Bohls: Smart sizes up Texas' first-round NCAA tournament foe, deserves coaching recognition
While I got ya, here are nine things and one crazy prediction:
1. Big-time bigs. Shaka Smart ain’t looking past anybody, even 14th-seeded Abilene Christian, which is making its second NCAA Tournament appearance. The Texas basketball coach with the chia pet hair and the perpetually positive outlook labeled ACU “a legitimate challenge” in our “On Second Thought” podcast interview. He can't wait for the matchup between the teams’ bigs because Jericho Sims and Kai Jones are formidable in the paint and playing their best basketball ever. They’ll contend with burly 240-pound 7-footer Kolton Kohl and 6-8, 220-pound Joe Pleasant down low. Nearly every Big 12 team regularly plays four perimeter players. … Smart should be a strong candidate for national coach of the year — along with the top-seeded coaches and Oklahoma State’s Mike Boynton — after sweeping Kansas, winning the school’s first-ever Big 12 Tournament championship and getting, at No. 3, the Longhorns’ highest seed since they drew a No. 2 designation in 2008. Smart’s crew raced to a 10-1 start and No. 4 national ranking but could have been derailed by the COVID-19 pause that forced them to practice 19 straight days without a full team and saw Smart test positive. But Texas won five straight — all on the road — and is supremely confident. … ACU has an impressive 23-4 record and a rising coach in Joe Golding, a former guard for ACU when it was a Division II program and a close friend of Chris Beard. Golding got a whole $1,000 bonus when ACU made the dance in 2019, only to be blown out by Kentucky by 34. That's not all that was blown out. Golding ripped a hole in his pants and had to go buy khakis at a local store in celebrating the NCAA ticket-punching win. His parents used to run a children’s clothing store in Midland where Golding grew up, and I’m sure his old friends razzed him about being too big for his britches.
2. Stadium’s a real cutie. Or Q2. OK, I’m sold. Took a two-hour tour of the sparkling, open-air Q2 Stadium, which is one good hoof kick from the Domain and is 95% complete. It’s striking and should be in perfect working order by the time Austin FC plays its first home match on June 19 against San Jose. I was thoroughly impressed with the beauty and grandeur of the new soccer home from its comfortable, 4,000 breathable mesh seats on the east side (the only MLS stadium to feature such amenities) to the 350-person beer hall with its keg-simulated ceiling lighting and the glitzy locker room. The air circulation is terrific, the shades of green color striking and the two-story merchandizing store is, uh, big. … The seats in their locked-up positions for the supporters section in the south end are interesting since those 3,500 rowdy fans must stand for the entire match. “They’re like the Cameron Crazies,” said Austin FC president/tour guide Andy Loughnane. Those seats can be unlocked and removed with that area converting into a stage for musical concerts or to expand to host a World Cup qualifier, which is possible since Dallas and Houston have bid for the 2026 event. Hey, got to dream big, right? There are 350 field-level seats just behind the team benches to offer viewing like those at NBA courtside. The roof canopy, the second largest in the MLS, hangs over 100% of the seats. We even snuck into Anthony Precourt’s 16-seat owners suite where we’re told Gov. Matthew McConaughey will be eating nachos. One of the three clubs inside the stadium is a spacious one on the west side that can hold 700 people, so if you’re interested in renting the hall for your wedding, get after it. Actually Austin FC has already had such requests, Loughnane said. There’s also a porch lounge that extends to the south of the press box, complete with couches. …. Now about those skimpy 850 parking spaces. The Cap Metro red line stop can’t get here soon enough.
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3. Mr. Detail: That’s Vic Schaefer. Asked about that, the Texas women’s basketball coach said he’s so laser-focused that he even wants to know before every game what kind of basketball the opponent uses. “Nike schools play with Nike balls, some play with Wilson balls like we just played in the Big 12 tournament. Some play with an Under Armour ball so there's different basketballs out there. I asked the other day, ‘What balls do we play with in the NCAA tournament?’ I think it's Wilson, so I said, ‘Get these Nike balls out of here.' I coach it all. I'll coach the pregame meal, I'll coach (the proper way of) getting on the bus, I'll coach the post-game. I’ll do it all.” … At least one of his players is hanging on every word, senior transfer point guard Kyra Lambert wants to be a coach and is enrolled in an NCAA program to assist coaching wannabes. To that end, Lambert said she has started a little coaching journal on “things I like, things that I might change.” As for her coach, Lambert said she loves Schaefer’s “intensity and his consistency. Second to none. Every day he comes with the same passion, the same energy. He says, ‘If I'm not coaching it, I’m allowing it. So that's something I would definitely keep with me.”
