manchester City and the New York Yankees. While some uncertainty still looms over whether or not midfielder Frank Lampard will make the transfer from Manchester, City have a solid team in place anyway with forward David Villa, midfielder Mix Diskerud and defender George John. With a relatively weak Eastern Conference, NYC F.C. will certainly be contenders to make it to the MLS Cup.

5.    Sporting Kansas City – Last year was a disappointment for Sporting K.C., dropping out of the postseason in the wild card round a year after making it to the MLS Cup. And things won’t get much easier for them this season either as Kansas City, along with Houston, make the jump to the stacked Western Conference. Still, SKC boasts of U.S. national team players midfielder Graham Zusi and defender Matt Besler, and forward Dom Dwyer became a force to be reckoned with last year. It won’t be easy in the Western Conference, but Sporting will not be an easier out for anybody this season.

The Bench – 6. Real Salt Lake, 7. New York Red Bulls, 8. D.C. United, 9. Houston, 10. FC Dallas

Games to Watch

·      New York City F.C. at Orlando City, 4 p.m. Sunday, ESPN2
Great scheduling from the MLS scheduling crew resulted in the two expansion teams facing off against each other to start off the season. But while it seems like a gimmick, this should still be a great match. Both teams come is as contenders right off the bat to top the Eastern Conference. Both teams also feature big names such as Kaka and Villa. This game should be the best game of the weekend.

·      New England at Seattle, 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Fox Sports 1
Of the teams we know about and are returning, this should be the best match of the weekend. New England was oh so close to coming away with the MLS Cup last year, falling in the final minutes to Los Angeles. The Revolution have a bright star in midfielder Lee Nguyen and also feature U.S. national team defender Jermaine Jones. Seattle, as mentioned earlier, have been close to getting to the MLS Cup, but have yet to fulfill that goal. With the great Seattle fans providing the backdrop, this should be a fun one.

Rest of the Schedule

·      Chicago at Los Angeles – 9 p.m., Friday, MLS Live, UniMas

·      Montreal at D.C. United – 2 p.m., Saturday, MLS Live

·      Colorado at Philadelphia – 3 p.m., Saturday, MLS Live

·      Toronto F.C. at Vancouver – 5 p.m., Satuday, MLS Live

·      San Jose at FC Dallas – 7:30 p.m., Saturday, MLS Live

·      Columbus at Houston – 7:30 p.m., Saturday, MLS Live

·      Real Salt Lake at Portland – 9:30 p.m., Saturday, MLS Live

·      New York Red Bulls at Sporting Kansas City – 6:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1

Junior goalkeeper Abby Smith and the Longhorns went just 6-7 in their final 13 regular season games, but they are focused on turning things around in the Big 12 tournament.

Photo Credit: Mike McGraw | Daily Texan Staff

Texas women’s soccer sailed through the first six games of the season without making an appearance in the loser’s column.  

However, the Longhorns’ remaining 13 games were a turbulent series of contests that saw Texas go 6-7-0, including a 3-1 road loss at the hands of a struggling TCU team and a loss against Oklahoma State to close out the regular season.  

None of that will matter Wednesday. The Longhorns can forget their tumultuous regular season and look to make an impact in the quarterfinal round of the Big 12 tournament against No. 10 Texas Tech at 2 p.m. in Kansas City, Missouri.

“We have a new season starting on Wednesday in the Big 12 tournament, and that’s our focus,” senior midfielder Sharis Lachappelle said. “We’re going to put [the Oklahoma State loss] behind us and go and win that tournament.”

The Longhorns and Red Raiders met in Austin in a September tilt that served as the high-water mark in Texas’ 2014 campaign. That contest saw freshman Olivia Brook score the golden goal, which led Texas to an overtime upset against a 9-0 Red Raider team that was the sixth-ranked team in the nation at the time.

Things slowly went downhill from that point in the season, but the Longhorns have gone through somewhat of resurgence in recent weeks. They knocked off Oklahoma and Baylor in consecutive road contests during the waning games of the season, and the once stagnant offense showed some welcome signs of life toward the end of the season.

The Red Raiders are coming in to the tournament on a torrid streak of four consecutive wins, including a 6-1 dismantling of Iowa State on Sunday.

The Texas Tech offense has been on point all season, averaging 1.94 goals and 17.6 shots per game. Junior forward Janine Beckie, the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, spearheads the Red Raider attack with a team-leading 13 goals.

