Photo Credit: Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

WACO — Since sweeping Kansas State in late March, the Longhorns have struggled to put together any sort of positive momentum.

In the six series since, Texas has posted only one series win while being swept three times, dropping down to an RPI of 104 and eliminating any chance of receiving an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament.

But a nearly two-week long break might just be what the Longhorns needed.

The Texas bats came to life in a three-game set at Baylor with seven long balls and 18 runs, and, while it did come against a Bears team that barely got into the Big 12 tournament, the Longhorns showed a glimmer of hope in a 2-1 series win going into a must-win conference tournament.

“I think it’s really important to have that momentum and go off with a winning feeling and a decisive victory,” head coach Augie Garrido said.

Junior shortstop C.J Hinojosa came alive the most, finally breaking out of slump where he went two-for-10 with zero RBIs after fracturing a bone in his hand at TCU on April 25. Hinojosa more than doubled his season home run total, sending four home four balls over the left field wall, including the tying shot in the ninth in Saturday’s game. That shot was followed by solo home run by sophomore first baseman Tres Barrera to give Texas a 6-5 win.

“Coming back being down a run it’s good for our team,” Hinojosa said. “It shows character we have to not really worry about what’s going on and go out there and play our game.”

Jake McKenzie, who had been used as a relief pitcher for most of the season, showed his offensive prowess in the second game of a double header Sunday. The freshman singled twice with the bases loaded, bringing in two runs each in a four RBI evening to help the Longhorns to an 11-1 run-rule and the series win.

“It was fun; I got a chance to go out there and play so I took advantage the best I could and put the bat on the ball,” McKenzie said.

But beating Baylor in a three-game set is much different than winning the four or five games necessary to win the Big 12 tournament, which the Longhorns will have to do to avoid missing the NCAA tournament for the third time in four years.

Texas, who will enter the tournament as the fifth seed and play Texas Tech Wednesday at 9 a.m., went 2-10 against the top four seeds in the conference and were swept at TCU, who the Longhorns would likely have to beat two times just to reach the championship game.

But, on Sunday, Garrido referenced the 2008 Fresno State Bulldogs. That team had to win its conference title, which it did, and then went on a Cinderella run to win the national championship.

“It’s been done before,” Garrido said. “That’s the model for it.”

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Texas men’s swimming and diving team added another accolade to its long list of titles this weekend, taking home its 11th NCAA title in Iowa City, Iowa.

From the first dive to the final wall touch, the Longhorns led the meet. The team dominated the competition, claiming the team title with 528 points. Last year’s NCAA champion, California, snagged second with 399 points and Michigan came in third with 312 points.

Texas head coach Eddie Reese, named CSCAA Swimming Coach of the Meet, and former Ohio State coach Mike Peppe now share the No. 1 ranking for most NCAA titles of all time. Reese is the only coach in swimming and diving history to win NCAA team titles in four separate decades.

“I’ve got 10 rings from winning 10 championships,” Reese said. “I have no clue where they are.” 

Reese said what matters to him is the individuals who make up his team.

“I know what every kid did and how much they improved,” Reese said. “Those are things that really matter. It’s always about people. The number of championships just means I’m old.”

Before the first preliminary rounds began Thursday, Texas, as a program, held NCAA titles in every swimming event except the 500-yard freestyle and the 400-yard individual medley. By the end of the meet, sophomores Clark Smith, in the 500-yard free, and Will Licon, in the 400-yard individual medley, had both earned first-place times, rounding out Texas’s record sheet. 

In the 400-yard individual medley, Licon defeated Georgia junior Chase Kalisz, the national record-holder in the event, with a time of 3:36.37. Smith’s first place finish in the 500-yard free contributed 20 points to his team’s total.

“Clark Smith didn’t even make this meet last year, [and this year], he won an event,” Reese said. “That just doesn’t happen. I can’t make that happen. He made that happen.”

Freshman and London Olympian Joseph Schooling also made a great deal happen. Schooling helped make program history when the Longhorns qualified six swimmers, an NCAA record, in the 100-yard butterfly preliminaries for the championship final. Previously, no school had ever sent more than four swimmers to a final in any event at the NCAA Championships.

Schooling became the first ever Longhorn to sweep the 100- and 200-yard butterfly at the NCAA Championships and the first Texas swimmer in general to earn a title in both events.

“To swim my first championship season with these guys, with Eddie [Reese] and Chris [Scheaffer] and have so much success off the bat means a lot to me, and I’m excited for the next few years,” Schooling said.

