- May 29, 2001
You know I want to say it.
It's been 1,120 days since I wrote that column and I'd be lying if I didn't say that there's a mini-victory lap somewhere inside these fingers toward those who have mistaken Shaka Smart's shortcomings as evidence that someone with his resume is a fraud and incapable of being successful in a league full of great coaches.
That column might still happen, but it's not my goal today for several reasons.
a. It's been quite a long and winding road that has led us to this point, and I wouldn't want anyone to mistake a smidge of my arrogance as ignoring the valleys before this weekend's peak.
b, With expectations rising, a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament in hand and games to be played, there's no way I'm going to put myself in a position where I stitch up a clown suit by jinxing the Texas basketball team. We all know that the mood here will change quickly if Smart's team underperforms this week when it will be expected to make the Sweet 16.
Instead of arguing over the big-picture ramifications of the school winning its first Big 12 Tournament Championship over the weekend, I just want to take a moment to focus completely on the emotion involved in the moment.
There was Shaka Smart allowing himself to get into his feelings for just a moment once it became clear that the Longhorns had fully secured victory; following Kai Jones' dunk in the final seconds, Smart pumped his right fist before crouching into a flexed pose similar to the one from the kid with glasses in Little Giants. You couldn't see his mouth because of his mask, but that added to the moment because in my mind he shouted something that included an f-bomb because it's what would have come out of my mouth, given the circumstances. If a picture is worth a thousand words, his three-second lapse into pure elation allowed us to peek into his soul. It didn't take long for Smart to snap back into focus as a leader that goes out of his way to make moments about anything other than him, but for a moment he let us in. We saw it. We know. Good for him. As a fan of good human beings, it was enough to warm my heart.
There was Matt Coleman in tears while fanboying it up with superstar Holly Rowe. This kid came to Texas to become the foundation piece to Smart's program, and you better believe he knows what it means to come up short. Fair or not, he's the symbol of the Smart era in Austin in the same way that Sam Ehlinger is the poster boy for the Tom Herman era. Coleman has enjoyed a hell of a senior year, which included a Maui Invitational MVP, but Saturday's performance against Oklahoma State was the stuff of legend. Minimize the importance of winning the Big Tournament all you want, but we'll remember his career-high 30 points against the Cowboys for a long time. No player in the history of the program... not T.J. Ford... not Kevin Durant... not anyone... has ever achieved what he did. He changed the narrative of his career. Good for him.
There was Jericho Sims with an actual smile on his face after delivering perhaps the best performance of his career with 21 points, 14 rebounds, two blocks and three steals. The young man arrived in Austin as a pogo stick without a lot of nuance to his game, and on Saturday he was displaying range. If Coleman is the heartbeat of this squad, Sims is the picture of its psyche in any moment. When he's confident and playing at his potential, the Longhorns are a possible Final Four team. He doesn't always look like he knows how good he is, but not this weekend. While sharing the court with a possible No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, Sims channeled his inner Bruce Leroy on Saturday and was the player he's dreamed of. He's emerged as a bit of a burnt orange cult hero. Good for him.
There was Andrew Jones cutting down pieces of the net in Kansas City in a scene straight from a future Disney movie. From McDonald's All-American to college star to fighting for his life in a battle with leukemia to his amazing recovery to champion. It's one of the best stories in the history of Texas athletics. Good for him.
From the ashes of fan indifference, a team emerged that is truly worthy of being loved. In a weird way, this is the Texas team you've needed for a decade and just never knew it. That it’s taken almost an entire season for that realization to sink in almost doesn't matter. Here we are.
Oh, there's work to be done this week for this team to fully cement itself as a possible Mount Rushmore-level squad in program history, but let the embrace begin while there's still time to do so.
No. 2 - Tournament Snapshots ...
... In a world where I was still worried about this Texas basketball team, Abilene Christian might loom as a scary matchup for the Longhorns... just because. Maybe it still will. Yet, the Longhorns have won eight of their last 10 games, including six games against teams in the NCAA Tournament. This team has been through the fire, and I expect them to handle their business in the first round.
