Good morning. Breakfast is served.
It’s February 14th — 45 down, 320 to go.
And 9 till the Winter Olympics closing ceremony.
YESTERDAY: Lots of drama in Sochi — Evgeni Plushenko pulled out of men’s figure skating, while Americans Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper swept the men’s slopewtyle skiing. And coaches started taking sides over the proposed NCAA rule change forcing a 10-second wait before the snap. Nick Saban‘s all for it, Art Briles and Kevin Sumlin are all against it. Go figure. Kevin Durant scored 43 points to hand the Lakers their seventh straight home loss.
TODAY: It’s Valentine’s Day — most Walgreens and CVS stores close at 10 p.m., fellas. Texas baseball opens its season on the road, at Cal. At the Winter Olympics, men’s figure skating is on tap, along with women’s skeleton and Alpine skiing, where Ted Ligety goes in the men’s combined.
TOMORROW: The Texas men host West Virginia (7 p.m., Erwin Center, LHN, 1300, 98.1). More baseball at Cal. Speaking of baseball, the Houston Astros will report to spring training. And over in Sochi, the U.S. vs. Russia men’s hockey game will take center stage.
Feb. 14 has a sports history. On this date, Joe Gibbs won his first Daytona 500 as an owner, thanks to driver Dale Jarrett (1993); speedskater Bonnie Blair became the first U.S. woman to win three Winter Olympic golds (1992); Britain’s Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean heated up the ice at the Sarajevo Olympics, scoring perfect 6.0s for their steamy pairs skate to “Bolero” (1984); 50-year-old Bobby Allison became the oldest driver to win the Daytona 500, holding off his son Davey at the end (1988); Wilt Chamberlain broke the NBA’s career scoring mark at 20,884 points (1966); and Sugar Ray Robinson beat Jake LaMotta for the middleweight title by way of a 13th-round TKO (1951).
Last year on Feb. 14, LeBron James had 39 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists in the Heat’s 110-100 win over the Thunder, Miami’s sixth straight win over OKC dating back to the 2012 NBA Finals. Kevin Durant had 40 points and 8 rebounds.
Today’s sports birthdays: Alshon Jeffery (24), Richard Hamilton (36), Drew Bledsoe (42), Jim Kelly (54), former Giants pitcher Dave Dravecky (58) . Steve McNair would’ve turned 41 today. Other notables: Danai Gurira (“Michonne” of Walking Dead fame, 36) Simon Pegg (43), Meg Tilly (54). And Florence Henderson — Mrs. Brady — is 80. Eighty!
TODAY’S TRIVIA: We all know Tom Brady succeeded Drew Bledsoe in New England and Vince Young succeeded Steve McNair with the Titans, but who succeeded Jim Kelly as the Bills’ quarterback? (Answer is below.)
TODAY’S LEAD: COLLEGE BASEBALL. When last we left Texas’ baseball team, the Longhorns were the odd team out of the Big 12 postseason tournament, their 27-24-1 season ending not in Omaha at the College World Series, not even in Oklahoma City at the Big 12 tournament. It ended in Fort Worth, with a lost-two-out-of-three series at TCU.
After seven games last year, Texas was 6-1 and coming off a nice three-game sweep of old Big 12 foe Nebraska. From there, the season went south — 21-23-1 the rest of the way, a 7-17 mark in the Big 12, eight consecutive lost three-game series, seven of those going 1-2 over the weekend, the eighth a three-game sweep. Poor hitting. Not enough run production.
This year, Augie Garrido is banking on what could be a solid rotation and what should be a talented freshmen class to package around an All-American candidate in centerfield. Will Texas score more runs? Will the freshmen be the real deal? Will Texas at least qualify for the postseason tournament? And who will end up being the closer?
All valid questions. The season starts today, with a three-game series at Cal.
We asked Kevin Lyttle, who previewed Texas’ season ($) for us in today’s paper, to send us some thoughts on just what to expect from this team. He did that, and more, so we’ll make a separate entry just for that. But he did answer the most important question:
So how will year play out?
“I’m guessing the first few months will be filled with uneven performances, the team looking excellent at times and then suffering some mystifying losses. The offense isn’t going to magically click overnight. But I see this team making a lot of improvement as the season goes on. I’ll call for a 35-17 overall record and 15-9 in conference, which should at least keep the Horns in the conversation until late May. And, yes, back in the NCAA tournament.”
Lyttle also handicapped the Big 12 race. He likes:
1. Kansas State, which returns six of the Big 12’s top hitters of 2013.
T2. Oklahoma State, which is ranked in the top 20 in two national polls.
T2. TCU, ranked 19th and blessed with very strong pitching.