While Schooling has another three years with the Longhorns, the 2015 NCAA Championships marked the last time Texas’ seniors would compete as Longhorns.

“I am still waiting for someone to wake me up right now,” senior Kip Darmody said. “I don’t think the meet could have gone any better for us. Sacrificing many Saturday nights and giving it my all every day, day in and day out, it’s surreal. Like I said, I am still waiting for someone to wake me up — it’s something special.”

Sophomore Jack Conger won the 400-medley relay alongside senior Kip Darmody, freshman Joseph Schooling and sophomore Will Licon at the NCAA Championships on Thursday.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Going to the NCAA Championship is nothing new for the Texas men’s swimming and diving team. Under 37-year head coach Eddie Reese, Texas has earned 28 top-three finishes and 10 NCAA team titles. The Longhorns also have more NCAA Championships and NCAA top-two finishes than any other men’s swimming and diving program in the country.

So far, the news out of this year’s NCAA Championships is no different. Many veterans to the Championships, this year held at the University of Iowa, are returning for their fourth and final national competition and are setting some impressive precedents.

The vets, along with their younger teammates, nearly accomplished a feat that had never been done. Texas was one event shy from opening the NCAA Championships with three consecutive event wins.

In the first finals event of the night, juniors Matt Ellis and John Murray, senior Kip Darmody and sophomore Jack Conger initially took second in the 200-freestyle relay. But after a disqualification of N.C. State, the Longhorns secured a first place finish in the 200-freestyle relay, marking Texas’ first NCAA title in the event since 1996.

In the second finals event, the 500-freestyle, sophomore Clark Smith took first, earning 20 points for his team, and becoming Texas’ first national champion in the event.

Although sophomore Will Licon broke his streak by taking second to Stanford’s David Nolan in the 200 IM, he still achieved a new record. Licon lowered his school record time in the event and more than held his own against Nolan, the senior American record holder in the 200 IM.

In the first and only diving finals event of the night, junior Cory Bowersox secured a sixth place finish on the one-meter springboard, giving him his third consecutive All-American finish in the event.

Although Texas didn’t make school history by opening the Championships with victories in the first three events, the Longhorns more than made up for it by making NCAA history.

The last time Texas won the 400-medley relay, it was with four future Olympic gold medalists. Last night, the Longhorns won with Darmody, freshman Joseph Schooling, Conger and Licon to set an NCAA record with a time of 3:01.23.

At the end of Thursday night’s sold-out NCAA Championship finals, Texas stood tall in first place with 171 points. The Longhorns will look to hold their standing until the end of the NCAA Championship on Saturday night.

Photo Credit: Jessica Lin | Daily Texan Staff

March is my favorite time of year: the end of winter, spring break and, of course, March Madness. I am a college basketball junkie. I used to play myself and I love the excitement, the team play, the win-or-go-home attitude and the frequent upsets. (Virginia’s loss on Sunday destroys my bracket!)

This seems an appropriate moment to reflect on student-athletes — the talented college students who are performing for us on the court throughout the NCAA tournament. These young men are extraordinary athletes, playing under enormous pressure. They have trained hard all season, they have won games against great odds, and they have pushed themselves beyond usual physical and mental limits. They represent their universities with pride, and we take great pride in their accomplishments — even when they lose tough games, as happened with the University of Texas basketball team Thursday against Butler.

As I enjoy the games, I also feel a sense of remorse. Most of the players we watch will never make it into the NBA. Most will never earn a dime for their play. What will they do? Are they getting a quality education that prepares them to succeed as non-athletes in our society? What do they get for their performances on the court? What have we encouraged them to expect?

I am a deep believer in the ideal of the well-rounded citizen, and for that reason I view athletics as central to university excellence. The best students should be intellectually sharp, musically adept and athletically skilled. Great universities support greatness in all areas.

My concern is that college athletics no longer fits that ideal. What we are watching on our television screens are players who see themselves as full-time athletes and part-time students, at best. Their studies are really only an afterthought. The quarterback for the national champion Ohio State football team was unique only in his willingness to admit, in a widely circulated tweet, that he viewed classes as a waste of his time. Too many college athletes are encouraged to feel the same way. Classes are required to qualify them to play — which is what they really think they are supposed to do at university.

The fault is not entirely or even primarily with the athletes. All of us, as spectators, are comfortable watching these great players, suspending our concerns about their work in the classroom. We learn their names during the NCAA tournament, but we rarely, if ever, ask about what they study or what they intend to do after their brief moments of March Madness fame pass away. We are content to cheer their athletic performances and then forget them when they no longer entertain us. They really do lose and then go home, and for many college athletes, home is not a pretty place.

