Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016/17 Sun Belt Men's Basketball Predictions

I posted the Sun Belt Conference women's basketball predictions yesterday. They open the conference portion of the schedule tonight. Now I post the men's version. This was a lot tougher than past years as the Sun Belt looks to have a great chance to make a splash.

Nine teams are over .500 with another even in wins and losses. Of the two teams below the majority mark, one is by a single game. Yes, a few of those wins came against non-Division I opponents, but this is the best mark I have seen in the SBC since UTA joined.

Before I introduce my selections, here's what the coaches predicted for the SBC finish:

1. UT Arlington (10)
2. Little Rock (1)
3. Georgia State (1)
4. Georgia Southern
5. Coastal Carolina
6. South Alabama
7. Louisiana
8. Louisiana-Monroe
9. Troy
10. Arkansas State
11. Appalachian State
12. Texas State
I think if the coaches did what I did and voted now, there would be a lot of changes.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016/17 Women's Basketball Sun Belt Conference Predictions

Time for the annual basketball conference predictions. Refresher for those who are new or don't obsess over this blog (and why not, hmm?), I don't like making preseason predictions without seeing the teams in action. There are too many unknowns and I feel I can give it more accuracy by seeing teams play against their non-conference opponents.

All good? Great! Here's how the coaches thought the end-of-year-standings would look:

1. Troy (3)
2. Little Rock (5)
3. UT Arlington (3)
4. South Alabama
5. UL Lafayette
6. Texas State
7. Arkansas State
8. Appalachian State (1)
9. Georgia State
10. Georgia Southern
11. Coastal Carolina
12. UL Monroe

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Now They Are What We Thought They Were

The UT Arlington men's basketball team sure has been making noise lately. If you look to this blog as your sole source of UTA news, you probably missed the part where the Mavs beat the UT-Austin Longhorns for the first win against the burnt orange in school history on November 29. They followed that up with a road win against regional rival North Texas, the fourth win in a row and ninth in 11 tries in that series. That was followed up with a solid, all-around win against Division III UT-Dallas. Then on Thursday, UTA traveled to Saint Mary's, ranked 12th at the time, and beat the Gaels for the first ranked win in school history.

Early in the season, I expressed concerns about not finishing out games after outstanding starts. To this point, UTA has not trailed at halftime yet this year. In the the three losses, they looked bad in the second half and in some of the wins, they did just enough to win.

But that Texas game was the start of a trend where UTA looks like they can play basketball for a full 40 minutes. They got behind early, but used a 10-0 run to close the first half and take a three-point lead. Another 8-0 run to start the second gave UTA a quick double-digit lead. The teams would essentially play even at that point until the final buzzer, giving the Mavericks a 72-61 win.

Afterwards it was entertaining for two reasons for me. One, to see the jubilation from the Maverick faithful. The other was to see the meltdown from the other side.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Overdue Catchup

As the UT Arlington women's basketball team enters the fourth year of the Krista Gerlich era, it looks like the team maybe finally renewing the talent and/or results of the Donna Capps era. The team is now 5-1, with many wins that would qualify as character victories.

There are many parallels to Gerlich and Capps, who took over with a low talent program and suffered a loss-heavy first season. Capps was 6-21 in 2000/01. Gerlich was 4-25. Capps was a game under .500 in year two while Gerlich was 17-13 in the sophomore season. The 13 win improvement is best in the UTA record books, besting Jody Conradt's 12-win improvement from 1974-75 to 1975-76. Capps reached the winning season in year three with a 15-13 mark. Gerlich declined a bit, thanks to a lot of extraneous factors, but was still competitive at 15-16. In the fourth year, Capps was 19-12 and third place in the Southland Conference.

That 2003-04 team won the first two games of the season before dropping five in a row to the likes of SMU (71-74), Michigan (51-68), TCU (73-43), Nebraska (59-81) and Saint Mary's (73-66). They would win 17 of the next 24 and make it to the SLC championship game, where the team lost to Northwestern State for the right to play in the NCAA tournament.

This year's team however, has looked much better to start.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Change at the Top

So much to write about right now in regards to the UT Arlington athletic program. After I put up the last men's basketball post, I started on an entry for the women's basketball team. Then came word about Coach Diane Seymour stepping down as head volleyball coach. Then, I don't know if you heard, but UTA beat UT Austin on Tuesday. Then there's some fallout from that. All of which are deserving of its own commentary. So just bear with me as I navigate the flood of topics coming out of Mav land.

On Monday, it was announced that Coach Seymour was retiring. She spent 13 years at the head of the program, amassing a 211-195 mark. She spent the previous eight seasons as an assistant coach under Janine Smith and was a player during the late 1980's, which is the period of the program's greatest achievements.

There's no question she is dedicated to the University and the community, as she was also an Arlington ISD product before starting at UTA. I knew her as a student broadcaster in the early 2000's traveling with the team broadcasting events for UTA Radio. So I don't take it lightly when I say that I believe the change was overdue.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Turning the Corner

When we last left the UT Arlington men's basketball team, the poor second halves the Mavericks displayed led them to a 1-3 start. In an attempt to right the ship after a demoralizing 0-3 road trip, UTA returned home to face NAIA's Saint Francis from Joliet, Illinois.

The game was similar to what we Mav fans have seen the first four games of the year, a great first half and a lackluster second. UTA raced out to 57-27 lead at the break. And like the previous games, had a second half that was poor. Even though St. Francis is a talented NAIA team, UTA should destroy them if they are at the level we were all hoping for during the offseason. Yet, somehow the Fighting Saints were able to play to a 41-40 second half. Now every Maverick did play, and Erick Neal led the team in minutes with 23, so the second half did see a lot of different players and combos, but one of the supposed strengths of the team is depth. Due to that, I'd expect better in the half. In the end, they won and I suppose that is all that matters.

The team ended their homestand with the Mount Saint Mary's Mountaineers, a team from the Northeast Conference that should be a contender within that conference. Their non-conference record is lacking as they are what UTA used to be, built for conference championships. The team, as has been the course of action this year, took the lead at the half, but with the slimmest of margins possible, 35-34.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Not Quite the Worst Case Scenario...

...but not far from it. If you would have told me prior to the start of the season that the UT Arlington Mavericks mens basketball team would have started the season 1-3, I wouldn't have been overly concerned. While the opponents aren't fantastic, they aren't pushovers either.

Texas Southern is a contender within the Southwest Athletic Conference only. Minnesota is likely to finish in the top half of the Big 10 at best. Florida Gulf Coast is a good team that is about where UTA is trying to go and Arkansas is similar to Minnesota but in the weaker Southeastern Conference. What has given me some major concern and dejection is what I have witnessed in all four games. Let's look at the following.

