Baseball/softball aftermath…

The good news is the softball team is coached by Patti Gasso and that the team made it to the super-regional for what seems like the hundredth year in a row.  The bad news is that the team was sent to backwoods Alabama.

The Sooners played incredibly well in the first game as the team made a dramatic comeback to steal a win.  Alabama with its home court advantage was not about to let that happen again as the Tide took two from the Sooners on Saturday by hook and by crook.

Don’t kid yourself the series was decided in the first inning of Saturday’s second game when OU could have taken charge of the game.  Instead the female umpire had other ideas.  Under pressure from redneck Bama fans and the Alabama coach, she broadened the strike zone and snuffed out the Sooner rally.

The Sooners eventually recovered to take the lead, but the deed was done.  With the OU freshman pitcher throwing over 300 pitches in two days, having a lead early would have made all the difference in the world.   Even with all-world Lauren Chamberlain doing everything possible to carry the Sooners to victory, outsiders are not allowed to win in Alabama.  OU’s freshman pitcher eventually tired and the rest was history.

Patti Gasso is a great coach and I would love to see her coaching the baseball team, but not developing a second pitcher was her undoing.   Win game one with your ace, take your chances with your number two in game two and come back with your ace in game three.  In any case the Sooners had a great year and will be back next year.

As for baseball, this team is so predictable it hurts; A blog on this bunch can write itself.   On script, the team beat a hapless K-State team in the Big 12 tournament only to lose to OSU for the fourth time this year.  The good news is that OU’s worst athletic team is apparently done for the year.

Of course there will always be next year…Wait a minute that’s an Aggie line, so never mind about that…At least we know softball will be back next year for another run to a super regional…

 Boomer Sooner…

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Baseball = the weakest link…

First off before I start this week’s blog, this rant is not about Pete Hughes.  Hughes inherited a baseball mess and expecting him to turn things around in two years would be unreasonable.   I do however; have an issue with Joe C. who treats baseball as an afterthought.

Most importantly, I have a real issue with any OU sport that loses to OSU by three touchdowns.   I can handle losing to OSU from time to time, but losing to those guys three out of four times in one year and once by a 24-2 score is simply unacceptable.

Give Joe credit he has the rest of OU’s spring sports lineup kicking butt and taking names, but what is up with baseball… The State of Oklahoma produces more major league baseball talent per capita than any other state in the country and not all of this talent can end up in Stillwater.

While universities throughout the country and for that matter the Big 12, play in front of packed stadiums that would make minor league teams envious, the Sooners play in front of sparse crowds at its high school field.

Here is the problem as I see it.   The Sooners play in a top-heavy conference that allows the Sooners to beat up on lower level teams and stay above .500 every year.  As a result the fans and media give Joe C. a pass when it comes to baseball.

This time next week the Sooners will make its standard cameo appearance in the Big 12 tournament, nose out a Kansas or K-State and qualify for the NCAA’s and then go two and barbeque.

I am sorry, but as a baseball guy, this is just not good enough.   In case you are wondering Sooner baseball has not always been mediocre… Enos Semore was the head baseball coach at the University of Oklahoma from 1969 until 1989. During his tenure, the Sooners won 851 games, six conference championships and played in five College World Series.  As you can see, we have been there.

So there we have it… It is time for the OU baseball team to be something other than the red headed step child.   As we have said before, the enemy of great is good.  Being just good enough every year will never allow this program to get back to Omaha.   It is time for Joe C. and the OU Regents to build a first class baseball program.

With punting the program not an option, let’s create better facilities, hire the best coaches money can buy and step it up in recruiting.   That’s right…Let’s do for baseball what we have done for every other OU sport.

Baseball deserves better…

Boomer Sooner…

Teaser points from Phil Steele’s preseason top 25. 

 

TCU and Baylor have a chance to make a statement this year as program and conference builders…TCU is ranked #2 and Baylor #4. Given the weak non-conference schedules for both teams, the end of season game in Fort Worth should be huge…

The OU name still means something as the Sooners are ranked #22 even after the season from hell…

OSU, the local media favorite for the National Championship is not ranked.  How do you spell local bias…

The real OSU is reloading and ranked # 1…

Good news…Tennessee at #24 makes this game more manageable for the Sooners.