I want our sports programs at the University of Texas to improve, and I want to continue watching better college athletes perform at the highest level. They make me proud and I enjoy seeing them do their stuff, especially when they crush Big 12 opponents. My concern is that we address, head-on, the true challenges of educating college athletes. How can we make sure they get a serious education while they are in college? How can we make sure they are prepared for post-athletic careers?

During the 14 years that I have been a professor at two leading college sports campuses, I have seen overwhelming evidence that we are not educating our college athletes as we should. Reports from recent scandals at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Syracuse University reinforce this observation.

College athletes receive extensive tutoring, but they are consistently encouraged to stay away from difficult majors and challenging classes. College athletes are told they must attend class, but they have practice and game schedules that often make it virtually impossible for them to show up. When they do show up, especially near the end of the semester, their bodies are broken down. I have had football and basketball players come to class who can barely walk and hold their heads up in November and March. Their goal, echoing the advice they receive from their tutors, is to “just get through.”

That should not be enough for great universities. My dream is for the University of Texas to become an even greater athletic powerhouse with true student-athletes who play hard and study hard. I want our athletes to model, for all students, what it means to be a successful person: balancing studies, athletics, relationships and health. This will never happen if we do not acknowledge the imbalances today and act to address them.

The University of Texas is the largest college athletic program in the country. It is time we step up and lead, showing how we can truly educate the best student-athletes of our time, showing their stuff in the classroom as well as on the playing field. We should have a plan for all-around excellence and nothing less. We should start now, and everyone on campus should be a part of it.

Suri is a professor in the LBJ School of Public Affairs and the Department of History. Follow Suri on Twitter @JeremiSuri.

Junior center Imani McGee-Stafford lays the ball up against Oklahoma. McGee-Stafford finished with 11 points and 10 boards as Texas advances to the Big 12 tournament conference finals.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Texas has become quite familiar with deficits this season. But down by 6 points late in the second half Friday, Texas started to streak.

With the game tied with less than 20 seconds to go, a Lady Toppers foul sent freshman guard Brooke McCarty to the charity stripe, where she sank both free throws to help Texas hang on to a 66-64 victory over Western Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

“I told our players after the game that this was obviously a hard-fought win, and it was nothing to be ashamed of that it went to the wire because I was so impressed by [Western Kentucky] … ,” head coach Karen Aston said. “I knew they would present problems for us from a matchup perspective.”

The game featured 10 lead changes, with each team leading for about 18 minutes each. Texas’s defense held the Lady Toppers to 29 percent shooting in the opening period, but 13 first-half turnovers by the Longhorns kept the game close early.

“We stopped turning the ball over in the second half and started attacking and that was really ultimately the difference, Aston said. “I am proud of our players for holding in there, and it wasn't easy with first-game jitters. I thought we really held in there.”

Junior center Imani McGee-Stafford, who started against Western Kentucky, picked up a double-double, scoring a season-high 24 points and grabbing 15 boards. She said the game scenario seemed all too familiar.

“We were in the huddle in the last four minutes, and I just kept thinking to myself, ‘We've been here before. We've been here before. We've come back from 6 or 8 points with just a little bit of time left,’” McGee-Stafford said. “So I think it's good knowing that we are able to come back, and we have the experience from games earlier in the season.”

Texas has come from behind to win in multiple games this season. Aston's lineup change gave the Longhorns NCAA tournament experience, as Friday’s starting five was the 12th different lineup in 33 games this season.

“I think because of the experience we have, we know how hard we have to push because we have lost games like this,” McCarty said. “So we just thought back to those games every time we were in the huddle, and we just pushed and pushed and pushed, and we came out with the win.”

The first-round win gives the Longhorns their 23rd victory of the season, the team’s most since the 2003-2004 season.

“I think getting this win under our belt is a great confidence booster for this team, and obviously, every game we can play is a positive for this program,” Aston said.

The Longhorns look to continue their momentum into the second round, as they face No. 4 California at 8 p.m. Sunday on ESPN2. The winner moves on to the Sweet 16.

Junior center Imani McGee-Stafford lays the ball up against Oklahoma. McGee-Stafford finished with 11 points and 10 boards as Texas advances to the Big 12 tournament conference finals.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Selection Monday has come and gone, and the Longhorns are officially going dancing. 

Texas (2210) found out it is the No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament in the Albany Region. The Longhorns will travel to Berkeley, California, to face No.12 Western Kentucky (30–4) in the first round.  