1) They have held a halftime lead in every game. Hard to think of an instance in where a team that is 4-0 at halftime is ultimately 1-3 when it matters. Against Texas Southern, UTA was up by double digits, before entering halftime at seven. UTA again pushed the lead to double digits before the Tigers tied it. UTA managed to find enough in front of a home crowd versus a team that won't finish in the top half in all of DI to get a win. I was concerned at the time, but brushed it off as early season jitters and rust.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

UTA FB Vol. 4 Gm. 12 - The End of an Era

As soon as I knew that 1983 would be included in this years edition of This Day in UTA Football History, I also knew this game would be covered. Fans of the UT Arlington Mavericks football team from this era or people who have a general knowledge of UTA's history know why. After roaming the sidelines of UTA football for a decade, today was the last game for Harold "Bud" Elliott to coach a UTA team.

It was a whirlwind week for the UTA football program leading up to this one. After starting the year 1-3, coach Elliott said his team may not lose another game. The Movin' Mavs beat Wichita State, then Lamar 21-0, New Mexico State, 28-7 and Arkansas State, 28-19 to move their record to 5-3.

After that, the squad dropped a 20-16 road game to McNeese State and a 24-17 home contest to Louisiana Tech, moving their record to 5-5, and maybe more importantly, dropping their conference record to 2-3. With that, a season that started with so much hype and promise, would turn out to be one of the worst conference records and finishes in a long time. Coupled with 1982's 1-4 tie for fourth, Coach Elliott had gone 3-7 in SLC play in two years to this point after winning the conference title in 1981.

With the perceived talent at his disposal and more resources given with the opening of Maverick Stadium and re-classification to Division I-AA, the Athletic Council thought this was unacceptable. On the Thursday prior to this week's game, UTA elected not to renew the contract of dean of the Southland Conference, effectively firing the ten-year coach.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Real Talk or Disingenuous Argument?

I've really enjoyed UT Arlington President Vistap Kharbhari from afar. The University's enrollment has grown, alumni engagement is the best I've ever seen, he has been present at most every, if not all athletic events that I've attended and I see him all over social media and University releases. I don't know him personally, other than a few casual interactions, but my impression is that he is a quality President and a quality person.

That's why I was somewhat shocked to here something he said recently. One of his interactions with the UTA community is a somewhat regular event called Pizza with the President. It's generally a noon time event where students eat and ask the President a question. The questions vary depending on the season and current events, but there is always one that comes up - football.

The most recent Pizza with the President was this past week, and as usual, he was asked that question. From a recap given by UTA's award-winning student newspaper, The Shorthorn.

Business freshman Jesse Labelle asked Karbhari about creating a football team in regard to Homecoming week.

At the beginning of the event, Karbhari said that unless College Park Center gets filled at the basketball games, he would not discuss football with anyone. Students will also need to raise $100 million, as that is the size of the endowment needed to build a football stadium.

The first reason is a completely unrelated attempt at correlation. It is also a reason that was given in the past and was proven to be false.

I'll start with the second point. For decades, UTA played in Texas Hall, a place so poor for basketball that coaches would try to get out of showing recruits the building at times. It was an awkward place to play, very few amenities for fans and players and seated 3,500.

For much of the 1990's until its end, UTA's home average attendance was less than 1,000. In many cases, almost 50% less than 1,000. I heard many times that the University would not build a new arena unless the University and Arlington community filled Texas Hall.

That never happened. In 2005, when then-President James Spaniolo announced intentions to build what would become College Park Center, UTA averaged 811. The previous year, UTA saw 931 on average per game (the team averaged 1,437 the last five games in a conference championship year). UTA has more than doubled attendance at CPC, and last year it was quadruple. Since CPC's opening, there have been nine crowds that drew more than Texas Hall's highest. That came in 1981. The University invested in the basketball program by building a quality place to watch and play and people have come out.

I get what he's trying to say. As a whole, you, the UTA community, need to support what we have. And I'm in full agreement with that philosophy. UTA for years played in front a largely apathetic fan base in most sports and lost its football team largely because of it.

But, moving from the second point to the first, basketball attendance and resurrecting a football program aren't anywhere near related. There are so many other factors involved. Geography, student body, demographics, etc. that have so much more say than an unrelated sports program.

UT-San Antonio, Lamar, Southeastern Louisiana and Houston Baptist are all nearby schools that started or resurrected a football program with basketball attendance lower than what UTA has now.

Looking at the SBC itself, there is no correlation between support for basketball and football. Last year, UTA was third in the SBC in attendance for its mens basketball games. They were behind Louisiana-Lafayette, who has been near the top of the SBC in that category in every sport for years, and Little Rock, who had an amazing run during a 30-win season.

I detailed how UTA's attendance trajectory is on the upward trend in all sports at the end of the athletic year. There is excitement surrounding UTA's sports teams, one that has hit a level I have never felt before. UTA was tooled to make runs at Southland championships, not national-level competition we are seeing now.

Saying we need to fill CPC first is a crutch to me. Plus it is so generic. Fill it how? What's the percentage? Sell-outs? What's the time frame? One year? Five? Several? That point is so generic as to be useless, which may be the greater point.

As for the price tag...there are so many ways to dissect that too.

Ignoring the fact that the quote from the Shorthorn says endowment to build the stadium, as endowments are set up for recurring expenses like scholarships or operating costs, I think his money quote misses the mark too.

What's the $100 million for? Using Texas State's renovation of their stadium, Bobcat Stadium, as a model, I calculated roughly $50 million, adjusting for inflation needed to get Maverick Stadium to FBS standards. Using the Nienas report from 2004 as a guide, UTA needs roughly $10 million for equipment scholarships and salaries. So what's the other $40 million for? Sounds like it is a random number to me pulled out of thin air.

Perhaps the difference might be the money needed for another sport to offset the Title IX implications of adding football. But UTA is already adding women's golf for a few hundred thousand. Not sure women's soccer, swimming, gymnastics, etc. need all that. 

But that $100 million also assumes UTA is going straight to FBS, which is a laudable goal but not necessary. The Mavs could play right away at the FCS level with minimal to no need for stadium renovations.

There is even a possibility of playing non-scholarship FCS, further reducing the financial strain. Before the idea gets dismissed, schools that have made names for themselves in basketball play in the Pioneer Football League, Butler, Davidson, Dayton, Drake and Valparaiso.

I know this gets tossed around a lot, but no other start-up needed $100 million. Using a real case study from a peer institution in the State of Texas that went straight to FBS. UTSA needed only $22 million over eight years. Prior to their first game, they only needed $2.6 million. Yes, they play in the Alamodome and have a sweet deal with the City of San Antonio, but that still backs my point up early. To play at Maverick Stadium, straight to FBS, UTA would need roughly $55 million, or a little more than half of what President Kharbhari said was needed.