... The East Region might have the least powerful No.1 seed in the field, but the No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, No. 6 and No. 8 teams all look fairly dangerous. BYU in the second round would be a game that comes down to the final two minutes for the Longhorns, but the winner of Michigan State/UCLA will be no walk in the park for the Cougars. It's a side of the bracket that feels like it has a half-dozen teams that could emerge as a legit Final Four threat.
... It feels like we know what we're going to get from Matt Coleman in the Tournament, but one or both of Andrew Jones and Courtney Ramey has to step up more than they have in recent games. On the night the season ends for the Longhorns, the fingerprints of poor games from Jones and Ramey feel like they'll eventually be all over it.
... There's not a team in the East that Texas can't beat. I don't know who I'm picking to come out of this region, but I kind of feel like the Longhorns can make a Final Four run if they can get past their second round game because I like potential match-ups against Alabama, Michigan or Florida State.
... It's hard to see anything other than a Gonzaga conquest in the West.
... I'm picking Baylor to make the Final Four, but their side of the bracket looks like it could be tricky, starting with the UNC/Wisconsin winner.
... Illinois is going to be a very trendy pick to make the final for good reason.
No. 3 - Three things on Maalik Murphy's debut ...
... It became very clear on Friday night that Texas commit Maalik Murphy wasn't just playing against a very, very good Long Beach Poly team in his first career, but he was also facing off against the ghosts of past Quinn Ewers and Cade Klubnik performances. Fair or not, a human performance from Murphy in his opener was held in contrast to the most superhuman of performances from players that have already finished their junior seasons and have made roughly 25 more starts than he has. Welcome to the spotlight, young man. It never gets easier around here.
... I'm not sure what I expected of Murphy in his debut, but I thought he was solid overall with occasional moments of brilliance. It felt like you could tell he was playing in his first game, which is weird for a player with his reputation. I'm not sure there's enough appreciation for the uniqueness of this situation.
... Murphy has some physical tools that make him potentially a special prospect, but he's not yet a special player. He's not better than Ewers or Klubnik, but let's revisit this conversation as his sample size expands. I'm curious to see him once he finds a comfort zone.
No. 4 - A complicated legacy...
During the same weekend when Matt Coleman carved out a unique piece of basketball legacy for himself, Texas women's star Charli Collier confronted the Baylor nightmare one last time in her career and never quite woke up.
The Texas All-American, who has already declared that she will turn pro when the season is over, played her seventh career game against the Bears and finished with three points in 16 minutes, as the Longhorns were put away 66-55 by a Bears squad that never really needed to get out of second gear.
It was the seventh time that Collier has played against the Bears, and for a player that is expected to be the No.1 overall pick in the upcoming WNBA Draft, she's not leaving a record behind that is covered in glory.
Collier's seven-game history vs. Baylor
(Jr.) 3 points in 16 min.
(Jr.) 2 points in 29 min.
(Jr.) 12 points in 33 min.
(So.) 3 points in 34 min.
(So.) 7 points in 24 min.
(Fr) 0 points in 10 min.
(Fr) 2 points in 22 min.
Seven-game total: 29 points in 168 minutes.
The numbers pretty much speak for themselves. It's a harsh reminder that whatever we eventually say about Collier, we won't say she was part of the movement that eventually slays this Baylor dragon -- if it can ever be slayed.
Saturday marked the 11th consecutive loss to the Bears and the 25th loss out of 26 games going back to 2010.
Honestly, I can't wrap my head around any of that.
No. 5 - Making a statement ...
No.11 South Carolina came into this weekend's series against the No. 19 Texas baseball team with a perfect 11-0 record and a big, bad SEC background to its credit, while the Longhorns were still licking their wounds after a humbling start to the season at the hands of vaunted SEC competition.
Three games later, the Gamecocks left Austin with three losses after being served up slices of humble pie, and the No.19 Longhorns can head into conference play with the memory of the early-season losses in the rear-view mirror.
The Longhorns were good this weekend. Really good.
It's becoming clear that Texas is going to have the pitching to win a Big 12 title. Whether it can accomplish that will come down to whether the bats on this team can deliver the goods as they did this weekend. I'm guessing the Longhorns would take the 15 runs scored against the Gamecocks in every series it participates in during Big 12 play. That'll get it done most weekends.
Next week's three-game set in Waco will tell us a lot, but the recent signs are promising.
