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Q-U-I-T Doesn’t Spell “Mavericks”

They were left for dead just a few months ago. They were a team going nowhere; their leader was struggling to come back from an injury, and the players they got in the offseason simply weren’t living up to the hype.

It was time to give up – “Team Tank,” as one radio host who likes to get tased put it. Time to just pack it in and put all their hopes in some unproven college kid they’d get with a lottery pick.

Fortunately, the Dallas Mavericks weren’t listening to anyone but themselves.

And now, following a thrilling 109-102 overtime win agains the Clippers, the Mavericks are closer than they’ve been in a long while, just one game back of the Lakers for the final playoff spot with 11 games remaining.

And one win away from getting rid of those ugly beards they’ve sported for months, the ones they vowed not to shave off until they reached the .500 mark again.

Suddenly it doesn’t seem so unrealistic, does it?

The Mavericks a indeed alive and well, and they’ve suddenly made the times at the American Airlines Center fun again.

Heck, in a way, it’s a lot more fun than in other NBA buildings right now. Throughout most of the league, teams are just playing out the strings for the next three weeks while their fans wait for the real games to start. For the Mavs, the playoffs are now.

What makes it even more fun is how so many said the Mavs would have no chance of catching the Lakers because well, they were the Lakers, that unbeatable superteam of Kobe ,Nash and DHo.

Uh, has anyone been watching the Lakers this year? They’ve been a time bomb that’s managed to explode multiple times already. Now Kobe’s trying to get them to hang onto this playoff spot because, despite five rings, he still has an inferiority complex about needing to prove he’s better than Jordan and that he, not the big guy in the middle, is The Man on his team. Not that said big guy has been “all about team’ himself all year..

The Mavericks, on the other hand, are playing like a driven team and at the perfect time. Of course, part of that has to do with Rick Carlisle finally making some drastic changes to his lineup. And if the Mavs don’t get in, that my be a bigger What If the Dirk’s injuries – why Carlisle waited so long to replace the disappointing Chris Kaman and Darren Collison with Brandon Wright and Mike James.

But if they do make it ,it could be his finest coaching performance.

And if they do get into the postseason, what then? Can the Mavericks really expect to make any noise in the playoffs with the last seed in the tough Western Conference?

Well, they will be one of the hottest teams when the playoffs start, and that’s always a threat. And three upsets by 8 over 1 seeds in the last six years – one of which Mavs fans saw all too painfully – tells you a four-and-out from an 8 seed isn’t a sure thing anymore.

And you only have to look at basketball’s ice brethren for further inspiration. The current owners of the Stanley Cup won it with an 8 seed in the NHL playoffs.

Either way, win or lose, the Mavericks will come out of this season looking like a team that banded together and fought to the bitter end. That will be much more appealing to prospective free agents – and ticket buyers – than one that packed it in and put all it’s hopes on lottery ping pong balls.

When the Mavericks host the Indiana Pacers on Thursday, it’s reported the team barber will be in attendance. If they’re smart, they’ll let him perform the group shave at center court following a Dallas win for everyone to celebrate with them.

And then they can get down to further business – making their critics look foolish for counting them out months ago.

Jasmine – And the Fan Fans – Got Screwed

As I write this in preparation, the weather outside here in Dallas Fort Worth has been cold, cloudy and gloomy. It’s been like that since Wednesday, and that’s not surprising to me.

For it was Wednesday that the new management at my favorite radio station, 105.3 The Fan, dealt me and many other loyal listeners a blow that has us depressed and up in arms.

Jasmine Sadry, the very popular “sidekick” on The Fan’s morning show “New School,” announced that afternoon that The Fan was not renewing her contract. That morning was her last day on the air.

And the resounding cry of Fan Fans was loud and clear: “WHAT… THE… HELL?????!!!!!”

Radio and media is a volatile business; I get that. I have friends who have worked in the field, so I know all too well that turnover is very high in their line of work. But you would expect them to make good decisions. And this is not a good decision.

They just up and kicked out someone who had a large and loyal fan base, kicking those fans in the crotches in the process. And they got rid of someone that I truly consider a friend.

It was roughly 13 months ago that I first met Jasmine in person. I was at the Fan Sports Lounge on one of those nights when she agreed to come on and get heckled by Arnie Spanier when he was at The Fan. When she came in that night, I saw a Jennifer Aniston lookalike (think Rachel circa Season 3) that made me say “Wow.” I couldn’t stop myself from jokingly confusing her for Ms. Aniston; when she laughed back, I could tell she was a fun person.