The other $20 million UTSA calculated came after the sport began play, and when revenue began generation. UTA's Sun Belt brethren earn $1.5 million or more when they play a guarantee game. Each SBC team earns $1 million base from the College Football Playoff. There's more when incentives happen. Students have already pledged a student fee of $2 per credit hour up to 15 hours. That generates roughly $2 million if my calculations are correct. So before you factor in ticket sales, sponsorships, donations and other sources of revenue, the football program has already generated a minimum of $4.5 million annually. So very little of that $100 million is operating costs.

And then there's the matter of who sources that $100 million. Assuming the quote is accurate by the writer, President Kharbhari is suggesting the students raise that money? When have any fundraising operations been targeted at the student? Student fees are all I can account for. College Park Center and the Athletics fee are the only fees towards sports I can recall where a student pays for anything (and I think that CPC fee is dubious at best). Otherwise, like with CPC, University officials look to outside support. Carrizo Oil and Gas gave $5 million for CPC. Clay Gould and Allan Saxe renovations were financed by individual donors. I don't get where the students fork over any money, outside of that athletics fee mentioned, but that's for annual operations, and shouldn't be in start-up costs.

The thing is, I'm not against the stance, whatever it is. I'm a Maverick through and through. I believe a cross country championship is as valuable a basketball one (but I also know what society gravitates to). I'd like football, but I'd also like to add womens soccer. I'd rather hear an up front and honest answer. "We are not looking at football now" or "we are carefully analyzing everything, proceeding cautiously so as to maximize the opportunity for success" are much better responses to me.

When I hear something that is so easily defeated by simple fact checking and sounds blatantly false, I wonder why. The right proper way to deal with something like UTA and football is to be up front and honest. That answer sounded neither to me.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

2016 Volleyball in the Books

With the conclusion of the 2016 regular season, the UT Arlington volleyball team ended conference about where I expected, with a 10-6 record, good for third in the West Division and fourth overall in the Sun Belt Conference.

The 10-6 record was exactly what I thought they were going to get, though I had the teams wrong. I thought they would get swept by Arkansas State and lose their sole match to Coastal Carolina. The ones I had wrong were minor. I thought they would split with both Texas State and Little Rock. Instead they swept the Trojans and were swept by the Bobcats. I thought that if they were going to lose to a team in the east not named Coastal Carolina, it would by Georgia Southern, instead they lost to Georgia State in five.

For the fourth year in a row, UTA has finished fourth in the SBC. On top of that, non-conference losses to North Texas (13-16), Abilene Christian (12-19), New Mexico (14-15) and Ole Miss (9-16) contributed to a really poor non-conference showing, 6-9. Coupled with the Georgia State loss, there's five losses that just obliterate any chance of post-season success.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

UTA FB Vol. 4 Gm. 11 - The First Championship

My last entry made reference to the early success the Arlington State College Rebels had when they jumped from junior college status to the four-year ranks. The team went 4-3 in year one and 9-2 in year two and 7-3 in '61. But in 1962, the school faced its first losing season in 1962 at 4-6.

The following spring, the Southland Conference was formed with UTA playing a key point in its founding in Dallas. While most other sports started play in the fall of 1963, the football schools didn't start until 1964, due to scheduling issues. It worked out for ASC, as they faced their worst season at 1-8.

The start of SLC play didn't reverse the Rebel fortunes at 3-6-1, including an 0-3-1 mark in loop play. Finally, after getting little respect in the pre-season - of the eight players the conference trumped for All-American consideration, none were from Arlington - ASC finished 6-3. More importantly, they won their last two SLC games, including against eventual champion Lamar, to win the tiebreaker for second place.

Entering the 1966 season, that was tied for the best SLC finish for any ASC any sport. The cross country team finished last every year. Their track counterparts had one third and two fourth place finishes. The tennis team and a last place finish to go with two third place spots. The second sport in the pecking order, basketball, had two fourths and a last place end. The golf team finished third their first two years and had the departments best showing with a second place finish in 1966.

Three of the four SLC teams, Abilene Christian, Lamar and Trinity, won SLC championships the first year. Arkansas State tied for basketball to pick up their first title (men's basketball) in year two. At the end of the third year, Arlington State was still trophy-less.

With a win in today's entry, Arlington State would at least clinch a share of that elusive-first title.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

UTA FB. Vol. 4, Gm. 10 - The Building Blocks

The 1960 Arlington State College team is somewhat of an awkward season for me to discuss. On the surface, you'd think there would be a lot about this team that would appeal to me or many other fans. They tied for the second best winning percentage in program history, truly played as a team with no one player dominating the stat lines and were hard-nosed players with many playing both ways. But it's just hard to find the excitement for a few reasons.

For starters, there aren't many teams on their schedule we identify with today. They joined the four-year ranks at the bottom of the totem pole. Given its size, academic aspirations and location, ASC was destined to rise in the ranks. The downside to that from a historical perspective is that many of the opponents for UTA in 1959 and early 1960's are in their same spot in the pecking order. UT Arlington today and ASC in the mid-1960's, just didn't and don't have anything in common with Delta State, Trinity, McMurray and Southwestern Oklahoma State, for example.

There also wasn't anything to play for. They didn't join a conference until 1964. That can actually piggie back on the point above. UTA knows Arkansas State, Lamar, McNeese State, etc. due to conference affiliation. But it also means there is something else to play for, a championship. For example, the 1968 UTA-Arkansas St. game was made much better since it was essentially a championship game.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

UTA FB. Vol. 4 Gm. 9 - The Brick Wall of Tech

While I've talked about the situations surrounding the 1977 UT Arlington Mavericks and their previous two games that have made this series (moving to Cravens Field and the North Texas rivalry), what I haven't really done is mention the team itself. For that, I reserved today's entry when I scheduled this year's series.

The 1977 squad, like virtually every other UTA team, had talent on the program. UTA had 30 NFL draft picks during its time in the Southland Conference football era. Arkansas State is the only school with more at 31. In all, 42 made it to NFL rosters. The talent didn't result in much more than 5-6 seasons though, but the reasons are for another post (or have even been discussed in past posts), but the point is there were real talented players, including on this team.

The headliner is Derrick Jensen. Maverick faithful from back in the day immediately know who Jensen is. He was one heck of a fullback, gaining 3,346 yards from 1974 to 1977. In 1976 and 1977, he was named to the All-American team as a third-team selection, UTA's first and only player to make an All-American team at the highest level. 15 others have been named as honorable mentions, but only Jensen landed on one of the three teams. Six players were named to an All-American team at the College Division.

Jensen also ranks first on UTA's all-time record for carries (676), fourth for touchdowns (16) as well as yards per carry (4.9). He was a capable receiver as well, catching 18 passes for 165 yards and 1 TD (I don't have complete stats for the 1976 season when he was a sophomore and the receiving numbers are without his sophomore year). Number 31 is top on UTA's list for 100-yard rushing games with 17.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

UTA FB Vol. 4, Gm. 8 - Late Conference Start

College football in 1966 is not like we know it today, in so many ways. Conferences are much, much bigger today than just about anything back in the mid-1960's. Therefore it's not uncommon to see conference games early in the season, and in many instances, it can be the first game up. The common thinking back then was to use the non-conference schedule to prepare for conference play.