Former Big 12 team Missouri keeps making the move to the SEC looks like a good one.  The Tigers follow-up two SEC East Championships in a row with a top twenty start in 2015.  I was wrong about Gary Pinkle…

Watch out for Gary Bielma and Arkansas…

The teams to watch for in 2015…OU, Arkansas, and USC…

 

www.PhilSteele.com

Phil Steele’s Projected AP Top 25

  1. Ohio State Buckeyes The Buckeyes were thought to be a year away from their best team and a national title, but even down to a QB who was third string at the start of August, they went out and upset Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, upset Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and upset Oregon in the championship game. I do believe this year’s team is even stronger than the 2014 version and, unlike last summer when the QB depth was questioned by many, they now have three quarterbacks who have either been a Heisman contender or led the team to a national title. OSU is the first defending champ since LSU in 2007 to not lose a single underclassmen early to the NFL draft. OSU had a lot of super sophomores last year. Not only do they have 15 returning starters, but the Buckeyes’ road games this year are against Virginia Tech, Indiana, Rutgers, Illinois and Michigan, and not a single one of those teams drew a single vote in the AP poll, and they weren’t even among the top 38 at the end of last year.
  1. TCU Horned Frogs Every year people ask me for my favorite team, and I always say, “The team I picked higher than everyone else.” That team last year was the TCU Horned Frogs, who were coming off a 4-8 season but were my No. 1 Most Improved Team, and the Frogs did not disappoint me, nearly landing in the College Football Playoff. Had Ohio State not defeated Oregon in the manner it did, TCU very well could be the preseason No. 1 team. The Frogs beat their opponents last year by an average of 46.5-19. TCU outgained its foes by 191 yards per game last year and finished No. 1 in my individual game grade category, and in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl they destroyed No. 9 Ole Miss 42-3 with a 423-129 edge in yardage. This year, the Frogs have 14 returning starters, including Trevone Boykin, RB Aaron Green and their top 3 receivers in Josh Doctson, Kolby Listenbee and Deante’ Gray. They do have to play Kansas State and Oklahoma on the road, but I’ll call for them to land at No. 2 in the AP poll in August.
  1. Alabama Crimson Tide The Tide brought in another No. 1-rated recruiting class. As happens every year, and heading into the playoffs last year, they were the team favored to win it all before getting upset by the Buckeyes. Yes, they have just 11 returning starters including only four back on offense, but the Tide just rolls new players into the key spots each year. The biggest loss on offense is WR Amari Cooper, but they have one of the best sets of running backs in the country, and keep in mind Blake Simshad no starting experience last year, so this year’s QB could put up similar stats in the Lane Kiffin offense. With seven starters back from a defense that is always at the top, Alabama will definitely be in the top 5, and I think they land as high as No. 3.
  1. Baylor Bears Baylor finished last year No. 7, and had it not blown a late lead against Michigan State in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, it would have finished even higher. This year, the Bears have an amazing 17 returning starters, and it seems that no matter who they put at QB, they have outstanding success in this system. Baylor is known for its offense, but it has one of the best defensive lines in the country. The Bears play TCU and Kansas State on the road but will be a determined team after just missing out on the playoff last year.
  1. Oregon Ducks While he’s not guaranteed a starting job (see Jake Coker with Alabama last year), bringing in Vernon Adams is huge for Oregon, as he had great success against the two Pac-12 teams he faced the last two years and threw for 10,438 yards with 110 touchdowns and 31 interceptions, while twice being the runner-up for the Walter Payton Award (FCS equivalent to the Heisman) at Eastern Washington. Adams should be a fine replacement for Marcus Mariota, and the Ducks have a great deal of depth at RB and WR with seven offensive starters back. Oregon does play Michigan State, Arizona State and Stanford on the road, but it¹s been pretty much an automatic as the Ducks’ preseason ranking has been No. 3, No. 5, No. 3 and No. 3 the past four years.
  1. Michigan State Spartans MSU made my article for the first time last year when I pegged them to be No. 8 in the AP preseason poll, and that is exactly where the Spartans opened up. That comeback win against Baylor in the Cotton Bowl was huge, and they do have 13 returning starters (including QB Connor Cook, which is always a good place to start) and a veteran O-line. The Spartans’ defense is always solid and has seven starters back. They have one road game against a team that finished in the AP Top 25, and that¹s a big one (Ohio State). They do get to host Oregon in Week 2 with the Ducks breaking in a new QB.
  1. USC Trojans USC got a nice blowout win over Notre Dame and a bowl win to finish last year at No. 20. This year, the sanctions are gone, the depth returns, they have 14 returning starters and two key things happened in the postseason. QB Cody Kessler opted to stay, and he was the best QB you never heard of last year, throwing for 3,826 yards (69.7 percent, 39 touchdowns, five interceptions), and they also brought in one of the best recruiting classes in the country. Their starting 22 can match up with almost every other team in the country, and those final 2 factors put the Trojans into the top 10.
  1. Florida State Seminoles One game. FSU has lost a grand total of one game the past two years. In fact, the Seminoles are 39-3 the past three years. Jimbo Fisher brings in an elite recruiting class year in and year out. Yes, there are some losses for the Seminoles, as just 11 startersreturn, and they lose 2013 Heisman winner Jameis Winston. Still, talent abounds, and their defense this year will more resemble 2013 (281 ypg) than last year’s numbers (397 ypg) with seven starters back. They have just five road games this year with Georgia Tech, Clemson and Florida the trickiest, but they will likely be favored in all three.
  1. Auburn Tigers Just two years ago, Auburn was in the national title game despite not even being ranked in the preseason. Last year, the Tigers underachieved as they opened up preseason No. 6 and finished No. 22, including an Outback Bowl loss to Wisconsin. While they lose their QB, Jeremy Johnson looked great taking over for Nick Marshall and has a lot of talent to work with. Defense has not been a strong suit for Auburn in recent years, but with eight returning starters and Will Muschamp as the defensive coordinator, it will be this year. Auburn has just four true road games, and none of the four teams finished 2014 ranked. With another great recruiting class coming in, Auburn should make the preseason top 10.
  1. Georgia Bulldogs Last year seemed like a very disappointing year for Georgia and yet it still finished at No. 9. I don¹t think the AP voters will put three teams from the SEC West in the top 10, as they will knock each other off, but UGA is the clear-cut front-runner to win the SEC East. At times last season, the Bulldogs looked like the best team in college football, and they return their star-studded backfield led by Nick Chubb and bring in another tremendous recruiting class. With Florida at a neutral site, they have just three true SEC road games this year, and while they do play both Alabama and Georgia Tech, I think UGA will be the No. 10 team in the preseason AP poll.
  1. UCLA Bruins