The two-time defending Conference USA champion Hilltoppers held off Southern Mississippi, 6057, on Sunday. 

Western Kentucky has a strong history in the NCAA tournament, having reached the Final Four three times, including a national championship appearance in 1992.

Texas is coming off a 7564 loss in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women's Basketball Championship final to now five-time champion Baylor. This will be the second-straight NCAA tournament appearance by Texas.

A victory in the opening round for the Longhorns would solidify the most wins the team has had since the 2003–2004 season. That team made a Sweet 16 appearance.

The Albany Region plays host to a slew of teams from Kentucky and the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed, UConn. 

Friday’s opening round matchup between Texas and Western Kentucky is scheduled to tip off at 4 p.m. on ESPN 2. The winner plays either No. 4 California or No. 13 Wichita State on Sunday. 

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the third-straight game, Texas came out victorious in what felt like an NCAA tournament elimination game.

The Longhorns topped then-No. 14 Baylor on March 2. Then they defeated Kansas State on Saturday to end the regular season. And with the help of a crisp second half Wednesday night, Texas found a way to capture a 65–53 win over Texas Tech in the first round of the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City, Missouri.

“From the 16-minute mark down to about the six-minute mark, we were maybe as efficient as we’ve been all year offensively,” head coach Rick Barnes said.

However, it wasn’t a blowout the entire way for Texas against the last-place Red Raiders. Tech managed to stick with the Longhorns throughout the first half and seemed to have an answer for every Texas bucket.

Despite an efficient performance in the paint, the long ball eluded the Longhorns just as it had all year. Texas shot just 3-of-13 on 3-point attempts in the first half, which helped keep Tech in the game.

At the break, Texas was only looking at a 4-point lead.

“I did think we shot too many threes at the start of the game,” Barnes said. “I’m sure Tech and anyone would like for us to do that. … We wanted to get inside.”

And that’s exactly what the Longhorns did in the second half against the Tech zone.

Playing to its size advantage, Texas went on a 16–4 run to open up a 16-point lead.

Junior center Cam Ridley, freshman forward Myles Turner and sophomore guard Kendal Yancy each had their own old-fashioned 3-point play during the run, as Texas found its way to the paint and the line with ease. From there, the game was never close.

After 13 3-point attempts in the first half, Texas settled for just six in the second. Instead, the guards penetrated and dished, finishing the game with 17 assists and just eight turnovers.

“[Sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor’s] demeanor was as good as it’s been all year in terms of running things,” Barnes said.

Ridley, who did a good job of creating space in the block, broke out in the second half. He had just one shot attempt in the first half but connected on 5-of-7 in the second half for all 14 of his points.

“First of all, all the credit to the guards for looking for me,” Ridley said. “I’m going to play a lot more aggressive than I have before because that’s what the team needs from me.”

Yancy added 13 and Taylor put in 12 as the only other Longhorns in double-figures. The rest of the attack was fairly well-balanced, as the Longhorns outscored Tech in the second half, 35–27, which was closer in numbers than what it felt like.

The win sets Texas up with a date with No. 13 Iowa State in the quarterfinals Thursday night at 6 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

“I think we have a good chance to get into the [NCAA] tournament,” Taylor said. “But that right now can’t be the focus. We’re looking to win the Big 12 tournament.”

Head coach Rick Barnes talks with sophomore guard Kendal Yancy. In Barnes’ last four seasons, his numbers have been eerily similar to the former football head coach Mack Brown’s.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

When Rick Barnes and Mack Brown were introduced as head coaches for men’s basketball and football, respectively, their careers were somewhat destined to be compared.

In the 1996–1997 season, then-men’s basketball coach Tom Penders led the Longhorns to the Sweet 16, and then-football coach John Mackovic won the Big 12 Championship game over heavily favored Nebraska.

Both coaches followed that up with losing seasons in their 1997–1998 campaigns, leaving Barnes and Brown to turn the programs around after achieving success in the ACC.

The majority of their tenures were filled with victories.

Barnes’ teams qualified for the NCAA tournament in the first 15 of his 16 seasons coaching Texas men’s basketball, whereas Brown won 10 or more games every season from 2001–2009.

Barnes led the Longhorns to the Sweet 16 or better five times in a seven season stretch from 2002–2008, including the school’s first Final Four appearance since 1947. Brown coached the Longhorns to their first national title since 1970 in 2005 and almost won a second title in 2009.

But the programs’ success hasn’t carried over into this decade. 