4. Texas, which Lyttle’s dubbing “the sleeping giant.”
5. Oklahoma, which might find its way into the top 25 at some point.
6. Baylor, a balanced team.
7. West Virginia, which was a pleasant surprise last year.
8. Texas Tech, which returns a lot of hitters and fielders. But the pitching could be a problme.
9. Kansas, which won two of three from Texas last year.
This is the expected lineup and batting order:
Brooks Marlow, 2B: The junior from Giddings started 44 games last year. He hit .250 with 18 runs scores, 10 doubles and a homer. Had seven multi-hit games. Two-year starter (95 games). But is he the best option at leadoff?
Mark Payton, CF: The senior is a four-year starter and was an All-Big 12 pick in 2013. His .393 average was 12th best nationally and Texas’ best since 2002 (Dustin Majewski, .401). Led the team in hits, doubles, triples, RBIs, walks and total bases. Best player on the roster? Perhaps.
C.J Hinojosa, SS: Sophomore, two-year starter. Hit .309 last year with 10 doubles, two triples, two homers, 29 RBIs, 19 runs scored and three steals. Tied Payton for the team lead in RBIs (29).
Tres Barrera, C: The freshman from Eagle Pass might end up platooning at catcher and designated hitter. Was an all-state shortstop as a junior at Mission Sharyland, then a third-team all-state catcher as a senior. Also earned district MVP honors at quarterback. And no pressure, but freshmen just don’t start at catcher for Garriodo. This one will.
Andy McGuire, 3B: Another freshman that UT’s counting on, McGuire earned All-American prep honors by Rawlings last year. He’s from Virginia. Should have a big bat.
Jeremy Montalbano, DH: The sophomore from Katy Seven Lakes started 22 games last year, hitting .247 with 16 RBIs, 2 homers, 2 doubles. He’ll likely share catcher/DH duties with Barrera.
Kacy Clemens, 1B: Freshman No. 3 is the son of Roger Clemens. He was his district’s MVP as a senior, when he hit .354 with 26 RBIs. He also pitched — 8-0, 0.27 ERA last year.
Ben Johnson, RF: The sophomore from Westwood started 27 games last year, hitting .220 with 9 RBIs, 6 doubles, a triple and 3 homers. Played some DH last year. Needs to improve his numbers across the board.
Zane Gurwitz, LF: Freshman No. 4. Gurwitz hit .458 with 4 homers and 24 RBIs last year at San Antonio Churchill. His grandfather was a Longhorns running back and defensive back. Nice bat.
The weekend pitching rotation is expected to be junior right-hander Parker French (4-5, 2.68, 46 Ks) on Fridays, junior lefty Dillon Peters (6-3, 1.97, second-team All-Big 12) on Saturdays and Lukas Schiraldi (9-2, 2.84, 67 Ks) — a junior from St. Michael’s and the son of Calvin Schiraldi — on Sundays. Senior right-hander Nathan Thornhill (3-6, 2.21, team-high 60 Ks), for now, is the odd arm out.
As for closer? Texas is still sorting it out. May be a close-by-committee season.
Some key dates to be aware of:
Feb. 18: Your first chance to see the team. It’s Texas’ home opener, 6 p.m. against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
Feb. 21-23: Stanford, ranked 25th in the country, comes to town.
March 14-16: Big 12 play starts for Texas, against Kansas.
April 8: Rice, ranked 15th, comes to town. Always a good matchup.
May 16-18: Texas closes the regular season with a series at Kansas State, the defending Big 12 champions.
May 21-25: The Big 12 tournament, in Oklahoma City.
AROUND THE BIG 12: I guess Augie’s not the only Big 12 coach hoping for hotter bats this spring. Gil LeBreton of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram wrote about a similar storyline driving TCU’s baseball hopes. And the paper also previewed the Horned Frogs’ season. TCU, like Texas, missed out on the NCAA postseason last year. Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News blogged on the 30 final contenders for this year’s Naismith Award. Five Big 12ers, including Okie State’s Marcus Smart, but no Longhorns. Baylor baseball finished 27-28 last year. The Bears are looking for a bounce-back. Here’s the Waco Tribune-Herald’s season preview. And the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal’s take on Texas Tech’s season. The Daily Oklahoman’s Berry Tramel opined on the NCAA’s proposed slowdown rule and how it would throw a wrench into many a Big 12 offense. And Ryan Aber wrote on OU’s baseball team, which is losing 44 starts from last year’s pitching rotation. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State continues to look for an offensive line coach to replace Joe Wickline, according to the Oklahoman. And here’s the Kansas City Star’s preview of Kansas State baseball’s season — remember, the Wildcats are Lyttle’s No. 1 preseason team.
AROUND THE FORTY ACRES: What’s going on around UT athletics?