The Longhorn defense, led by senior defender Brooke Gilbert, has the challenge of going against one of the most balanced teams in the conference. Senior defender Jaelene Hinkle of Texas Tech earned her fourth first-team All-Big 12 selection and was one of six Red Raiders on All-Big 12 teams.

If the Longhorns are to deal a second loss to end the Red Raiders’ season, it will likely come at the gloves of junior goalkeeper Abby Smith. She closed the regular season with a career-high 10-save performance against Oklahoma State, helping earn her first team All-Big 12 honors.

Even if Texas isn’t able to beat Texas Tech, it still has a slim chance of making the NCAA tournament, but the Longhorns’ spot will only be guaranteed if they can pull off a victory in the quarterfinal round and then go on to become Big 12 champions.

“The season is just beginning,” head coach Angela Kelly said. “Everybody’s heading to Kansas City to win the tournament. We’re going to take it [one] game at a time.”

Royals, Giants face off in Game 1 of World Series

The 2014 World Series will get kicked off in Missouri tonight as the Kansas City Royals host the San Francisco Giants in the first game of the best-of-seven series.

For the Royals, this is their first World Series appearance since they won it all in 1985. The Giants are back for the third time in five years and looking for their third title. Both teams started this postseason by winning wild card games and are looking to make history by winning this destiny-filled series.

Honestly, I have no idea who will win this one. My postseason bracket this year was awful and these two teams have been playing with some kind of magic that makes anything possible. Nevertheless, here’s my brief rundown of the matchups and my pick to win it all.

The starting pitchers that have been confirmed so far are as follows:

Game 1- (SF) Madison Bumgarner v. (KC) James Shields

Game 2- (SF) Jake Peavy v.(KC) Yordano Ventura

Game 3- (KC) TBD v. (SF) Tim Hudson

Game 4- (KC) TBD v. (SF) Ryan Vogelsong

Statistically, the Giants have a lower team earned run average (2.18) than the Royals (2.93), but I don’t think that completely sums up the pitching comparison. San Francisco’s starting rotation has been a little better this postseason, in my opinion, but Kansas City has a much deeper and stronger bullpen. The Giants’ relievers have been good, but their bullpen isn’t as solid as Kansas City’s.

Both closers successfully saved every game they were asked to, with San Francisco’s Sergio Casilla going 4-for-4 and not allowing a run in 6.2 innings pitched and Kansas City’s Greg Holland going 6-for-6 with one run scored in eight innings pitched. Again, I think the Royals have a slight advantage in pitching as the game goes on and I think their bullpen will need to be extra special against the Giants’ persistent offense.

Offensively, both of these teams are incredibly dangerous. They can both score big early and know how to get runs across the plate when the game is on the line. Kansas City has a better team batting average (.259 to San Francisco’s .244) and a number of guys with impressive hitting stats through the postseason, but you can’t underestimate the veteran hitters in the Giants’ lineup.

The Giants will be led by Buster Posey (.302 AVG, .354 OBP, 5 RBI), Pablo Sandoval (.326 AVG, .396 OBP, RBI), Hunter Pence (.256 AVG, .341 OBP, 3RBI) and former Longhorn Brandon Belt (.286 AVG, .409 OBP, 6 RBI, HR) when they come to the plate. As a team, they hit five homeruns and stole three bases in 10 postseason games so far. They have a number of supporting guys in the lineup that can get on base and drive in runs when needed.

The Royals’ offensive attack will be headed by Eric Hosmer (.448 AVG, .556 OBP, 8 RBI, 2 HR), Lorenzo Cain (.353 AVG, .378 OBP, 4 RBI), Mike Moustakas (.241 AVG, .267 OBP, 5 RBI, 4 HR) and Alex Gordon (.222 AVG, .400 OBP, 9 RBI, HR). With an impressive 13 stolen bases so far, I expect them to continue their aggressive base running. They have a lot of speedy guys who can get on base, and with eight homeruns hit as a team in the postseason, their power hitting is getting hot at exactly the right time.

Both teams have solid defenses that have made big plays to get them this far. Statistically, the Giants are better defensively with a .785 defensive efficiency ratio so far in the playoffs to the Royals’ .748 DER, but both have committed three errors, allowed three stolen bases and caught one runner in the postseason.

If San Francisco’s veteran Posey can control the Royals’ base running, it could affect their offense all the way through. But the Royals have had their way on the base paths against some great catchers already, so we’ll see what happens.

Choosing a winner in this series was very tough for me. Both teams are incredibly resilient and find ways to come up big when necessary and both can take quick leads and preserve them with solid defense. Every time I think one team has an edge, I recall something about the other team that makes me doubt whether any advantage exists.