(For the record, I have since dropped the Aniston comparison. She now reminds me more of a grown-up Amy Jo Johnson, AKA the original Pink Power Ranger, which is better because A. I had a major crush on that Ranger as a kid, and B. Jasmine admitted to me she wanted to be the Pink Ranger as a kid.)

Let’s get this out of the way: I knew early on I would have no shot with her. She now is in a relationship with Jake Runey, and even though she’s joked about “being in a relationship isn’t what it’s cracked up to be,” I can tell they’re happy, and I’m glad for both of them. Still, I could never stop flirting with her, since it’s probably the closest thing to a relationship I’ll ever get, and the fact that she always went along with it just showed me the type of person she is – as beautiful on the inside as out.

I love The Fan, been a loyal listener almost since its launch. But this decision has really tested my patience with them – the management, not anyone else on the air.

Sources have told me that certain on-air personalities (I won’t say who to protect them) were not to even mention Jasmine on the air, citing the risk of “legal issues.” This is complete bullcrap. During Bruce Gilbert’s term running The Fan, the station underwent quite a bit of turnover, getting rid of Ben & Skin, Jagger, Barskey and Gregg Henson. But all of them (to the best of my knowledge) were given enough advance knowledge to say their own goodbyes on the air, and the remaining talent was allowed to wish them well also. No legal recourse was taken as a result as far as I know. It was one of the reasons I came to like The Fan’s organization in addition to its broadcasts.

I’m not just venting all this because of any personal feelings I have toward Miss Sadry. From a business perspective, this makes no sense.

New School’s ratings were on the rise last I heard, and you can’t tell me Jasmine wasn’t a big reason for it. It takes something special for DFW to warm up to a show hosted by a Redskins fan and a Yankees fan, and she was it. Not just because she was a local product and UNT alum; her vivaciousness and humor on the air, whether it was giving publicity to online sports talk hosts or hilarious impersonations of ESPN’s Doris Burke, gave people a reason to get up early in the morning.

Jasmine will be back on her feet – I have absolutely no doubt about that. She is too talented, too charming and too charismatic to be off the air for long.

But 105.3 The Fan was just dealt a huge blow by a new management team that apparently wants to “make its mark.” And it could take them a long time, if ever, to recover from that mark.

Gonzaga Represents Many in This NCAA Tournament

“Mighty Bulldogs, answer the call, And champions we will be!
With Jesuit pride, defend the true blue and white, Fight on to Victory!”

Okay, maybe we’re not all Jesuit, but for this tournament, anyone who has supported a small school program, we can all have one thing in common.

We are all Zags.

The torch for all mid-majors and small programs who want to believe they actually have a chance in the viscious, high-dollar world of college basketball is being carried by that small college in Spokane, WA, alma mater of NBA all-tie steals/assists leader John Stockton.

In one of the craziest college basketball seasons in history, the team that stood atop the rankings at the end, was, of all people, Gonzaga. As a result, the Zags (though their official team name is the Bulldogs) grabbed a number one seed in this year’s tournament.

Not bad for a program that never made the tournament before 1995.

Other small schools have actually made even more noise in the tournament recently. George Mason, Butler and Virginia Commonwealth have all made the Final Four since, while Gonzaga has yet to get to that spot despite being in the tourney every year since the 1999 Elite Eight run that put them on the map.

But one can’t deny it was that run that inspired such schools into pushing their own programs. The effect of the Zags still runs to this day, even into the Metroplex, where UTA coach Scott Cross boldly predicts his program aspires to be like Gonzaga.

But it’s not just the campus in Arlington where college fans in the Metroplex can relate. The dedication of Gonzaga’s head coach invokes similarities to a certain football coach in Fort Worth.

When Mark Few took over the program in 1999 replacing Dan Monson, many certainly felt any success he had would just lead to the same thing – a stepping stone to a job at a bigger university.

But just like Gary Patterson, Few has stayed in Spokane, likely knowing that he has the chance to build something special that he couldn’t do anywhere else.

It’s loyalty like that that still provides a ray of hope in a game that has become overrun with selfishness and greed at too many times. And this year has so far been one of the biggest examples of that hope.

Last year was a reflection of what was going wrong with the game, as Kentucky won it all with its collection of “one and done” players. College sports have always been about supporting the front of the jersey, but seeing so many players depart before you get to know their names has definitely dulled the sport’s luster.

In 2011: Poetic justice. Kentucky failed to make the dance and then suffered further humiliation with a first-round exit in the NIT. And their spot at the top has been overtaken by Gonzaga.

And this year’s team has five juniors, most of whom will almost certainly be back. Next year’s team could be even better.

Gonzaga still has a long way to go. A struggle to beat Southern in the first round surely gave their detractors more ammo. And they will be even more of a marked team by competitors who still don’t like them crashing their party. They can’t sneak up on people any more.