The first thing that comes to mind as to why UCLA belongs here is coach Jim Mora. Prior to his arrival, the Bruins went through a stretch of six seasons in which they averaged 5.7 wins per season. Since taking over the Bruins, he has averaged 9.7 wins per year, including back-to-back 10-win seasons. While the Bruins lose quarterback Brett Hundley, they return 18 starters including a 1,500-yard rusher, seven of their top eight receivers and 13 of their top 17 tacklers. 12. Ole Miss Rebels

Ole Miss finished No. 17 last season, and while half of the Magnolia State was disappointed in the Rebels’ finish, they finished higher than they were ranked in the preseason (No. 18). The Rebels must find a new QB — departing QB Bo Wallace threw an SEC-high 14 interceptions — but they do return 16 starters. It takes a special coach to take over a 2-10 team and improve immediately to 7-6 in his first season. Fortunately for Ole Miss fans, Hugh Freeze not only accomplished that feat, but he has continued to build the program by getting the Rebels to eight wins in 2013 and nine wins last season. Lastly, while Ole Miss was beaten handily in two games, it had a lead in its other two losses — at No. 24 LSU and vs. No. 4 Auburn — in the fourth quarter.

  1. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

After losing their final four regular-season games last season, the injury-depleted Fighting Irish got healthier for their bowl game and beat LSU. This is now coach Brian Kelly’s sixth season and, in his third season, he returned 14 starters and took Notre Dame to the national title game. In the past two seasons, the Irish returned only 12 and 10 starters and had nine and eight wins, respectively. Well, this season the Irish return 19 starters. Whoever wins the QB battle will be leading a veteran team.

  1. LSU Tigers

Since 2001, LSU has been ranked in every preseason AP poll, beginning the season in the top eight seven times and in the top 14 every season but 2010. In addition, only three LSU underclassmen declared for the 2015 NFL draft, compared to 10 in 2013 (plus star Tyrann Mathieu, who was dismissed in 2012) and seven in 2014. LSU returns rising star running back Leonard Fournette along with 14 other starters, and the Tigers will be fired up for a bounce-back season. Last season’s bowl loss kept them out of the final AP top 25 for the second time in 12 years.