4. Female takeover. Gonna be cool to have the entire women’s NCAA Tournament unfold in the Lone Star state. A hearty welcome home to Nell Fortner, the former Lady Longhorn who returns to the state as head coach of No. 5 seeded Georgia Tech. Fortner could meet up with Texas in the Hemisfair Region final, but No. 1 seed South Carolina and No. 2 Maryland might have something to say about any reunion. Maryland has a top shooting guard in Katie Benzan, a Harvard transfer who has hit nine treys in a game and had committed to Schaefer’s predecessor, Karen Aston, but switched to the Terps. Schaefer tried hard to retain her. … Can’t wait to see some Caitlin Clark splashing in the tournament. The Iowa freshman guard leads the nation in scoring at a 26.7 clip, and she can dish as well, averaging 7.2 dimes a game. … However, Michigan’s Naz Hillmon would tell her to hold her Gatorade. She put up 50 in a game this year. … Hot team in the tourney? Try Stephen F. Austin, a 12 seed that has won 19 straight.
5. Ghim’s gumption. With his strong showing in The Players Championship, former Longhorn Doug Ghim raised his world golf ranking 19 spots from 257 to 238th. And to think he was ranked 387th at the end of 2020. The second-year PGA Tour player has yet to win, but was tied for the TPC lead late Saturday before he blew up with a 78 final round to finish tied for 29th. Similarly at the Bay Hill he finished 65-81 his last two days to ruin a great start. The Longhorn star has some serious game and is as big a threat to win on tour as former Texas teammate Scottie Scheffler.
6. Hey, Nebraska, didn't you used to be Nebraska? Thankfully, reports that Nebraska was trying to cancel a game with Oklahoma on the 20th anniversary of perhaps the greatest regular-season college football game ever played was scotched when it was made public the Big Ten school was considering replacing OU with an inferior opponent for an eighth home game. Seriously? That game in 1971 where Johnny Rodgers defied gravity and the Sooners 35-31 was the regular-season equivalent of the 2006 Rose Bowl. For a long, long time, Nebraska was college football. NU sold out Memorial Stadium forever, NU applauded worthy rivals (I’ve only seen that done at Nebraska and Penn State), and NU gave us some of the best college football moments in history. You’re better than this, Nebraska. Or. …
7. Bye-bye, Brees. See you in Canton. If you didn’t already know so, there are some real idiots in the NFL, especially when it comes to evaluating college quarterbacks. The first time I saw Drew Brees play a game, he threw an out pattern with such strength and precision, you knew he was going to be a star. The late great Ken Dabbs begged Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech to offer him, to no avail. Here are a few comments that NFL writer Rick Gosselin shared from random analysts in the league before that draft. “Not as strong an arm as I initially thought. He has limitations.” One personnel director said he’s the next Jake Plummer. Another compared him to Eric Zeier. Said he’d get a ton of balls batted down. An offensive coordinator said, “Out of the blue he’ll have five throws in a row that are dangerous.” A head coach told Goose that Brees “lacks running ability.” Yeah, so does Tom Brady. But another head coach said, “All he does is complete passes. Tough, tough kid.” One of the best ever.
8. Scattershooting. While wondering whatever happened to Guillermo “Panama” Myers, the former Longhorn big man who famously blocked Tony Jones’ potentially game-winning Purdue shot in closing seconds to preserve a 73-72 win to advance Texas to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament in 1990. It's one of the most iconic moments in Longhorn history.
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9. On the couch: I liked it even though you don’t have to drive from New York to Kansas as the main characters do to know how “Kodachrome” will end. Real pro Ed Harris milked his role as the crusty, cruel absentee father/photojournalist who is dying as did Jason Sudeikis, who’s flexing his acting chops in this 2017 film. Predictable plot line, but engaging. Gave it seven ducks.
10. Crazy prediction: One NCAA team will play an entire game with only five players in the men's tournament because of COVID-19.