But if the stars are finally aligned right, Few’s bunch may just finally get over that hump to the Final Four, claim that simple wooden trophy and have fans of UTA, Butler and other “little guys” cheering with them.

“Go! Gonzaga! G-O-N-Z-A-G-A!
Go! Gonzaga! G-O-N-Z-A-G-A!”

DFW MARCH MADNESS CENTRAL

ORAL ROBERTS 84 UTA 76
COLLEGEINSIDER.com TOURNAMENT

The Mavericks’ season came to an end as they fell into a 20-point hole in the first half and couldn’t make up the ground. Fouls were a big problem, as the Mavs were whistled for twice as many fouls as the Golden Eagles.

Oral Roberts advances while UTA’s season ends at 19-14.

Big East’s Breakup Has a Familiar Southwest Feel

Once upon a time there was a conference called the Big East. You should have seen it.

It wasn’t known as a great football conference, which is why it might not have been as well known to the people of the South and West. It was known as a basketball conference, and that was all it needed to be for years. Its collection of Northeastern powerhouse programs like Connecticut, Syracuse, Villanova and Georgetown all vied for basketball supremacy in the nation besides just their conference, culminating with the annual Big East Tournament at the ultimate venue, Madison Square Garden. It was so deep in the 1980s that 1985 saw three Big East teams reach the Final Four.

Sadly, the good times were not to last. On Sunday, March 17, 2013, Louisville defeated Syracuse in the tournament final, and the conference as it has been known for years ceased to be. The Big East will still exist, and MSG will still host the tournament, but it may be a shell of its former self thanks to football, greed and bitterness tearing it apart.

Earlier this season, a collection of schools within the bloated conference, which became known as the “Catholic 7” for all the schools being affiliated with that sect, declared they were splitting up with the ever growing number of other schools that was approaching 18 and might never have stopped. Negotiations finally allowed them to officially part following the 12-13 seasons and take the Big East name with them.

This was only the final blow in what had been boiling for years. As the conference began adding more and more teams further and further away from the Northeast to try and increase its status as a football school, it saw its older teams depart – West Virginia to the Big 12, Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC. This was years after they had already lost Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech to the ACC. After the conferenced declared it would add SMU, Houston, Boise State and San Diego State, the Catholic 7 finally said enough. No more of long time traditional basketball schools like Georgetown, St. Johns and Villanova having to travel further and further for conference games so this group could claim it was a football conference – a sport that none of the Catholic 7 played at the D1 level anyway. They were being disrespected and cast aside like the red-headed stepchild, and they were finally taking their ball and leaving.

They would take the name, but the tradition was lost for good in the breakup, as the departures of Syracuse, West Virginia and Pitt had already guaranteed the conference would be beyond anything people would recognize.

One might wonder why this story is being told on a site dedicated to North Texas sports. But the scene is all too familiar to what happened in this state nearly 20 years ago, when another tradition-rich conference ceased to be due to greed and infighting. Granted, the Southwest Conference was more known for football, and the Big East isn’t completely dissolving like the SWC did in 1995, but the similarities are there.

Many still point the finger at the small campus in Dallas’ backyard for the SWC’s end, blaming SMU’s “death penalty” scandal in 1987, but that’s a cheap scapegoat. Once the path was cleared for conferences to negotiate their own TV contracts, the Southeastern Conference poached away Arkansas, who gave up its status as the SWC’s outsider to a lifetime of mediocrity in the SEC. (Though the Razorbacks have won a national championship since the move – in BASKETBALL.) With the SEC forming the first “super conference” with a championship game, Texas jumped at its opportunity to make big money and partnered with Texas A&M, Texas Tech and the Big 8 to form the Big 12, and the SWC was dead. Feelings were hurt everywhere with the conference’s end, especially in Fort Worth, where they felt the Big 12 pulled a dirty deal with then-governor Ann Richards to bring in her alma mater Baylor over TCU.

The aftermath of that divorce is still felt in Texas. SMU and TCU have refused to be part of the same conference since the Frogs left the WAC – the second of five conference changes TCU has made since 1995. SMU was willing to become a real outsider in the Big East for a shot at a BCS game – a shot that no longer exists. And then, the most shocking breakup of all: Texas A&M leaving the Big 12 and ending its rivalry with Texas due to the Longhorns’ arrogance and the Aggies’ jealousy over the Longhorn Network, which almost tore apart the Big 12 as well.

Fans of college sports in Texas are now forced to hear from their schools that A&M playing Mississippi and Florida or SMU facing UConn will be just as good as when they all faced each other for bragging rights in the Lone Star State.