I don’t think there is a set favorite to win this series. These teams are too similar and both are playing with this great vibe you only see in the postseason. Anything, and I mean anything, can happen when these guys take the field. I think, and hope, this series will go the full seven games and we’ll see some wild, extra-inning, walk off baseball.

So, who wins the title- the seasoned, veteran-filled team or the feisty club full of young stars? It’s an awfully tough decision, but I’m going to go with the Kansas City Royals.

Royals, Giants face off in Game 1 of World Series

The 2014 World Series will get kicked off in Missouri tonight as the Kansas City Royals host the San Francisco Giants in the first game of the best-of-seven series.

For the Royals, this is their first World Series appearance since they won it all in 1985. The Giants are back for the third time in five years and looking for their third title. Both teams started this postseason by winning wild card games and are looking to make history by winning this destiny-filled series.

Honestly, I have no idea who will win this one. My postseason bracket this year was awful and these two teams have been playing with some kind of magic that makes anything possible. Nevertheless, here’s my brief rundown of the matchups and my pick to win it all.

The starting pitchers that have been confirmed so far are as follows:

Game 1- (SF) Madison Bumgarner v. (KC) James Shields

Game 2- (SF) Jake Peavy v.(KC) Yordano Ventura

Game 3- (KC) TBD v. (SF) Tim Hudson

Game 4- (KC) TBD v. (SF) Ryan Vogelsong

Statistically, the Giants have a lower team earned run average (2.18) than the Royals (2.93), but I don’t think that completely sums up the pitching comparison. San Francisco’s starting rotation has been a little better this postseason, in my opinion, but Kansas City has a much deeper and stronger bullpen. The Giants’ relievers have been good, but their bullpen isn’t as solid as Kansas City’s.

Both closers successfully saved every game they were asked to, with San Francisco’s Sergio Casilla going 4-for-4 and not allowing a run in 6.2 innings pitched and Kansas City’s Greg Holland going 6-for-6 with one run scored in eight innings pitched. Again, I think the Royals have a slight advantage in pitching as the game goes on and I think their bullpen will need to be extra special against the Giants’ persistent offense.

Offensively, both of these teams are incredibly dangerous. They can both score big early and know how to get runs across the plate when the game is on the line. Kansas City has a better team batting average (.259 to San Francisco’s .244) and a number of guys with impressive hitting stats through the postseason, but you can’t underestimate the veteran hitters in the Giants’ lineup.

The Giants will be led by Buster Posey (.302 AVG, .354 OBP, 5 RBI), Pablo Sandoval (.326 AVG, .396 OBP, RBI), Hunter Pence (.256 AVG, .341 OBP, 3RBI) and former Longhorn Brandon Belt (.286 AVG, .409 OBP, 6 RBI, HR) when they come to the plate. As a team, they hit five homeruns and stole three bases in 10 postseason games so far. They have a number of supporting guys in the lineup that can get on base and drive in runs when needed.

The Royals’ offensive attack will be headed by Eric Hosmer (.448 AVG, .556 OBP, 8 RBI, 2 HR), Lorenzo Cain (.353 AVG, .378 OBP, 4 RBI), Mike Moustakas (.241 AVG, .267 OBP, 5 RBI, 4 HR) and Alex Gordon (.222 AVG, .400 OBP, 9 RBI, HR). With an impressive 13 stolen bases so far, I expect them to continue their aggressive base running. They have a lot of speedy guys who can get on base, and with eight homeruns hit as a team in the postseason, their power hitting is getting hot at exactly the right time.

Both teams have solid defenses that have made big plays to get them this far. Statistically, the Giants are better defensively with a .785 defensive efficiency ratio so far in the playoffs to the Royals’ .748 DER, but both have committed three errors, allowed three stolen bases and caught one runner in the postseason.

If San Francisco’s veteran Posey can control the Royals’ base running, it could affect their offense all the way through. But the Royals have had their way on the base paths against some great catchers already, so we’ll see what happens.

Choosing a winner in this series was very tough for me. Both teams are incredibly resilient and find ways to come up big when necessary and both can take quick leads and preserve them with solid defense. Every time I think one team has an edge, I recall something about the other team that makes me doubt whether any advantage exists.

I don’t think there is a set favorite to win this series. These teams are too similar and both are playing with this great vibe you only see in the postseason. Anything, and I mean anything, can happen when these guys take the field. I think, and hope, this series will go the full seven games and we’ll see some wild, extra-inning, walk off baseball.