  1. Clemson Tigers

The Tigers return an abundance of skill players including QB Deshaun Watson, who had 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions a season ago, their top four rushers and their top three receivers. Clemson’s defense, which ranked No. 1 in 2014, has a few holes to fill but is still talented. The trend line is good as well: After an upset win over No. 9 LSU in 2012, Clemson went on to finish No. 11 in the final rankings, and in 2013, the Tigers beat No. 7 Ohio State in their bowl to finish No. 8. After last season’s 40-6 lambasting of Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl to boost their final ranking to No. 15, you can expect the momentum to continue in Death Valley this season.

  1. Arizona State Sun Devils

There is a new mentality when your program goes 16 years without topping 17 wins in back-to-back seasons and a new coach wins 18 games in his first two years, including 10 wins in his second season. Todd Graham accomplished that feat at Arizona State, then added another 10-win season in his third season despite returning only eight starters, which is the first time that ASU has won 10 games in back-to-back seasons since Frank Kush did it in 1970 and 1971. ASU returns 16 starters this season, combined with a significant 79 percent of returning lettermen. Expect the Sun Devils to be in the top 20.

  1. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

The Yellow Jackets finished the season as hot as any team, winning six of seven games down the stretch, including matchups vs. No. 18 Clemson, No. 8 Georgia, No. 2 Florida State and No. 8 Mississippi State as their final four. Georgia Tech’s impressive stretch run showed just how difficult it is to prepare for the option offense with only one week of practice, especially late in the year when teams are physically and mentally fatigued. Although Tech returns only 13 starters, in the Yellow Jackets’ previous five seasons they returned only 14 starters in 2010 followed by 12, 13, 14 and a mere 10 last season, so coach Paul Johnson is well versed in dealing with roster turnover.

  1. Wisconsin Badgers

While the Badgers have to deal with a third coaching change in four years, they still return some talent and are one of the favorites in the Big Ten West. New coach Paul Chryst is a Badger through and through, as he coached there in 2002 and from 2005 to 2011, played QB there from 1986 to 1988 and was even born in Madison, Wisconsin. This program, like Georgia Tech, has only 13 starters back, but the Badgers do have 70 percent of their lettermen returning. From 2011 to 2014, the Badgers returned only 14, 11, 13 and 10 starters, yet they won 11, eight, nine and 11 games, respectively.

  1. Missouri Tigers

What is more impressive than winning back-to-back SEC East titles? How about winning the first one in your second SEC season while playing road games at brand-new venues, then winning the second one with just eight returning starters? The Tigers have clearly been stellar in SEC road games, with an amazing 8 straight wins on the road in conference (10 straight overall on the road). Mizzou’s run of conference road wins is easily tops in the SEC, with Alabama running a distant second at three straight. To make matters even better, the SEC schedule sets up favorably for the Tigers, as it did in 2012.

  1. Arkansas Razorbacks

When Bret Bielema took over the Badgers in 2006, he preached defense and running the ball in leading Wisconsin to top 25 AP finishes five of six seasons. Since taking over at Arkansas, the Razorbacks have improved their rushing attack by 99 yards per game and 1.2 yards per carry, while the defense has improved by 11.2 points per game and 87 yards per game. Arkansas returned only 10 and 14 starters his first two seasons, but 15 are back for 2015. At home last season, the defense held four of its six FBS foes to a season low on offense, including LSU and Alabama, while the other two teams had their third-lowest offensive performance of the season. The Hogs’ 31-7 bowl win over Texas showed what they are capable of, as they held the Longhorns to a mere 59 yards of offense.

  1. Mississippi State Bulldogs

The Bulldogs have a case to be ranked higher. It is not often, if ever, that an SEC team that was ranked No. 1 during the season and finished as high as No. 11 — yet also has a Heisman favorite returning (QB Dak Prescott) — starts the season ranked outside the top 20. Mississippi State returns just nine starters, but last season’s losses were at No. 4 Alabama, at No. 18 Ole Miss and vs. red-hot No. 10 Georgia Tech in the Capital One Orange Bowl.