Football: Former running backs coach Larry Porter has a new job — coaching running backs at North Carolina. On the recruiting front, Texas has offered a scholarship to Sterling Johnson, a 4-star pass-rushing defensive end from North Carolina. Texas’ first junior day is next weekend. Spring practice opens March 18. The Orange-White Game is on April 19 (1 p.m., LHN). Want more debate on the proposed 10-second rule? Here’s our story on it today ($) from Suzanne Halliburton and a free blog by Brian Davis. And there were two developments on the (potential) quarterback front. First, Texas Tech denied Michael Brewer‘s appeal to transfer to either Texas or TCU, meaning he’d have to sit out an entire season if he wants to come here. Second, former USC quarterback Max Wittek, who’s looking for a new school, plans to visit Texas this weekend. He has two years of eligibility remaining.
Men’s basketball: Texas hosts West Virginia on Saturday (7 p.m.).
Women’s basketball: Texas hosts Baylor on Sunday, at noon. Kirk Bohls wrote today about Horns guard Brady Sanders, who has overcome a lot but remains an important contributor ($) to this year’s team.
Baseball: Texas opens its season today, at Cal. Three-game series.
Softball: No. 15 Texas, which dropped its season opener Wednesday against UTSA, hosts the Texas Classic this weekend. It’s Texas vs. No. 7 Kentucky today (4 p.m., Penick-Allison) followed by Texas vs. IPFW at 6:30. Wednesday was the Horns’ third straight loss. Missed chances were huge; Texas left the bases loaded in five out of seven innings. Here’s a link to Halliburton’s reader out of the game ($).
Volleyball: Associate head coach Salima Rockwell — the 2013 national assistant coach of the year — has been hired at Penn State as the Nittany Lions’ associate head coach.
Men’s golf: Jordan Spieth‘s eagle shot on the 408-yard par 7th at the Northern Trust Open made ESPN’s SportsCenter’s No. 10 play of the day Thursday. Spieth is at 1-over for the tournament, however, six shots off the leader after the first round.
Women’s golf: xx
Men’s track: Ryan Crouser was named the Big 12’s men’s athlete of the week award after breaking the school record in the shot put, his toss of 69-8 winning the New Mexico Collegiate Classic. Texas is splitting its men and women this weekend, as a group of distance runners compete at the Iowa State Classic and sprinters/field performers travel to Fayetteville, Ark. for the Tyson Invitational.
Women’s track: Pole vaulter Kaitlin Petrillose was named the Big 12’s women’s athlete of the week after posting a nation’s best vault of 14-7¼ at the New Mexico Collegiate Classic. Only 11 other women have cleared that height in NCAA history.
Men’s swimming/diving: Sophomore John Murray was named the Big 12’s men’s swimmer of the week and junior Will Chandler was the diver of the week. Murray won an individual event and was a part of two relay wins in Texas’ win at No. 5 Arizona.
Women’s swimming/diving: Senior Maren Taylor was named the Big 12’s women’s diver of the week on Wednesday, her 10th time. She swept the one- and three-meter boards in last weekend’s win at No. 10 Arizona. Chandler won the one-meter diving event.
Men’s tennis: No. 10 Texas (7-1) opens play today at the ITA National Team Indoor Championship in Houston, against No. 4 Georgia (3-2). The Horns will play either Ohio State or Florida on Saturday, either in the main or consolation draws. Texas is back in the top 10 rankings for the first time since 2012.
Women’s tennis: No. 17 Texas (3-4) hosts No. 7 Northwestern (4-2) in a dual match on Saturday, at Penick-Allison. Then the Longhorns host No. 15 Vanderbilt on Sunday.
ON FEB. 14 …
2005: YouTube was launched, by a group of former PayPal employees — about one month before Ball State University sportscaster Brian Collins made his infamous “Boom goes the dynamite!” broadcast. YouTube, meet Brian. Brian, meet YouTube.
1989: Iran’s leader issued a fatwa encouraging Muslims to kill Salman Rushdie, author of the controversial book “The Satanic Verses.” Twenty-five years later, Rushdie’s going strong.
1855: A telegraph line between New Orleans and Marshall, Texas was completed, linking Texas to the rest of the United States. Baby steps.
TODAY’S TRIVIA ANSWER: Todd Collins replaced Jim Kelly as the Bills’ starting quarterback, in 1997.
TODAY’S LITTLE NUMBER: 3. Number of times Texas has lost its home softball opener. Wednesday’s loss was the first home-opening setback since 2007.
TODAY’S BIGGER NUMBER: 4. Freshmen expected to start for Texas’ baseball team this year, three of them in the infield.
TODAY’S BIG NUMBER: 1,000. Career victories for longtime Georgetown girls basketball coach Rhonda Farney, earned last night in the state playoffs.
OK, Breakfast is over. Thanks for stopping by.