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SMU 80 HOUSTON 59

UNIVERSITY PARK – How does SMU overcome the loss of a blue-chip prospect like Keith Frazier?

Answer: They still have Nic Moore.

The junior tied a school record with eight three-pointers in scoring 28 points as SMU cruised its way to the 80-59 win over the Cougars at Moody Coliseum.

“They (his teammates) just kept telling me to shoot the ball…” said Moore, who has averaged 18.2 points in his last five games,” but I just have fun out there and let the game come to me.”

Moore spent much of the first half scoring and dishing to Yanick Moreira, as the two had 10 points each in the first frame. Then Moore completely took over in the second half, hitting six of eight shots from long range as the Mustangs ran away 43-30.

The three-point shooting became infectious in that second half, as both teams combined for 28 long shots in the second half. But Houston only hit 33 percent of those shots while SMU hit 69 percent.

“It did,” Sterling Brown said of his team catching on to shooting threes, “but at the same time we we.re just running our offense… we were executing our plays and the guys were open.”

With all of that, the team’s defensive performance might be overlooked to everyone except Larry Brown.

“That’s how we need to play,” the coach said. “If we rebound and defend and don’t turn the ball over, that’s generally the way we’re most successful.

His team did that on this evening, holding the Cougars to 35 percent shooting and out-rebounding them 43-24, while dishing 24 assists to only 12 turnovers.

And yes, there was an extra bit of motivation for the Mustangs to beat a Cougars team that knocked them out of the AAC Tournament last year, killing their chance at the NCAAs.

“That was our whole mindset, once we knew that we had Houston next on the schedule,” Moore said. “what they did to us last year to end the season.”

TCU 85 @ WEST VIRGINIA 86 (OT)

They keep getting close, but eventually TCU has to get to the point where they know close only counts in horseshoes and… well, you know.
This one had to feel like a bomb, and the Horned Frogs were oh so close to knocking off one of the many powerful Big 12 opponents on their own home floor. And it looked like they had it when Trey Zeigler’s shot with three seconds left gave TCU a 85-84 lead over West Virginia in Morgantown. But the Frogs began celebrating too quickly, which allowed the Mountaineers to get the ball quickly up the floor enough to force TCU to foul, and Jevon Carter hit two free throws with a second left to allow West Virginia to escape with the win.
It wasn’t just a game TCU had with seconds to play. The Frogs had had led for almost the entire overtime and had a five point lead with less than a minute and a half to go before three-pointers and free throws got them. West Virginia hit six free throws in the final 1:39, plus two three pointers from Daxter Miles Jr, including the one that gave the Mountaineers the lead with 11 seconds to go, setting up the craziness that followed.

MAVERICKS 98 CHICAGO 102

In the minds of many, WWE is going the way of the Cowboys

Mac Engel says he normally doesn’t write articles about pro wrestling. Fair enough, I try to avoid articles that directly involve Jerry Jones and the Cowboys myself, but that’s going to be unavoidable for this article.

Finally, something GOOD is going to come to the monstrosity in Arlington. OK, maybe the NBA All-Star Game and the Final Four were worth it, but this is REALLY the big time. At long last, WrestleMania is coming to “North Texas,” to be held in JerryWorld April 3 of next year. This was only a matter of time, and I’m actually surprised Jerry got passed over for New Orleans for Mania 30 last year given the attendance potential we’ll get to later.

First, though, let me get this out of the way and preface this by saying this still does not justify putting Jerry’s monument to himself where it currently sits. This and those other events still would have made it to the area had he compromised and agreed to the Fair Park location, and it would have happened without all the complaints from fans and media about having to drive all the way to Arlington. Will the wrestling fans make those same complaints? We’ll wait and see.

In the wake of the big announcement being made on Tuesday, Engel wrote in the Star-Telegram how many similarities WWE head honcho Vince McMahon has to Jerry Jones, joking how they might be one and the same. And you know, he’s actually got a much better point than he even realizes.

Because just like Jerry has had for the past 15 years or so, Vince is growing a legion of detractors among his game’s fan base claiming he’s wrecking his own business for his own ego.