As the Arlington State Rebels moved to the later stages of October, they had not played their first Southland Conference team. But, seeing as how the SLC only had four other competitors to fill a 10-game schedule, that wasn't surprising, but rather the norm.

The Trinity Tigers were the first opponent on UTA's schedule. Trinity is an interesting note in the SLC's history. They were the first University to leave the union. Most schools in the SLC had designs of becoming higher in the NCAA food chain. Trinity, however, did not. As the SLC schools made a push to go to the University Division, later Division I, Trinity would actually drop to Division III, or non-scholarship.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

UTA FB Vol. 4 Gm. 7 - The Truest of True Rivals

In this week's entry into the UTA football history series, I may not give as much backstory as I usually do. Simply, I just don't need to with this one.

When I introduce East Texas State, or Texas A&M-Commerce as they are known now, the average fan, the younger fan, and even people my age or older may not know why or even that there was a rivalry. The schools are in different NCAA divisions, don't play anymore and just don't really have anything in common now like they did then.

All that's needed for today's entry is to fill in small gaps and set the stage because today's opponent is just as much a rival then as now; the University of North Texas, or North Texas State University as they were known in 1977.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

UTA FB Vol. 4 Gm. 6 - Looking in the Mirror

When we last left the 1983 season, one with gigantic expectations as a huge amount of talent was returning (more on that later in the series), they had just dropped their season opener to Western Michigan, the eighth time in ten openers for a Coach Harold "Bud" Elliott team at UT Arlington. Things weren't looking good for UTA.

The Mavericks dropped their next game to Northeast Louisiana (now Louisiana-Monroe) at Maverick Stadium, 16-10. It was a game where the UTA offense was just outmatched by the Indians' (now Warhawks) defense.

The first win of the year came on the road against the West Texas State (now A&M) Buffaloes, 31-13. That was followed with a 34-0 drubbing at the hands of the SMU Mustangs, ranked 13th at the time. After that game, Coach Elliott said the Mavericks may not lose another game the rest of the season.

Looking at Coach Elliott's performance, one of the things that stick out is just how bad his teams performed at Maverick Stadium. Coach Elliott was at the helm when Maverick Stadium opened and he went 1-5 the first year. Prior to this game, he was 7-11 overall at home. He'd finish his career 10-12 at Maverick Stadium. I think that played a large part in his dismissal from the team. Lack of community support was a primary reason for Elliott's dismissal. Hard to get that support when you can't win in front of them.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

UTA FB Vol. 4 Gm. 5 - Talent and Youth

Today's entry in the UTA football history series has way more meaning than just with opponent, site, outcome, etc., though it has a lot of that. So today, we'll look back at the 1966 season and go to Memorial Stadium as Arlington State College plays their home opener.

Today's opponent is East Texas State University, the first genuine rival ASC had since leaving the junior college ranks. The schools are roughly an hour's drive apart and the game's were relatively close. UTA dropped the first two games of the series, 9-14 and 8-17 but rebounded in 1965 for a 20-6 win.

I've mentioned before about how this was one of the higher attended games of the year for the host team. Of the six games that have hit five figures  or more on UTA's campus, two came from East Texas State. And that's out of three total games in Arlington.

1966 was really an interesting year, but not for some of the reasons initially thought. Sophomore quarterback Carl Williams led the team in passing as a freshman with 902 yards. There were many who thought he had the making to be an all-time great. But for reasons I have never been able to find, he quit the team mid-season. That left the door open for Mike Baylor, who would become that all-time great, holding most career passing records and a few single-season ones that still stand.

Monday, September 26, 2016

2016/17 Men's Basketball Schedule

Unquestionably, the 2016/17 men's basketball season is the most anticipated at UT Arlington ever, at least by me since I became a student in 2000. You may have to go all the way back to the very early 1980's to find some similar anticipation. Back then, the Southland Conference was one of the best non-major conferences, repeatedly sending teams into later rounds of the NCAA tournament. From 1979-1985, an SLC team won at least one game in the end-of-year tourney except in 1982.

Once the SLC split after UTA dropped their football program, losing Lamar and Louisiana Tech primarily, the conference's basketball stature dropped tremendously. In that seven-year time frame above, SLC teams won eight NCAA tournament games. In the 28 years since, the conference won a total five games. Two have been from Stephen F. Austin St in the last three years and two were the 16-seed vs. 16-seed for the righ to be slaughtered by a 1 seed.

So UTA started winning games in the SLC, but I'm still not convinced it has everything to do with the dropping of football and the allocation of more resources for the basketball team. That certainly is a factor, but the decline in the level of talent from the conference as a whole has at least just as much a say if not more.

I've been convinced the 1980/1981 UTA team that received an at-large berth into the National Invitational Tournament has been the most talented team UTA has ever fielded, beating the 1990-91 team that went 20-9, the NCAA tournament team of 2007-08 that went 21-12 and even the 2011-12 team that won a school record 24 games en route to their first outright SLC championship.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

UTA FB History: Vol. 4 Gm. 4 - Starting Four-Year Strong

We introduce our last season of the year today as the 1960 Arlington State Rebels make the first appearance in this series.

Coming off a 4-3 record in 1959, the first as a four-year school (or three-year if you asked Coach "Chena" Gilstrap), 1960 was supposed to be a successful year for many reasons.

The most unique was the fact that just about everyone was back. It's a very rare situation, one that happens so infrequently that is practically unheard of in common circles, but when a school goes from the junior college ranks to a four-year school, they are virtually no seniors. Most juco players qualify as a freshman or sophomore, so at most they would have been seniors in 1960. What few seniors were on the team in 1959 were likely transfer walk-ons with little impact on the team's performance. That doesn't mean they aren't competitive players, but they are generally considered bonuses when they perform well and don't factor into recruiting plans if your coach is a good recruiter. By all accounts, coach Gilstrap was.

Another thing that is unique for Juco-to-Uni move-ups is the fact that the talent should be increasing just by regular recruiting. Case in point was quarterback Amos North, who was the primary signal caller in 1959. He would share duties with freshman QB Doug Wilson and Wilson would actually finish as the teams leading passer.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

2016 Sun Belt Volleyball Conference Predictions

The Sun Belt Conference begins the 2016 conference portion of the schedule this Friday. Consistent followers of this blog know I like to give my predictions for the conference finish after the normal non-conference schedule has concluded and prior to the start of conference play.

