It’s been a busy week for Texas Longhorns athletics — men’s and women’s hoops are wrapping up their regular season, baseball continued its hot start, and both the swimming & diving/track & field and cross country programs picked defended their Big 12 titles. The remaining time of the Frank Erwin Center is coming to a close, with only a few games of Texas women’s basketball left. What is your fondest memory of the drum?
Cameron Parker (@camerondparker) - I’m not as old as Kyle and Gerald so I don’t remember too much of the Kevin Durant era but my favorite memory is probably the 2019 victory over Kansas. Outside of that, I have not witnessed very many great Texas games at the Drum. My fondest memory is probably non-basketball-related. I got to see Drake’s Summer Sixteen concert which was my first concert at the Erwin Center. Can’t beat seeing the G.O.A.T. live.
Kyle Carpenter (@KyleCarpenter) - With the caveat that Gerald called dibs on the podcast for the correct answer: KD/Acie Law 2OT thriller (I was two rows from the top of the upper deck for truly one of the best games ever, and Durant’s last at the FEC)…I might take the cheesy cop out and say graduating there! Ok - slightly less cheesy: I covered my first UT sporting event as a student journalist in that press row…so you can blame the Erwin Center!
Gerald Goodridge (@ghgoodridge) - I can’t decide and I honestly don’t want to, but at the risk of showing my age here we go. I think my fondest athletics-related memory is the double-overtime game where the Kevin Durant-led Longhorns upstaged Acie Law and Texas A&M in a double-overtime shootout. Easily one of the best basketball games I have ever witnessed. Non-athletic is probably a tie between Dave Chappelle on his first post-hiatus tour and managing to somehow get tickets to the Glow in the Dark tour.
Chris Beard and the Horns played a good, but not great against Baylor and came up just short to the No. 3 Bears. With Kansas up next on Saturday to close out the regular season, Texas is locked in for a 4th place finish. Is that a good result for Beard’s inaugural season?
Cameron - At the beginning of the season, it would be disappointing. But seeing how good Baylor, Tech, and Kansas are this season, I’m not too high or too low on the conference finish. Anything worse than fourth under Beard is probably disappointing, especially going forward. Texas brought him here to finish top-three and win some hardware. Unless something crazy happens in the Big 12 tournament like it did last year, I don’t see how Texas gets past Baylor or Tech in KC. A trip to the championship would be an added bonus but let’s hope the Horns draw a favorable bracket in March.
Kyle - Because the Big 12 is a viper pit of treachery, I don’t know that “fourth place in the conference” is the best metric — if they secure a five seed in the NCAA Tournament, I think that is the better barometer. Texas has been a five seed or better eight times in the past 35 years, and only twice have they repeated that success (03-04, 3x 06-08). If Beard can make this the floor, then he has truly raised the program level.
Gerald - It’s weird because while I feel like I see progress in things like fan investment, it seems like the on-the court stuff is the same as it ever was. Texas is a good, not great, basketball team that usually picks up one or two games they should lose, while also dropping a couple that they should win. After what seems to be a mutual decision to part ways with Shaka Smart, Texas ended up one spot worse in conference play. I am not saying that it was not the right choice to make a change, that marriage very clearly was no longer working, but Year 1 feels the same. That being said, I think the trajectory of the team is probably upward, especially with what we know is coming next year.
Texas baseball kicks off the Shriners College Classic today, facing No. 17 Tennessee, No. 7 LSU, and UCLA this weekend. Is this weekend a litmus test for Coach Pierce and the Horns? Or are you expecting a sweep in Houston?
Cameron - I think back to last year’s opening tournament when the Longhorns got swept and everyone was looking around scared. Fast forward to June and Texas was a few plays away from playing in the CWS Final. Now if they get swept again this weekend it’ll be a little confounding, but I’m excited to see how the bats look against LSU and Tennessee.
Kyle - I think two things can be true: 1) this will be Texas’ first true measuring stick and 2) early season tournaments don’t necessarily spell out your fate in Omaha. It’s fun to play the best teams, and this will feature at least three of the best teams in the country. If they go 2-1 that will be a success, 3-0 and we are getting the hype train ROLLING!
Gerald - This is absolutely a postseason preview, but I hesitate to draw too many conclusions from early season tournaments. Message board posters were ready to fire Pierce after the season-opening tournament a year ago and we saw how that turned out. Texas hasn’t played a team with bats like LSU brings and Tennessee is, as it stands right now, the second-best pitching team in the country — behind the Longhorns. the Longhorns have the horses in the barn to play with anyone in the country, so we are legitimately looking at what will likely be two of the best regular-season matchups in recent history.
Both men’s and women’s swimming & diving and track & field/cross country won their conference championships over the weekend. What’s the most impressive feat of the weekend? Jonathan Jones setting a world record, Edrick Floreal turning the T&F/XC programs into one of the best in the country, or the continued dominance of Eddie Reese? Or all three?
Cameron - Sorry Coach Reese, but you’ve set the bar too high for us. Even retiring and coming back didn’t move the needle! What Coach Flo has done in his short time in Austin is remarkable, completely overhauling the T&F/XC programs and has found success. And if you’re breaking world records, you always deserve props. Congrats to Jonathan Jones and excited to see what he can do in Paris.
Kyle - Eddie Reese has won 43 consecutive conference championships. 43! He is so far past every other college coach in every sport, that he can only look to Kim Jong-Il’s golf records for rivals in terms of dominance. Poor Carol Capitani just won her 10th consecutive on the women’s side at Texas and she still has decades to go! But Texas men’s & women’s swimming and diving are a known entity. I am going with Coach Flo and both men’s & women’s track sweeping the Big 12 championships for the second straight year. He is really building a special program since taking over in 2018. How do you replace one of the singular-most dominant and popular athletes in the nation last year in Tara Davis? Get one of the other two finalists for the Bowerman award to transfer from rival Texas A&M! Getting Tyra Gittens is like poaching wide receiver Mike Evans after his breakout 2013 year.
Gerald - I mean, with my Bijan bias aside, it’s hard to argue with the performance of Jonathan Jones. He’s been building to this all season, and really his whole career at Texas, so it’s awesome to see him finally getting the shine for his performances. I also can’t let the moment pass to shine a light on the fact that the women’s swimming team set SIX conference records en route to sweeping all 21 events in the conference tournament.