Already, people are predicting a possible crowd of 125,000 for WrestleMania 32. The current record for wrestling remains at more than 93,000 for WrestleMania 3 all the way back in 1987. But the main reason WWE (then called the WWF before the World Wildlife Fund stole the acronym from them) drew that many to the old Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit was because two of the greatest titans, Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, were the main event on that night.

WWE is clearly even bigger of an entity than it was three decades ago. But does it have the star power and the enthusiasm from its fan base to break that record? That may be up for debate.

Right now, we are two days from this year’s “Road to WrestleMania” beginning with the Royal Rumble, an event meant to determine who will be in WrestleMania 31’s main event. And to a lot of people who follow wrestling passionately, this event and the upcoming Mania need to be outstanding to make up for a less-than-stellar year they just had to endure.

Wrestling has always had those people griping among its fan base – what fan base doesn’t? – but they have been especially vicious this past year. Yes, let’s make this clear – wrestling fans for the most part know their sport is scripted and predetermined. That’s why they get especially angry – when something happens they don’t like, they know it was meant to happen that way and thus go off on Vince and others making it happen.

And make no doubt, just about everything is Vince’s doing. In the last four years, there have been efforts to cede responsibilities away from him and onto his daughter Stephanie and her husband, the former wrestler known as Triple H. Still, Vince has his hand in everything despite the belief of many that his kids are doing a better job. Yet the big kahuna still micromanages and controls pretty much everything. Sound familiar?

Not all of it is WWE’s fault. There was a huge buzz when fan favorite Daniel Bryan became champion at Mania 30 last year. But less than two months later, Bryan had to go on the shelf with neck sugary and only recently returned to action. With wrestlers like Bryan and Roman Reigns, WWE has almost been racked with injuries as badly as the Texas Rangers.

But to many observers, the problems with the current WWE product go beyond injuries. In their minds, poorly thought out matches, storylines that they have tired of (the biggest being the ongoing one about WWE really being run by an iron-fisted Triple H and Stephanie leading a dictatorial group called The Authority) and a refusal to let aging stars like John Cena (who already had a hate group among fans who never liked his good guy soldier gimmick) step away for younger performers have led them to declare 2014 was one of wrestling’s worst years ever. They compared it to what World Championship Wrestling was like in 2000 – the year before that company went belly-up and was bought out by Vince.

Can 2015 turn things around in time for the product to be something special once again when wrestling’s Super Bowl comes to JerryWorld next year? In the minds of many, especially after being so impressed with how well WWE’s development program, NXT, is being run under Triple H’s control, the best way for that to happen is for Vince to step away.

I am pretty sure many fans of Jerry’s team will claim that team’s recent turnaround is a result of Jerry finally letting people like Stephen Jones do their job with at least less micromanaging. Likewise, there have already ben articles posted begging Vince to retire by the end of the year at the latest.

Vince himself’s idea? He flat out told Engel that he plans to run things until he dies, “and seeing as how I’m never going to die…”

I think I just heard all my fellow wrestling fans cry out in agony. And many Cowboy fans nodding in understanding.

UTA 61 @ LOUISIANA MONROE 57
Call this one sweet revenge.
The Mavericks managed to get a modicum of payback Thursday night in beating the Warhawks at the Fant-Ewing Coliseum, equalizing the tough loss they took to Monroe in Arlington earlier this year.
UTA led by as many as 11 in the second half and had a 10-point lead with less than seven minutes to play.
Monroe did cut that lead down to one basket, as a steal from Marvin Williams and basket from Tylor Ongwae made it a two-point game with 38 seconds left. But two big free throws from Johnny Hill and a turnover off of Nick Coppola with 13 seconds left allowed the Mavs to seal the win.
The win allowed the Mavs to move to within a game of first place in what so far has been a very tight race in the Sun Belt Conference. The top five teams in the conference are all separated by just one game.

LEGENDS 113 @ AUSTIN 110

With Damion James and Ricky Ledo combining for 44 points, including James’ basket that gave them the lead for good with 36 seconds left, the Legends managed to pull of the win over the Spurs in Cedar Park.
Texas managed to pull out the win despite losing anon-point lead in the fourth quarter and missing three of eight free throws in the final minute and a half of the game.