We've got a new format this year as the addition of Coastal Carolina allows the SBC to split into divisional play. Only problems I have with that are the unbalanced home vs. road games in a 16-match schedule and how do you adequately determine the true champion? UTA will play four cross-divisional road matches but play only two home matches. Playing uneven road and home matches also can effect the division standings as a team that hosts a preseason favorite will have a slight advantage over a team that plays them on the road.

Anyway, before I get into the breakdown, here's how the coaches foresaw the end result of 2016.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

UTA FB History, Vol. 4, Gm 3 - Ending Mediocrity

I had a bit of a hesitation in picking today's game for This Day in UTA Football History. I felt there were really two options. The first was to revisit the 1977 season. Last week's entry was the 1983 opener, a loss to Western Michigan. On this day in 1977, UTA traveled to Kalamazoo, Michigan and defeated Western Michigan 17-10. I did like the idea of back-to-back entries against the same non-conference team, especially with one win and one loss. UTA also has an all-time series record of 2-2 against the Broncos. With Western Michigan being a good Mid-American Conference team with an all-time winning record, that is further proof that UTA scheduled over their heads, which in turned suppressed fan support due to the impending losses.

Instead, I'll go with another season opener and introduce you to the 1966 team. 1966 is an interesting case study. As a whole, Arlington State College excelled in the junior college ranks in all sports. UTA won two Junior Rose Bowls in the 1950's, including at least one national championship. Men's basketball had a winning record over 60%. The track teams won conference championships. The various other sports were quite competitive.

But once the SLC started play in 1963-64, the teams just weren't competitive. There were four other teams competing for conference championships in football, basketball, tennis, golf and track. Trinity did not compete in cross country and Arlington State did not field an SLC baseball team until 1969.

The best basketball did in that time frame was a fourth place finish in 1963-64. Tennis had a tie for second in '64-65. Golf was 2nd in '65-66. The cross country teams finished last at every SLC meet and track had a 3rd and two 4ths. In total, UTA was the only school to not get a championship in the burgeoning conference entering the 1966-67 athletic season. They did have a combined four last place finishes and four second-to-last placings. In short, of the sixteen possible conference championship finishes, UTA was in the bottom two half the time. Combined with only three second place finishes, (two were a tie), UTA was easily the worst athletic program in the SLC.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Volleyball Out of the Gate

Fall is a lonely time at UT Arlington as far as sports go. Without a bevy of team sports like most schools have (UTA is the only school with one team sport in the fall), it puts a lot of pressure on volleyball to be an outlet for the school.

And it makes losing all the more noticeable.

There was a time when UTA was a dominant national power, appearing in the top 25 consistently in the 1980's. The regional representative in the NCAA tournament was either going to be the Mavericks or the team from UT-Austin. It was clear who the top University in the DFW region was, as neither TCU, SMU nor North Texas were on par with what the Mavericks were doing.

A brief period of mediocrity in the mid-1990's was followed by a resuscitation of the program as the UTA volleyball made its seventh and eighth appearances in the NCAA tournament in 2001 and '02 (to go with four AIAW national tournament appearances and one National Invitational).

Since then, it has been nothing. In the 13 completed seasons since then, the Mavericks have won zero conference championships, zero conference tournaments, appeared in only two conference tournament championship matches and had five losing seasons. The days of UTA volleyball being an elite program seem far from over, and that just gets exacerbated by starts like the 2016 team is having.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

UTA Football Vol. 4 Game 2: The Last of the Beginnings

Today's entry looking back at the UT Arlington football team will be our first look into the 1983 season, its season opener. Harold "Bud" Elliott was entering his tenth season at the helm of the Mavericks. He was the dean of the Southland Conference at the time, having coached longer than any other SLC head coach entering the year. Unbeknownst to anyone at the time, it would also be his last at UTA.

That hidden fact is what gives this game the most meaning. Today's entry is the last season opener for Coach Elliott. He was entering the season in the last year of his final contract. After winning the SLC crown in 1981, he was given a two-year extension, pretty standard for UTA at the time. But it wasn't a unanimous decision. He had two winning seasons out of eight and there was some acrimony over whether he had the ability to lead the program to further heights.

There was going to be increased expectations after 1981. UTA had recently been forced to drop to the now six-year old Division 1-AA (called FCS today) for the 1982 season. The drop was both a blessing and a curse. UTA as a department was in over its head at that point in its final year at the highest level. In chasing the dream to stay in Division 1-A (FBS), UTA had to do a lot, most of it just beyond its grasp.

At the time, the NCAA required team in 1-A to do one of two things.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

UTA FB History Vol. 4, Game 1: More of the Same

The Maverick Rambler is really looking forward to this years slate of games as I renew the This Day in UTA Football History series. Some really notable milestone seasons are coming up. But today, we visit the only game played on September 3rd, back in the 1977 season.

Despite the futility of the 1970's, UTA football was actually exciting and competitive during this time in the later half of the decade. Bud Elliott had brought an air of optimism to Mavericks everywhere. He began his coaching tenure in 1974 (that season was covered in this series in 2013). UTA hadn't had a winning record since 1968 and hadn't outscored their opponents for a whole season since 1969. In 1974, Elliott's team went 1-10 and were outscored 112-332. In '75, UTA improved to 4-7 and were outscored 213-286.

Then came '76, a memorable year for a few reasons. UTA finished 5-6, the second year in a row for improvement. For the first time in six seasons, UTA's offense scored more than their defense allowed, 250-239, a narrow margin certainly, but much better than what UTA faithful were accustomed to seeing. A 14-13 home loss in snowy, deary conditions to Arkansas State prevented UTA from receiving an Independence Bowl bid.

Think about that last sentence for a minute. 0-10 in 1970, 2-9 in 1971, 5-6 in 1972, 4-6 in 1973, 1-10 in 1974 and 4-7 in 1975. A combined 12-48 the previous six seasons and yet, here was a team two points away from a bowl bid. It was a shot in the arm for a program that desperately needed one. Of course, the team was frustrated by not getting there, but eventually, time healed and the progress was evident.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

2016 Sun Belt Volleyball Season is Nye!

After the summer break that seemed a bit longer than normal to me, UT Arlington is set kick its athletic year with the volleyball team competing in its first match of the year on Friday, concluding a tough first week of classes that begin on Thursday (phew).

The Sun Belt Conference released its preseason poll on Monday, so that's as good a place as any to start this entry. the 2016 season marks the first time the Sun Belt will go to divisional play since the Mavs joined the conference in 2013. Parenthesis is first place votes.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

High School Football Facility Arms Race

In my last post, I mentioned how many folks in the UT Arlington Athletic Department consider Maverick Stadium a sub-par NCAA DI stadium as a lead in to what I think is possible to help make Maverick Stadium a quality FBS venue. Today, I want to look at a bit why Maverick Stadium has gone from a modern college football venue to needing renovations to become one again.