No. 6 - Deserving of her own section ...
Texas junior All-American Tara Davis did more than win a national championship in the long jump at the NCAA Indoor national championships this weekend.
Davis jumped further than any woman has ever jumped in the history of college track and field.
No. 7 – BUY or SELL …
(Buy) I think another season at this level would do him a world of good, but I certainly won't begrudge him if he's ready to be paid to play basketball. Deep down, those around him have to know he's not mentally ready for this. He looks like an 18-year old kid that needs more refinement, and there's nothing wrong with that.Greg Brown is nowhere ready for the NBA grind and needs another year of college to mature.
If the football team does very well this year, the Brock twins will transfer to Texas because they are Longhorns at heart and their
(Sell) I'm of the opinion that a transfer back home could eventually be in the cards, but I won't go so far as to say it will happen.connection to Sark and the Oline coach.
(Sell) I'd be more worried about the 2023 class than the 2022 class if the Longhorns had that kind of 2021 season.Assume that Sark goes 7-5 this, his first year. If so, we lose 3 of our top 6 recruits.
(Sell) I'm not quite ready to say that just yet, but he's in the conversation. He's better than Marvin Wilson was at the same stage.Bear Alexander is the best player in the country in the 2022 class?
(Buy) That's the easiest question anyone has ever asked me in Buy or Sell.UT wins a football championship, before the Cowboys win a Super Bowl?
(Sell) First, let me just say that I love the question, but I'm not sure it's even close. As good as Crenshaw was as a pro, he's not in the conversation of being one of the Top 15 all-time golfers like Kevin Durant is in basketball. Whatever we think of Tom Kite, Slater Martin probably cancels out Tom Kite and the last 20 years of NBA player production is even more impressive than what the golf program has produced.After watching The Players Championship all weekend, and seeing Doug Ghim in contention, and now adding him to the long list of Texas golfers (Jordan, Dylan F, J. Vegas, Justin Leonard, Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite just to name a few), Texas golfers have had a bigger professional impact in their sport than any other men’s athletes in their sport. It sure seems to me that Texas men golfers have had more professional success than any other sport. I had this discussion last night and I guess an argument could be made for baseball, maybe football...but I still think it is golf...
(Sell) I can't say that with certainty.Casey Thompson starting at QB the next 2 years (not due to injury) means Texas is challenging for Big 12 titles
(Sell) The ol' commit, de-commit and then re-commit trifecta rarely occurs.Evan Stewart recommits to Texas after finishing his official visits
(Buy) Yup.Texas gets a 4 star or better at QB, RB, 3 x OL, 3 x WR, 2 x DL, 2 x LB, 2 x S and 2 x CB in 2022 class.
No. 8 - Scattershooting on the weekend...
... Marvin Hagler is as good of a boxer as I've ever seen in my life, and he was robbed in the Sugar Ray Leonard fight. Rest in peace.
... Drew Brees finally hung up his cleats on Sunday. What a career. It's crazy to think I was 20 years old when I started following his career closely when he was a junior in high school.
... I don't even know where Larry Bird ranks on the NBA's all-time scoring list, but it doesn't feel right that James Harden just passed him, no offense to Harden.
... Thank goodness Joel Embiid wasn't seriously hurt this weekend. Whew!
... Liverpool's collapse has numbed me to the rest of the results in the Premier League for the rest of the season. I don't know how to completely process what has happened.
.... Of course, Lee Westwood came in second at The Players Championship. Of course.
No. 9 - The List: Tom Hanks
I'm prepared for the pushback on this set of rankings.
Ultimately, it came down to Saving Private Ryan vs. Forrest Gump. I rated Forrest Gump as the No.1 Tom Hanks movie, even though I think Saving Private Ryan is the better movie.
In my mind, Hanks doesn't make Saving Private Ryan the movie that it is, but he's everything in Forrest Gump. I can't even imagine anyone else in that role.
10. Toy Story
8. Apollo 13
5. A League of Their Own
4. You've Got Mail
3. Sleepless in Seattle
2. Saving Private Ryan
1. Forrest Gump
No. 10 - And Finally ...
Deep down, I wish I hadn't seen the new Coming 2 America movie. It's that bad.