Much like Brown’s tenure ended, Barnes has struggled to bring Texas basketball back to the level of success he set the bar to in the mid-2000s. In each coaches’ last four years, their numbers are eerily similar — and not in a good way for Texas. 

Both coaches had similar winning percentages in this time period. Brown posted a 30–21 record (58.82 percent), and Barnes sits at 79–55 (58.96 percent). In the first three quarters of their tenures, both coaches won at a much higher rate; Brown won 82.58 percent in his first 12 seasons, and Barnes won 72.12 percent in his first 13.

Barnes’ teams compiled a poor record against teams that made the NCAA tournament, similar to Brown’s struggles against teams that went bowling.

Using Lunardi’s projections, which are bracket projections,  to fill in the 2015 tournament field, Texas is 21–45 against opponents that make the Big Dance, including 13–35 against conference foes. Brown, on the other hand, went 16–19 against teams that played in bowls, including 11–16 in conference play.

Likewise, both coaches’ records against teams in the AP top 25 are comparable. Brown went 4–15, and Barnes posted a record of 10–32 — both winning percentages of under
25 percent.

From the 2011–2012 season to the present, the basketball team is 35–37 in regular season conference play under Barnes, but it is only 22–36 when excluding Texas Tech and TCU, the perennial cellar dwellers from the record. From 2010–2013, Brown went 18–17 in conference play but was only 12–16 when excluding Kansas and Iowa State, the two worst teams in the Big 12 over this stretch.

In addition, the two times Brown and Barnes each finished below .500 in conference play occurred in their past four seasons.

If Barnes continues to follow Brown’s decline, he may end up with the
same fate.

The Texas men’s and women’s diving teams earned a host of NCAA Championship qualifying scores at the NCAA Zone “D” Diving Meet.

The meet, held at the University of Iowa, was one of several across the country. Teams divided into specific “zones,” in which divers competed in their final chance to earn a bid to the upcoming national championship meets.

The top-eight divers in the women’s 1-meter event finals were guaranteed qualifying scores. Junior Meghan Houston and senior Emma Ivory-Ganja snagged top-six finishes, assuring their places atop the springboard at the NCAA Championship next week. 

In the 3-meter competition, only a top-10 finish was needed to qualify. Both Houston and Ivory-Ganja, along with sophomore Murphy Bromberg, who took first, earned NCAA berths in the event Monday. This feat will mark Bromberg’s second-consecutive championship appearance, as well as Houston’s first and Ivory-Ganja’s fourth.

On the men’s side, the event proved a success. In the 1-meter diving finals Monday night, Cory Bowersox, junior and two-time All-American in the 1-meter event, senior Will Chandler and sophomore Mark Anderson earned NCAA qualifying scores as they finished among the top four. 

Bowersox’s has earned NCAA qualification each of the three years he has been on the team. Additionally, Chandler is heading to the championship meet for the fourth consecutive year.

The men’s diving trio tacked on another impressive qualifying finish in Tuesday night’s 3-meter finals as each posted a one, two, three finish. Chandler took the top spot.

The men’s platform competition is scheduled for Wednesday, and the corresponding NCAA Championships will be in the same pool on March 26–28, and the women hit the water for the Championships March 19–21.

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Beginning Thursday night and continuing into Saturday, the American Short Course Championship will give lesser-known Texas men’s swimmers a moment in the spotlight.

Many of Texas’ most accomplished swimmers, such as sophomore Jack Conger and junior Kip Darmody, won’t be making appearances at the meet, but 16 other Longhorns will. The championship, hosted at Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center, serves as a last chance to qualify for the upcoming NCAA Championships.

 The meet is mostly comprised of short-distance races. The only long-distance event in which Texas is competing is the 1650-yard freestyle. Seniors Nicolas Munoz and Jacob Ritter and sophomore Cory Loria will represent the Longhorns in this lone distance race. Former Texas swimmer Michael McBroom will also compete in the 1650-yard freestyle race.

 The bulk of the Longhorns will race in the 200-yard freestyle and 200-yard breaststroke events. In the 200-yard freestyle, the six competing Longhorns will have to finish with a time of 1:33.62 or better to qualify for the NCAA “A” standard, which guarantees them a spot in the NCAA Championships. Ritter’s seed time of 1:34.93 is not far off. In the 200-yard breaststroke, junior Liam Lockwood has Texas’ best chance of achieving a qualifying time if he can improve by 2.3 seconds.

 Preliminary rounds begin at 9:15 a.m. The top eight men will advance to the finals, which begins at 6 p.m.