I don't think anyone but the most casual observers would be shocked if I said there was a facility-arms race in college athletics. Everyone has plans and/or has recently brought something to state-of-the art. Since 2010, UTA built a brand new indoor arena with College Park Center, completed several major renovations to Clay Gould Ballpark as well as Allan Saxe Field and have more on the drawing board (sign me up for the petition to get a shaded grandstand at ASF).

No sport has seen more in the last decade to decade-and-a-half than football. Locally, SMU has built Gerald J. Ford Stadium, which opened in 2000 and has since seen renovations twice since 2010. TCU's Amon G. Carter Stadium has almost been a constant construction zone, seeing renovations in 1985, 1991, 1992, 1996, 2002 and 2008. All that was then dwarfed by a $164 million rebuild of the stadium coinciding with TCU's entrance into the Big XII in 2012. North Texas opened Apogee Stadium in 2011, a very nice venue built primarily with student fees (I used to be able to comeback against my UNT associate's when they let me be know UTA didn't have a football team that at least the Mavs stadium was still better).

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Is Maverick Stadium FBS Worthy?

I'm the Maverick Rambler, so prepare for some rambling. It's the doldrums of the summer, so be glad I'm talking about anything UT Arlington-related.

One of the biggest challenges (maybe THE biggest) facing the return of a UTA football program is facilities. That point was made clear in the Nienas Report from over a decade ago-more on that in a moment. Those that I have talked to about the subject believe Maverick Stadium would need a lot of work and that the biggest obstacle to the return of football is a playing venue.

To some degree, I agree. Maverick Stadium was built in 1980 and as far as stadiums go from that era for schools our level, it was nice, but not state of the art. College Park Center is better than any other college basketball venue in Texas, but Maverick Stadium was nice for what it was. It hasn't aged well and the fact that U hasn't played a down in 30 years has meant only minor renovations to the stadium.

But one athletic official described Maverick Stadium to me as a dump. And that's where I disagree. I toured several Southland Conference venues when I was the sports director for UTA Radio back in the day. Texas State, who joined us in moving to the Western Athletic Conference and then the Sun Belt Conference had a worse stadium then than UTA does now. They have spent money and all of a sudden, it is one of the nicer venues in the Group of 5 conferences.

I see no reason why Maverick Stadium can't go through something similar. So with that set-up, here's a list, in order of priority, of the expansion/renovations I think needs to happen in order for Maverick Stadium to be the home of a Sun Belt football team.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Next New Sport?

I've been hearing some interesting rumors and wanted to wait until the summer to begin the discussion out of respect for the sports in play, as well as give me some fodder for the summertime lull.

The UT Arlington Athletic Department will begin women's golf intercollegiate play following this coming academic year. The sport will be the first addition since 1983. By all accounts, that will not be the last sport as the department is in the very preliminary stages of looking at another sport.

I thought about creating a tease indicating something else, but thought that just might be a bit cruel, so I'll just come out and say it. It is not football. But before the reveal, let me give some context to the thinking in UTA land.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Attendance Keeps Upward Trajectory

It is starting to become a point of pride in the UTA Athletic Department. The attendance in Maverick country has done nothing but rise again this year. In fact, there has not been a year-over-year decrease since the 2013/2014 academic year in any of the team sports, volleyball, men's and women's basketball, softball and baseball.

Let me get into some dry numbers that are the backbone of this post.

In 2012, volleyball averaged 322 fans per game. That moved to 458 in 2013, 551 in 2014 and 783 this past year. The team finished this year 19-10 and in finished fourth in the Sun Belt Conference.

The men's basketball team drew 1,872 fans per game in the 2013/14 season. That number grew to 2,051 in 2014/15 and set a program record of 2,888 this past season. This year, the Mavs had a promising year with marquee wins en route to a 24-11 record and a third place SBC finish.

Monday, June 6, 2016

May '16 Quick Hits

The UT Arlington baseball season ended with two consecutive losses in the conference tournament. The Mavericks upset regular season co-champion South Alabama in the opening round, 4-2, behind 6.1 innings from starting pitcher Kadon Simmons. Jacob Moreland pitched 2.2 scoreless innings in relief for the save. That set up a second round match up with Georgia Southern, a team that beat UTA 2-1 at Clay Gould ballpark during the regular season.

UTA's Joel Kuhnel, part of a powerful 1-2 punch with Simmons, was injured during that regular-season series. He was in good health for the conference tournament and was slated to start. His performance looked good early, giving up 1 run in 2.2 innings on one hit and no walks. However, the UTA offense was listless and couldn't do anything themselves.

I've commented on how it seemed this team was one hit or pitch away from big things. In a very unsurprising way, even mother nature seemed to confine this team to mediocrity as a lightening delay called the game for the day. Despite pitching only 29 pitches, Kuhnel was done and with it, so were UTA's chances.

The blueprint would have been similar to the conference series' at the end of the year, Simmons and Kuhnel to pitch deep, then hope the offense can get one more run in game three. As soon as a I saw that Kuhnel was not going to pitch the next day, I just knew UTA's chances were done. Sure enough, Georgia Southern claimed a 6-0 win, thanks to five runs in the eighth inning to blow the game open.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Last Out Recorded on Baseball's Season

Going to the final series of the season, UTA had a chance to really make a play and advance to the top of the standings. They could have advanced as high as the third seed with major help or finished as low as seventh. Had they won the series versus Texas State, they would have at least been tied for fifth.

As it was, the season ended much like it has been all year, full of promise yet ultimately disappointing. In the first two  against the Bobcats, UTA either led or were tied in 20 of the 21 innings. The one inning they ended trailing was the last one of game one, meaning they thoroughly dominated the first two games but ended with a split.

The third game, with the series on the line and a minimum of the sixth seed, UTA promptly gives up at least a run in the first three innings on the way to a 5-0 deficit. The Sun Belt Conference's second leading offense by batting average (and RBI, total bases, at-bats, while #1 in hits and triples) put zeroes up until the eighth. They had left three runners in scoring position and hit in a double play during the seven shut out innings. The eighth saw an RBI single. However, an unfortunate double-play ended the inning with another runner in scoring position. In the ninth, UTA scored another run with one out, got two runners on base. Yet, two straight outs ended the Mavs season with a whimper.

So if you were scoring at home, UTA could have shot as high as third (with a lot of help), could have finished fourth with a sweep at home and the other results staying the same and as low as seventh, finished seventh.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Here We Go Again

It was all set up for the UT Arlington baseball team to do what the needed to do. Kadon Simmons, part of a big one-two punch for UTA starting pitching, goes 7 innings giving up two earned runs and leaves in a tie game. Dylan Schnieder comes in, pitches an inning of shut-out baseball and the Mavericks claim the lead. UTA enters the top of the ninth with a one-run lead.

Before I go further, I have detailed, far more than I wish was needed, how the Mavericks are one pitch, one hit or one bad inning away from being a great team (11 games here, another one here and the last time here). I've detailed eight Sun Belt games and a total of 13 with this pattern. Is this post going to follow that trend or deviate like last week's did.