Sprawled conferences haven’t been good for college sports

Last Monday night was the most fun I had at a game in a long time, watching Scott Cross’ UTA Mavericks take down Danny Kotter – sorry, Kaspar’s Texas State Bobcats. And it made me wonder why my adrenaline hasn’t been as high at College Park Center as it used to be? Was it because that was a much tighter contest after seeing a lot of blowouts recently? Was it because I’m just getting too old?

But I know the real reason. It was because the game was against Texas State, the only in-state rival the Mavs have any more. That game meant something extra, something I haven’t been able to get from them playing Georgia State or Troy. It’s something that used to be present in a lot more conference games that don’t exist any more.

Once upon a time, the UTA Mavericks played in the Southland Conference, which for years was mostly comprised of schools within the state of Texas and Louisiana. Now, the names Stephen F. Austin State and Sam Houston State and UT-San Antonio might not seem like big names to a lot of people, but to those of us who were loyal to the blue and white, those names meant everything. For me and my friends, piling into a car and making a simple three-to-four hour drive to be among the few fans daring to yell for our team in enemy territory and make it back home in a day made for some of the best of times.

Now, today’s UTA students definitely have it better than us in some regards; a big new place to watch games with an actual student section tops that list. But how often do they get a chance for the road trips we had? They could possibly travel to San Marcos or Monroe, LA – MAYBE to Lafayette. That’s about it. Let’s see college students manage to travel to Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina or some of the other places the Mavs go to now in the Sun Belt Conference.

The thing is, what UTA now deals with in conference play in bad travel and opponents fans can’t get fired up for is not unique in college sports today. Conferences are all over the map, quite literally. And it’s killing college athletics, especially for those that can’t immediately sell dreams of a national championship.

Once upon a time, as you can see from the first of the two diagrams provided below, college conferences were organized by regions. Everything was relatively compact and easy to understand, and the chance for your team to prove it was the best in the region led to excitement that programs could sell. Maybe you didn’t have a shot at the national championship this year, but you could brag to your colleagues from a nearby school that you beat them out for best in the region.

While I did have to go back 35-40 years for the exact alignment provided [EDIT: I have also since been informed that the Big East was not founded until 1979], it’s important to note that not that much changed over the next 20-30 years. Arizona and Arizona State did go to the Pac-10, the Big East and ACC expanded into Florida and most notably, the Southwest Conference dissolved to create the Big 12. But for the most part, things stayed regionalized.


Not anymore, as the second image proves. In the last decade, the idea that being spread out over the nation leads to more money and recognition has taken hold, and regional rivalries have suffered. Colleges have ditched the old system of proximity breeding passion and instead trying to sell recruits on being able to travel across the country for games while trying to tell their fans they can get just as excited for conference “rivals” 1500 miles away.

It isn’t working. TCU’s last game in 2014 at Amon Carter Stadium, against Iowa State, had a Big 12 conference championship to be won as a selling point – and they still couldn’t sell out the place.

But at least TCU is in somewhat of a good spot being in as close to the old SWC as possible in the Big 12. SMU is in no-man’s land playing in The American. Even with a shot at winning the conference, Larry Brown’s team is seeing empty seats at Moody again. The football team has to stockpile its non-conference schedule with old SWC rivals to generate any interest, because even when the Mustangs were making bowl games again, they couldn’t pack Ford Stadium for the likes of Memphis, Cincinnati and South Florida.

When UNT is in the best position by being with UT-San Antonio, Rice and UT-El Paso in Conference USA, that’s beyond not good.

What college fans in North Texas want more than anything else is to face each other for bragging rights. Instead, we have four Division I schools – three with football programs – that all play in different conferences now.

And the conferences are almost all the same. If anything, it’s what’s killed any chance of The American or Conference USA or the Sun Belt being a competitive power in Division I because they are all spread out over almost the same area. None of those conferences and member schools have anything special to offer over one another. No tight regional formations = no regional rivalries = no excitement among the fans = bad atmospheres for games = little incentive for top recruits to go there.

When I heard that UTA was leaving the Southland, the athletics department’s head of promotions at the time kept trying to tell me, “this is the best thing for us.”

So far, I’m not seeing it – for UTA, SMU or a lot of other programs across the country.