Now the fans who grew up with the Big East and looked forward to their rivalries are being forced to hear the same snake oil sale. So what that UConn may never play Syracuse again? They now get to face Clemson and Florida State! C’mon, West Virginia fans – you can get just as fired up for playing Texas Tech and Baylor as you did for Pitt!

But no, it won’t be the same. College sports were built on regional rivalries – being able to brag to your compatriots that your school beat their school from just 50-100 miles away, not the school 900 miles away.

As the Catholic 7 look to find members to flesh out the new Big East and the dumped other members that include SMU, Houston and Cincinnati try to find a name for what’s left of their conference, the fans who looked forward to those road trips to old rival teams and bragging to familiar opponents at MSG are the ones getting the shaft.

Just like the fans of the Southwest Conference got it in 1995. All because of greed tearing tradition apart.

DFW CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK CENTRAL

UTA – WAC TOURNAMENT
UTA 83 Utah State 78
Kevin Butler had 23 points, but it was two steals from him in the final minute that helped seal UTA’s first WAC Tournament win.

UTA 69 UTSA 53
The Mavs put up one of their most complete defensive games of the year, holding San Antono to 35 percent shooting, while Karol Gruszecki came alive with 19 points as UTA eliminated its former Southland rival.
UTA 55 NEW MEXICO STATE 64 WAC CHAMPIONSHIP
UTA fell short of its second NCAA Tournament bid and fourth 20-win season (for now), but has accepted an invite to the third-tier CIT.

SMU – CONFERENCE USA TOURNAMENT
SMU 52 UAB 53
The Mustangs came back from down 11 to lead 52-51 with 29 seconds left, but UAB’s Jordan Swing got his own rebound off a blocked shot and scored the game-winning putback with 9 seconds left.
In their final CUSA sea on, the Mustangs finished 15-17 – their second most wins ever under a first-year head coach.

TCU – BIG 12 TOURNAMENT
TCU 57 Texas 70
The Longhorns outscored the Horned Frogs 27-13 in the final 12:18 of the game to pull away and end TCU’s first Big 12 season at 11-12.

Rowdy Rankings: College Basketball Venues

The lights have been turned off on college basketball games in North Texas for another year.

Technically, it happened a week ago, as all four teams in the area finished their home schedules. But now, as UTA, TCU and SMU move on to conference tournaments to try and keep their seasons going (UNT has since been bounced from the Sun Belt tournament), now might be a good time to give a grade and ranking on the college basketball facilities in the North Texas area. (I can’t say Metroplex in this case because sorry I just can’t see Denton as part of DFW. Do you know how freaking long it takes to get there?)

1. College Park Center
You can go ahead and call me biased on this one, but in 2012 UTA went from the worst facility in Texas Hall to the best. The College Park Center is like a smaller, more intimate version of the American Airlines Center, with even better sight lines than that aforementioned major venue. The only downside is whether or not the upper level was necessary, though the Mavs managed to pack the place twice this past season. While Texas Hall forced people to find seats where they could, usually within the 600 “backstage bleachers,” the CPC was made with room for everyone, giving the high-dollar alumni their cushioned court side seats while finally giving the students their own section along the baselines, allowing for the more realistic college atmosphere the school was long lacking.
Grade: A

2. Moody Coliseum
With a classic field house design that has a striking resemblance to the likes of Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium, Moody could have one of the best atmospheres in the country – if they could ever fill the place. It will be wait and see how the renovations that are about to begin will alter its atmosphere, as the changes it had previously made with the newer court and added room for more media, had reduced the amount of student space available. It probably has been ridiculed for things like the dark lighting and wooden bleachers lining the baseline, but a consistently winning SMU team that could pack the place would overshadow that.
Grade: B

3. Daniel Meyer Coliseum
It’s one of the circular-style venues that became en vogue about 30-40 years ago or so, and that already gets many points off as the shape pushes people away from more-up-close action. Other such venues, like UT’s Erwin Center, have worked to eliminate those problems. DMC has made some seating improvements over the years, but the students are still farther away than the previously mentioned buildings. At the very least, its 7,200 capacity may be just right for TCU; doubtful they could draw more than that even if the Horned Frogs were winning.
Grade: C

4. The Super Pit
It’s too big in addition to being another circular venue. With nearly 3,000 seats more than Daniel Meyer, it swallows up what atmosphere it could possibly have for sadly what is northern Texas’ closest thing to a college town in Denton. The students may be farthest away from the court action than any of the aforementioned places. Even though UNT may have had the most consistently winning team over the past few years, the area’s apathy toward college basketball means its chances of filling the Super Pit are slim to none. So any chance of a raucous atmosphere are eliminated among too many empty green seats each game.
Grade: D