No, it will be more of the same.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Great Weekend for Baseball

Glad to finally have an entry for baseball that doesn't mentioned a missed opportunity. UT Arlington's baseball team swept the last-place Appalachian State Mountaineers, and did it by the basic formula I mentioned in the last post.

Kadon Simmons looked rough early in game one, giving up a homer and a two-RBI hit in the first inning, but finished the first and would retire 17 in a row. He got one out in the ninth before running into trouble. In comes Jacob Moreland, who put the go-ahead run at second before getting a ground out to end it. With the win, Simmons moved to 9-4 on the year.

Joel Kuhnel did his part in game two, going six strong innings and exited with a 3-1 lead. Jacob Moreland started the seventh and did well before giving up four singles in the ninth tie the game. The Mavs offense, held scoreless in eight of the nine regulation innings, scored five in the extra frame. That relieves the pressure on Moreland, who closes the game for the win.

Game three had something UTA hadn't played for much this year, a three-game sweep. UTA tried twice before, losing to Arkansas State 4-0 on March 13 and Georgia State 8-7 on April 3. The offense scored in four different innings against App, including a four-spot in the fifth. Bases were empty with two outs. Christian Hollie swings at strike three that could have ended it, but gets on first due to a wild pitch. Brady Cox then got a walk, Quintin Rohrbaugh then doubled scoring Hollie, and Colton Turner hit a three-run homer to clear the bags.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


In a very overdue post, I'd like to take a look at the UT Arlington softball team, which, at 29-19, enjoyed their first winning season since 2011. This team is one of the hardest for me to talk about because of their circumstances. I'll get into the meat and potatoes of the season in a bit, but let's look at what makes this team unique versus the other 13 teams at UTA.

Like a couple of other teams in the Athletic Department, softball entered the realignment period in rebuilding mode. UTA finished their last year in the Southland Conference tied for last, going 15-27, 5-15 in SLC play. UTA's first and only year in the Western Athletic Conference, also the first year of Coach Kristi Fox, saw another losing season, this one at 25-28, but 9-15 in WAC play, good for a tie for sixth out of eight teams. In 2014, they were 21-33 overall and 5-17 in Sun Belt play. Last year, they finished 27-28 and 8-14 in the SBC.

While their improvement can sorta be seen in the numbers, they've finished .500 or better in non-conference play every year since leaving the Southland, what can't be seen is the challenge in rebuilding a program at the time the Mavericks were.

The Sun Belt is one of the best softball conferences in the country, rated sixth-to-seventh right now. The SLC was a good conference, but never a great one, they are in the mid-teens currently. The SLC has never had more than one team in the NCAA Tournament, even when the regular season champion doesn't win the conference tournament. The SBC has done it six times, including the last four years. In 2013, they sent three teams and some projections are predicting three teams this year.

Monday, May 9, 2016

7th Inning Stretch

Seems I have egg on my face...again. After pointing out another missed opportunity in game 1 against Little Rock on the road, the UT Arlington baseball team took the next two games to claim the series. That happened against Troy as well. But, I was glad to see them bounce back then, and was again this weekend.

UTA did it by breaking out the big bats and scoring 21 runs en route to a 21-8 win in game two. A solid, but not quite five inning, start from Jake Wilcox paved the way for Jacob Moreland to come out of the pen and pitch the rest of the way for 6-4 win. In that game, the Mavs did exactly what I have wanted the whole season and combine timely hitting with consistent pitching. In both games, they got hits when runners were in scoring position. In game three, UTA scattered the hits and avoided the big inning when on the mound. It was an added bonus that Kadon Simmons pitched an eight inning complete game in the loss and Joel Kuhnel pitched seven innings in game two. That kept the pen rested and allowed Moreland to stay in as long as he was effective, which proved to be quite a bit in game three.

Bottom line, taken as a whole, the Little Rock series showed exactly what the Mavs need to do the rest of the way. There are no more mid-week games to worry about. The season has six conference games and the conference tournament left. Those six games will have a lot to say about how UTA is seeded in the Sun Belt Conference tournament.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Never Ending Song

This year I have typed this and this.

Against Little Rock yesterday, UTA had 10 hits to the Trojans six.

UTA had base runners in seven of nine innings.

UTA left seven runners in scoring position.

UTA held Little Rock scoreless in all but one inning.

UTA gives up two home runs, accounting for every Trojan run.

Like the other 12 losses where I've noticed this trend (one bad pitching inning and/or one missed hit away), UTA could have easily won. At a record of 23-24, UTA could easily be one of the top teams in the conference. As it is, a spot in the conference tournament is not guaranteed.

I wonder how long this can be tolerated. I'm beginning to expect this outcome, one where we come up just short, rather than thinking we are going to win. Sad.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

April Quick Hits

A roadblock I have with this blog: I recognize some great things have happened with the Athletic Department, yet I don't know how to say much more than good job or this occured. And as I mentioned in the early days of this blog, I am not a source of news, but rather commentary about the UTA Mavs.

So with commentary as the goal, how do you talk about something that may not have great strategy moments and would be saying this happened, making it essentially a news post?

I have done this blog for a couple of months shy of three athletic seasons. Something that surprised me initially, but has been the rule - I write more in the fall than I do in the spring, despite the relative lack of fall activity at UTA compared to the spring.

As I was pondering this, and feeling a bit guilty for not getting into the many deserving sports that have had success, I came up with an idea, one so original that it has been in use since the beginning of media. So today marks the debut of Maverick Quick Hits.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Same Song, Different Verse Again

A promising start to the baseball season is quickly souring. Odd to think that as April is ending, the UT Arlington Mavericks have a better record against opponents from the Big 12 than the Sun Belt Conference, and it isn't even close.

In my previous post, I detailed how the Mavs had lost numerous games to either one bad inning on the mound or an offense that garnered hits but not runs. Yesterday's loss to Troy in the start of a three-game series followed the same pattern that I detailed. In fact they had both.

The Trojans scored three runs on a three-RBI, inside-the-park home run. The go-ahead RBI came on a two-out hit. Once again, one pitch is the difference here.

UTA actually outhit Troy 11-8, but lost 5-2. They left 11 men on base, of which five were in scoring position when the last out was recorded. Again, one hit can make the difference here.

I ended the last post with something that surely applies in this game too.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Same Song, Different Verse

I don't know how to start this post, (this sentence is the third one I've typed trying to open this post, so hopefully it will be the keeper) so I'll start with the facts of the 2016 UT Arlington baseball season.

I'll begin with the statistical rankings. UTA is currently second in the SBC in team batting average at .295. They have been number one a good portion of the year. There team ERA is sixth, exactly in the middle of the SBC at 4.05. In theory a good offense and decent pitching should have a better showing in the standings, but UTA is in a tie for seventh, with the team they are tied with having the tiebreaker.

