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Golden: On Texas baseball's CWS chase, Mavericks' woes, Serena's battle with time

Horns outscored regional opponents 33-5

Cedric Golden
Austin American-Statesman
Texas players celebrate beating Fairfield in Sunday's Austin Regional final at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. The Longhorns are two super regional wins away from advancing to the College World Series for a record 37th time.
  • Texas will host a super regional final this weekend
  • Dallas hasn't won a playoff series since capturing the title in 2011

Talent can take a team a long way, but chemistry is vital. Sprinkle in some belief in a locker room and guess what? Special things can happen.

A couple of wins at this weekend’s super regional at newly restocked beehive UFCU Disch-Falk Field stands in the way of the nation's No. 2 seed qualifying for the College World Series.

More:Texas 12, Fairfield 2: Longhorns coast into super regionals and set sights on being No. 1

It’s not just that Texas outscored its three opponents 33-5 en route to the easiest Austin Regional win in decades, but it’s how they’re speaking confidently about their next step in the process. The Horns are rolling into the super regional as a sexy favorite to win it all.

More:Bohls: Texas small-balls Fairfield to another rout to clinch the regional

Don’t overlook that Texas held serve in impressive fashion, but know that it came on the same weekend that CWS hopefuls TCU and Florida were summarily eliminated in their home regionals.

At 45-15, Texas has the look of a world beater. To a man, the Horns see themselves as the best team in the country, and based on how they handled business without incident over the weekend, who can blame them?

“The feeling in the clubhouse is just confidence and of really trusting one another and knowing that we are the No. 1 team in the country, I believe,” said lefty starter Pete Hansen. “Just really putting that mindset in our work. That’s just the feeling we have.”

They’re good and they know it. Better yet, they can’t wait to show you just good they are. Winning breeds confidence and confidence in the postseason can spread like wildfire through a locker room.

“I love that Pete said that,” head coach David Pierce said. “If you don’t think you’re the best, you’re not the best. If you don’t think you can compete with anybody in the country, then you have no shot. So you have to have that confidence.”

More:Golden: Texas arms are key to College World Series chase

Pierce is at the controls of a group that’s in the same talent stratosphere as that 2003 Rice team under his former boss Wayne Graham that captured the national title: loads of pitching, solid bats from top to bottom along with that crucial confidence intangible.

We’re witnessing what just might be Texas’ return to the pinnacle of college baseball. Sixteen years after Augie Garrido and an ultra-confident bunch led by All-Americans Seth Johnson, Drew Stubbs and J. Brent Cox  led the program to its second championship in four seasons, the Horns have charted a collision course with Omaha.

It would be difficult to see them not getting there and doing some major damage at this point.

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic averaged 35.7 points in the first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers, but it wasn't enough as Dallas failed to win a playoff series for the 10th straight year.

Luka needs help: Mark Cuban isn’t about to fire Rick Carlisle. When my colleague Tim McMahon of ESPN asked the Dallas owner about the coach’s job status after the Dallas Mavericks failed to close out the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the NBA playoffs despite holding series leads of 2-0 and 3-2, the owner indicated his head coach was safe.

More:Luka Doncic and the Mavericks might be truly stuck with an unhappy Kristaps Porzingis

Carlisle hasn’t impressed since the title year. In the 10 seasons since the franchise’s lone championship in 2011, the Mavericks have missed the playoffs four times and  have been eliminated in the first round in the other six.

They have a generational talent in Luka Doncic, a 22-year-old who is well on his way to joining Dirk Nowitzki and Rolando Blackman on the Mavericks’ Mount Rushmore. I would hate to see Cuban waste his tremendous talent because of a failure to build around him.

Luka needs help.

While free-agent-to-be Tim Hardaway, Jr. is a competent pro, Cuban threw too much money at Kristaps Porzingis, a 6-7 small forward stuck in a 7-3 power forward’s body. The Unicorn just gives too many uneven performances.

If Carlisle survives this offseason, he needs to unload KP and bring in another proven scorer who can better blend with Luka. Trading Porzingis to Portland in a package that would net the Mavs veteran scorer Norman Powell and picks would be ideal. The Mavs also could use a reliable junkyard dog defender to go nose to nose with opposing perimeter stars. Trevor Ariza and  Danny Green are free agents who could fill that void while not requiring too many touches on offense.

I’d hate to see the Mavericks waste Doncic’s prime. Get him some more weapons.

Serena Williams lost to Elena Rybakina in the fourth round of the French Open on Sunday. Williams, whose 23 major wins ranks second all-time to Margaret Court, hasn't won a major since the 2017 Australian Open.

Serena’s chase: Serena Williams exited the French Open on Sunday, bowing out in straight sets in the fourth round to 21-year-old Elena Rybakina, who was just three months old when Williams won her first major.

Two months and change shy of 40, Serena isn’t likely to win a 24th major, which would tie Margaret Court for the most in tennis history, but it really doesn’t matter.

Williams is the greatest female athlete in history for my money, having dominated her sport in the same fashion that Tiger Woods owned golf. Her stay atop tennis is unrivaled and much more impactful than that of Court, who won 13 of her 24 majors before the Open era, which is the period before 1968 when only amateurs were allowed to participate.

Time goes on. Young players like 22-year-old Sophia Kenin, 19-year-old Amanda Anisimova  and 17-year-old Coco Gauff — in the quarterfinals of a major for the first time — are on the rise in American tennis while Williams is obviously in the twilight of her historic carer.

Major or no major, Williams will go down as tennis’ GOAT.

The chances of her putting it all together aren't impossible, but if she is to defy the odds — she hasn’t won a major since the 2017 Australian Open —  she has to rediscover her first serve, which ranks as the greatest weapon in the history of the sport.

In her heyday, Williams feasted on the opposition with aces and service winners that got her out of trouble time and time again. Through 13 matches in 2021, she’s getting only 57% of her first serves in, which is 10-15% less than she needs to really compete against these young girls.

If that happens, she has a slugger’s chance at a place like Wimbledon, but time is obviously not on her side.