So, who wins the title- the seasoned, veteran-filled team or the feisty club full of young stars? It’s an awfully tough decision, but I’m going to go with the Kansas City Royals.

MLB Wild Card Preview

The MLB postseason is upon us, and though we didn’t get the drama of two one-game playoffs to get to the one-game Wild Card playoffs like last season, we’re still going to experience a lot of great baseball.

 

First, the wild card games have to be played to determine who will face the top seed in each league. Here’s a quick breakdown of the two match-ups and my prediction of who will be advancing to their respective division series.

 

American League

The Oakland Athletics (88-74) will be going to Kansas City to face the Royals (89-73) on Sept. 30 to find out who will advance to the ALDS to play the Los Angeles Angels. They faced each other seven times this season, with the Royals winning five of those games.

 

However, both Kansas City losses came when Jon Lester (LHP, 16-11, 2.46 ERA) was on the mound for the Athletics- as will be the case on Tuesday night. James Shields (RHP, 14-8, 3.21 ERA) will be hurling the ball for the Royals and hoping to continue an impressive month of September.

 

Shields won two of five starts and boasted a 2.31 ERA in the last month of the season and has an extremely solid bullpen to back him up late in the game. Lester was fantastic in the postseason last year, helping the Boston Red Sox win the World Series by going 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA. He has some good relievers behind him, too.

 

Offensively, the Royals come into the postseason with the fourth best team batting average (.263) in the majors. But the Athletics have a slight edge in on-base percentage and scored 78 more runs than Kansas City during the season.

 

Scoring early will be crucial considering both teams have incredible closers. The Royals have the slight advantage in the closer situation with Greg Holland winning 46 of 48 save opportunities during the season and coming into the playoffs with a 1.44 ERA. Sean Doolittle of the A’s isn’t too bad either, going 22-for-26 with a 2.73 ERA.

 

Overall, I feel that whoever gets the bats going first will take this one. Both teams struggled during the final stretch of the season and had little run production, and with two great pitchers on the mound I don’t expect this to be a high-scoring game.

 

Kansas City waited an awful long time to get back to the playoffs, and unfortunately I don’t see them lasting very long. I’m taking the Oakland Athletics in this game.

 

National League

The San Francisco Giants (88-74) will be traveling to Pittsburgh to play the Pirates (88-74) on Oct. 1 to fight for the chance to play the Washington Nationals in the NLDS. They played six games against each other in the regular season and the Pirates won four.

 

San Francisco will be sending their ace Madison Bumgarner (LHP, 18-10, 2.98 ERA) to the mound and the Pirates will put the ball in the hands of their surprise of the season, RHP Edinson Volquez (13-7, 3.04 ERA).

 

Volquez was fantastic in the month of September, earning a 1.08 ERA and going 5-0 in his last 10 starts. If he can continue his dominance, the Pirates might end up winning this game. But Bumgarner was pretty good in the final stretch as well, going 6-2 with a 2.12 ERA in his last 10 starts.

 

A big difference between the two leagues is that NL pitchers have to hit. In that aspect, the Giants have a substantial advantage because Bumgarner (.258) has a much better batting average than Volquez (.038). Collectively, the Pirates have a slightly better team batting average and got on base and scored more than the Giants during the regular season.

 

The Pirates will have some momentum going into Wednesday’s game after winning 18 of 27 games in September, but they are on a two-game losing streak. The Giants are riding a two-game winning streak and went 13-25, not including the completion game they won over the Colorado Rockies, in the last month of the season.

 

I had a tough time choosing a winner in this match-up, but in the end the experience of the San Francisco Giants was too much for me to overlook. I think they’ll rally behind a solid performance from Bumgarner and their veteran core of Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence to beat Andrew McCutchen and the Pirates.

 

All in all, I think we’ll see two tight games to kick off what should be a great postseason.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Head to the floor and towel over his head, Cory Jefferson slowly unlaced his shoes and set them to his right side.

The senior forward had just walked slowly into the locker room with a light dusting of tears on his face after the Bears’ late-game collapse against the now Big 12 champion Cyclones.

After moving his shoes back to the left side of his body Jefferson looked up, finally ready to address the crowd of media hovering around his locker.

“I wasn’t able to bring it today,” Jefferson said. “I wasn’t there for my team on the offensive end.”

Jefferson, who had three double-doubles in his team’s improbable three-game run to the final of the Big 12 tournament, mustered only five points on 2-for-9 shooting in Baylor’s 74-65 loss. The No. 7 seeded Bears were anchored by their senior leader all tournament long, but the mid-range jumpers that had dropped earlier in the week only met a metallic clang against the Cyclones.