The offense is in the top half of every statistical category except home runs (dead last), walks, hit by pitch and sac bunts. They are at least fifth or better in the other 17 categories the Sun Belt Conference keeps. The pitching is not as good in terms of depth, as Joel Kuhnel, Kadon Simmons and Jacob Moreland have really brought the ERA down. They are literally middle of the pack in everything with the biggest outlier being they don't get many strikeouts, nor walk many batters.

UTA is 20-17 overall and 6-9 in the Sun Belt Conference. In something of a repeating pattern of the past few years, UTA is beating the top teams with wins over TCU (RPI #28), Oklahoma State (RPI #41), Baylor (RPI #79) and Louisiana Tech (RPI #90). They are also having some real head-scratchers.  UTA has won only two SBC series at this point and lost three, with one being a sweep. Two of those losses are to teams UTA should have beat at home, ULM and Georgia Southern.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

End of the Road

What a season it was. I know it has been a while since the mens basketball season ended on March 24th to now. Apologies for that as I felt a bit withdrawn after the NJIT loss, a school that I believe UT Arlington would beat five more times if they played five games. More than anything, it was the big lead that turned into a loss that had me in retreat.

But make no mistake, the season was a resounding success. For the first time I can remember, UTA had a great season, but it is a foundational one as well, giving optimism to next season. The future is brighter than ever.

The Mavs tied a program high for wins in a year with 24. The last time that was accomplished was in 2011/12 when the Mavericks claimed their first outright Southland Conference championship in their last year in the conference they founded almost 50 years earlier. Their 13 wins in conference play was the most since that 11/12 season too.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

CIT Quarterfinals

Last post, I previewed UTA's first round opponent in the tournament and ended the post with:

I see two possible outcomes, either a big UTA win or a close UTA loss. Either way, it is fun to talk Maverick basketball after the conference tournament.

It did end up as a big win, with the Mavericks defeating Savannah State 75-59. The team played very well in all facets of the game, as well as for most of the game. There was a stretch in the first half where SSU almost tied the game, and at the end, once the contest was well decided, but UTA did very, very well otherwise in earning the program's first postseason victory.

As a team with an RPI in the top three of the remaining teams in the tournament, UTA was given a second round bye into the quarterfinals. Their opponent was announced Monday. The New Jersey Institute of Technology Highlanders.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

CIT Bound

With the regular season over, the UT-Arlington men's basketball program had high hopes entering the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. After a rough stretch of four SBC loses in a row, already slim at-large chances to the NCAA tournament disappeared. There was a chance that their entire post-season possibilities could go up in flames if they didn't right the ship.

But right the ship they did, as they won eight of the next ten. Including in that streak was a win over Louisiana-Lafayette, which allowed them to jump a spot in the SBC standings. I think that would be one of the better wins of the year. It all but guaranteed a first round bye in the conference tournament as well. As it would turn out, UTA would clinch the third seed. The two losses in that streak were to the top two teams in the conference, Little Rock and Louisiana-Monroe though the last one was a tight affair.

That set the stage for the conference tournament. After getting eliminated last year by the Texas State Bobcats, UTA's in-state rival won their first round match-up, which would set up a rematch. After trailing at halftime, the Mavericks stormed back to take a 72-63 win, setting the stage for another shot at the Warhawks from Monroe. Things looked good early, as the Mavs would stake a 14-3 lead to open the affair, but that would really end the highlights, as the Mavs would end up on the short end of an 82-71 score that really wasn't that close.

For many Mav faithful, the season was over, but I knew it would go on. I didn't think an NIT invite was likely, and I certainly knew there was not going to be an NCAA invite. But I had a feeling the Tournament, or CIT, was in the Mavs future, and that another game at College Park Center was on the horizon.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Mavericks to Play in CPC's Biggest Week

Happy post #100!

With that out of the way, I'll dive into a topic that I rarely venture into for the 100th. Regular readers know I tread carefully into ranking subjective material. For example, rather than say the 1981 UT Arlington Men's Basketball team was the most talented ever, which is my opinion, I'd say they were one of the greatest, allowing others to their opinion of which is the greatest. I know people like lists, especially top ten, but I leave that for others to decide, at least for now.

That said, there are the slam dunks, which only the fringe can deny, like for example to 1967 football team achieved the greatest success, but those are few and far between. I think today's topic qualifies.

In its brief history, CPC has seen some big games, but there has not been the back-to-back games that have the meaning of this week. UTA sits in fourth in the Sun Belt Conference standings at 8-5. Louisiana-Monroe is a half game ahead at 9-5 and Louisiana-Lafayette is a game ahead of them at 10-4. Both teams beat UTA on their home court. The Mavericks were in the middle of a four-game losing streak and five losses in six games, most of that triggered by the loss of Kevin Hervey.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Inexplicable Fall

A lot has changed since this post, where I explained that UT Arlington may never had had this level of success. The men are on a three-game slide, and have lost four outof five. The women are struggling unexpectedly as well, losing five out of six, with a four-game skid in the mix.

I'll start with the men, where there's an obvious reason, but I think the slide is beyond that.

A deep pit in my stomach occurred when I found out sophomore Kevin Hervey had "tweaked" his knee in warm-ups prior to the Arkansas State game. As a guy who has torn an ACL before, I knew exactly what tweaked can lead to. Sure enough, the forefront of the Mavericks rise was out for the season.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Metroplex Four Tourney

Once again, an idea that has been out there many-a-time made print headlines again. Sportsday's Rick Gosselin, perhaps the highest-profile person to broach the topic, argued for an annual fall tournament among DFW's four area Division 1 schools in a recent Sports Day article.

In it, he argues that other cities have successful local showcases and North Texas should too. I know UTA would be on board. My guess is so would University of North Texas. But TCU hasn't played the Mavericks in years based on the tired argument that they have nothing to gain. From what I've ascertained, SMU is the same way.

In fact, Rick Gosselin quotes that elitist-attitude in his article, and then shuts that idea down:

"We are always open to evaluating options," SMU athletic director Rick Hart said, "but our preference is to play home games and home-and-home series -- like we have with TCU -- which reward our students, fans and season-ticket holders and allow us to showcase our campus and what we believe is one of the best arenas and in-arena experiences in all of college basketball to a national audience."

It's understandable why SMU would prefer to stay at home for its games every winter and out of any local tournaments. The Mustangs have gone national and have the most to lose of the four programs. But this tournament wouldn't be about SMU. It would be about celebrating college basketball in the area. It would be about generating local interest and enthusiasm for the sport. It would be about establishing a tradition.

The idea in the last two sentences is it in a nut shell. The idea from the "bigger" programs is that playing "smaller schools" hurts the RPI if they win, and hurts recruiting if they lose, especially if it is against a school in the same recruiting footprint.