  1. Oklahoma Sooners

One thing that is certain in life is that Bob Stoops’ Sooners will be ranked in the preseason AP top 25. After Stoops’ first season as OU coach, the Sooners have been ranked all 15 seasons, including 13 times among the top 10. In only one other season did Oklahoma not finish ranked (2009) and the following year it won the Fiesta Bowl and finished No. 6. We also have yet another team returning only 13 starters, and in the past seven seasons OU has had more than 13 returning starters only once, which was in 2011 (15 were back). In the two seasons that Stoops’ Sooners were ranked outside of the preseason top 10, they went from No. 19 to No. 1 (winning a title in 2000) and from No. 16 to No. 6 in 2013, which was topped off with a Sugar Bowl win over Alabama.

  1. Boise State Broncos

The Broncos not only enter this season as the defending Fiesta Bowl champs but do so with a nine-game winning streak, which is second only to Ohio State. Boise State has shown it is worthy as it has been ranked in the preseason poll seven of the past 11 years. The four times they weren’t ranked, including last year, the Broncos finished the season ranked No. 12, No. 5, No. 11 and No. 16. They were the top Group of 5 team last season and will be the Mountain West favorite in 2015. With 16 starters back, you can expect Boise to be in the preseason AP top 20 again.

  1. Tennessee Volunteers

There’s excitement brewing in Tennessee as the Volunteers are on the rise. They will be picked by some to win their division and for good reason, as after returning only 10 starters in 2014, coach Butch Jones’ team has 18 back this season. In addition, of their five SEC losses, two came vs. the SEC division winners, one was to Florida by a single point and another was at No. 12 Georgia by three points. There’s no better feeling for a team going into the offseason than dominating a bowl opponent, and the Vols did just that against Iowa.

  1. Stanford Cardinal

Many were expecting a collapse of Cardinal football after the departure of Jim Harbaugh. In his last three years at Stanford, the Cardinal had a record of 25-13. His replacement, David Shaw, has a record of 31-10 in the past three seasons. Stanford returns its QB, four of its top five rushers and seven of its top eight receivers. The defense has only four starters returning, but it’s difficult to find a more consistent unit, as in the 36 games the Cardinal’s defense has allowed an average of 17 points per game and has allowed more than 28 points only once (at last season’s top-scoring team, Oregon).

Teams that just missed the cut: Utah Utes, Texas A&M Aggies, Arizona Wildcats

 

Thunder up…                    

The NBA is not for the faint of heart…Scott Brooks takes the Thunder to the playoffs 5 consecutive seasons and even to the NBA finals one year, but in a flash the guy is toast.   Basically, an underachieving pro team can’t fire its players so they fire the coach.  May sound harsh, but in the business world this line of reasoning makes perfect sense.

Scott Brooks is a nice guy and a solid coach who probably deserved better, but then again you or I could have coached that bunch to the NBA playoffs, even with the injuries…Don’t lose too much sleep over Brooks either as the NBA recycles coaches like plastic containers.  He’ll be making his $3 million somewhere else next season.

At the same time give the Thunder leadership credit, they realized the potential of a team with its two superstars and acted accordingly.  To be honest, I find this refreshing.   Just as importantly, the Thunder leadership realized that Kevin Durant is more important than any head coach.  Coaches are a dime a dozen in the NBA, but KD’s only come along once in a lifetime.   Keeping Durant in OKC was the real issue here.

Basically Thunder leadership hit a homerun with the Billy Donovan hire.  He is a proven winner.  Just as impressive is the fact that he won two national championships at a football school.   Additionally, Donovan does not carry the baggage of a Texas size/Coach K. ego.  Duke’s Krzyzewski would have been a disastrous hire.

Not being a huge NBA fan and being somewhat neutral on the Thunder allows me to be objective on this matter.  I predict that with Donovan at the helm and with Durant and Westbrook in tow, the Thunder will not miss the playoffs again.

While I predict the Thunder will eventually lose Westbrook to LA where he will become the next Kobe, the Thunder will be a championship caliber team with or without him.  The cap money saved on Westbrook’s salary will be spent surrounding Durant with young lottery-type talent.   The future for this franchise is incredibly bright.

One last thing, OU Regents should be taking note of how the Thunder responded to an off-year.  If the Sooner football team does not bounce back in a big way from its off-year, the OU Regents should take a page from the Thunder and hire Clay Bennett and Sam Presti to run things.

That would stir things up don’t you think…Hopefully, it will not come to that, but then again…