He wasn’t the only reason Baylor fell, but the sense of responsibility was evident on Jefferson’s face. Baylor had a chance to do something special, and it fell short.

“We wanted it badly,” Jefferson said. “We would have been the first team in Baylor history to bring [a Big 12 championship] home.”

Jefferson wasn’t alone in quiet mourning after the loss.

Sophomore forward Isaiah Austin spoke with his head to the floor, his barely audible words delivered toward the black-carpeted locker room.

Fellow sophomore Rico Gathers sat on his stool alone to Austin’s right with his hood pulled over his head. Gathers' Dre Beats headphones producing the only sound as he stared icily across the room.

A similar look was shared by all in the Baylor morgue doubling as a dressing room. All the grins produced over the team’s season-saving run the past four weeks – the Bears had won 12 of their last 14 games to secure an NCAA tournament birth – were erased by a late loss.

“This group of guys, we’re not satisfied,” Austin said. “We want to win, and we didn’t do that tonight.”

Baylor’s season isn’t over. Their Big 12 championship run likely bumped them up to a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament. And, given the way the Bears have played lately, as Austin said after the game, “nobody wants to see us.”

But on a cold, rainy night in Kansas City, the only feeling for the Bears was disappointment.

As the media slowly left the locker room Jefferson’s stoic expression said it all. Head fixed toward the ground and jersey still painted on his back, the senior knew his last opportunity for a conference championship had evaporated.

“And that’s what hurts,” Jefferson said.

Big 12 Tournament

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Texas wanted a win. West Virginia needed one. But in the end, desire proved more bountiful than survivor’s instinct.

The Longhorns blitzed the Mountaineers from the get-go in a 66-49 win, knocking West Virginia out of the Big 12 tournament and popping its NCAA bubble in the process. A 20-4 run to open the game set the tone early, and Texas stayed on the gas, never allowing the Mountaineers to crawl within double-digits.

“We just wanted to get back to being aggressive and attacking from the very beginning,” sophomore guard Javan Felix said.  “I think we did a good job of that at the start of the game and kind of carried over throughout the game.”               

West Virginia (17-15, 9-10 Big 12) began the game frazzled and timid from the floor, starting 1-for-16 with many of the shots coming in one-on-one situations before the shot clock expired. Juwan Staten, the Big 12’s leading scorer, mustered only four points on 1-for-11 shooting as chants of “air ball” from the Longhorn Band serenaded him  the entire night.

“We know how good of a player and how quick he is,” freshman guard Kendall Yancy said. “We just backed off of him and took away his strength, which is driving.”

Texas’ aggressive zone defense stifled a Mountaineer attack, which had sizzled to the tune of 92 points in an upset win over Kansas last Saturday. That win sparked the Mountaineers’ tournament chances, but the wind created from West Virginia missing 70 percent of its shots eliminated the flame quickly.

“They've got a long back line in the zone, and they deflected a lot of passes,” West Virginia guard Terry Henderson said.  “We did a poor job of squaring up and really looking at the floor before we threw the ball. I think we waited too late to try and flash in the middle to get some easy shots or some easy ball movement.

The Longhorns (23-9, 11-7 Big 12) looked nothing like the team they had been over the past few weeks. Entering the game Texas had lost five straight road games and dropped four out of its last seven contests. A young Longhorn team appeared to be in an underclassman slump, but it awoke at the correct time for tournament play.

Early in the season the Longhorns’ big lead would have been fragile, but they did a great job of keeping their composure whenever West Virginia made a mini run. Freshman point guard Isaiah Taylor termed the performance “the first time” this season the Longhorns had a sizable lead and didn’t surrender it later in the game.

“It showed that we are tough. And we are resilient. And we can hold them off in the second half,” Taylor said.

The Longhorns were paced by junior forward Jonathan Holmes with 20 points and sophomore guard Javan Felix added 16. Felix, the Longhorns’ most dangerous outside threat, seemed to find his shooting touch after failing to eclipse seven points in four of his last five games.

Felix, who has never be described as a hesitant shooter, worked to find open space on the outside, darting in and out of lanes and always seemed to find space in the corner.

The victory propels Texas into the semifinals for a matchup with Baylor, but more importantly, it creates a much needed momentum for a team that had struggled the past few weeks.

“If we don’t win away from home our season will be over,” Holmes said. “We only have two more guaranteed games, if we don’t have momentum moving forward our season will be over pretty soon.”

Tipoff is at 8:30 p.m. CST and will be shown on ESPNU.