• Texas closer Corey Knebel reinstated after brief suspension for violation of team rules

    Junior closer Corey Knebel has been reinstated to the Longhorns’ roster after being suspended for Texas’ three-game weekend series against Kansas due to a violation of team policies.

    “The coaching staff feels that Corey responded in the correct way to the punishment and we hope this experience will prepare him for his future career in baseball,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “The players and coaches trust the fact that Corey will adhere to the rules of the team from this point forward.”

    Knebel is 3-2 with seven saves this season and has recorded 2.00 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 27 innings. He has not pitched since April 7 against Oklahoma, when he gave up three runs in the eighth inning to the Sooners and picked up a blown save and the loss.

    The right-hander will get his first chance to return to the hill on Tuesday when the Longhorns take on Texas-Pan American. The game is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. CT at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

  • Lakers move on without Kobe Bryant, hope to earn postseason spot with win over Houston

    Summer 2012 is starting to feel like a long time ago for the Los Angeles Lakers. A team that once looked so promising, and looked to be in perfect position to make a run at an NBA Championship, now finds itself in a position it didn’t expect. 

    The Lakers have one remaining game on the schedule, a home game against the Houston Rockets, and a win ensures a playoff berth. But for this particular Lakers team, what happens in this calendar season doesn’t matter as much as what happens moving forward.

    The Lakers are filled with looming questions, and large ones at that.

    Dwight Howard is still a free agent come summertime, and though it’s likely he stays in Los Angeles, the question becomes whether or not he actually will, or if he’s the franchise player the Lakers want to build around. 

    Pau Gasol has been logging quality minutes for the Lakers, but he’s only a few weeks removed from talks of him potentially requesting a trade in the summer. And with a team like the Lakers that has so many problems, Pau is one of the few remaining tradable assets. 

    Earl Clark is an unrestricted free agent this coming summer. With his emergence it’s fair to assume he’ll have a few teams asking for his contributions, and does a Lakers franchise that’s already in luxury tax purgatory pay Clark what the market could potentially demand?

    What about Steve Nash and Metta World Peace?  

    And, lastly, what about Kobe Bryant?

    The five-time champion that has been the face of the franchise for the last decade. The champion who’s future seems very unknown at this point. I have no doubt Bryant will return to the game of basketball. He’s too competitive to not try to finish his career on his own terms. But what will he look like when he does return? And how will his final chapter read?

    It’s probably still too early for doom and gloom in Hollywood. But in a city known for its storytelling, the way this one plays out might affect the story of the Lakers for a few years to come.

  • Louisville vs. West Virginia: Did the Big 12 make a mistake by turning down the Cardinals?

    ​Back in October 2011, the Big 12 made a huge mistake when it selected West Virginia to become the Big 12’s 10th member instead of Louisville. Near the conclusion of Year 1, it seems that the move may have blown up in the Big 12’s face.

    ​West Virginia finished the 2012 football season at a mediocre 7-6 including a loss to Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl. Louisville went 11-2 while winning the Big East and capped off the season with a victory over the Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl.

    ​In men’s basketball, West Virginia finished eighth in a weak Big 12 conference with a 13-19 overall record and missed the postseason. Louisville, on the other hand, finished the year 35-5 while winning the national title. The team's addition would have certainly strengthened the Big 12 in basketball and made it no longer just Kansas’ conference. 

    Louisville was named The Most Profitable College Basketball Team by CNBC a few weeks back, and would have been a huge addition for the Big 12. The Cardinals' three Final Fours since 2004 ties the Big 12’s total over that time (Oklahoma State 2004, Kansas 2008, Kansas 2012).

    ​In women’s basketball there isn’t much of a comparison. The Mountaineers went 17-14 this season, losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament while the Cardinals went 29-9 and lost to Connecticut in the national title game, knocking off the Big 12 champion Baylor Bears along the way.

    ​Then you have baseball, where again Louisville is clearly supreme. The Cardinals are ranked No. 8 in the country with a record of 28-7, while the Mountaineers are 20-17.

    And to think Tom Jurich, Louisville's director of athletics, nearly went so far as to beg for admittance into the conference but it was not meant to be. Instead the Big 12 chose West Virginia and its 871-mile commute to the nearest conference foe (Iowa State) as opposed to the 545 miles from Louisville to Lawrence (home of the University of Kansas Jayhawks).

    ​So on top of it not being a smart move due to athletics, it was geographically a decision that made little sense. If the right decisions were made, the Big 12 would probably have two BCS teams, a team in the Final Four for both men’s and women’s basketball and three teams currently in the top 25 of baseball.

    I know that it has only been one season, and West Virginia has time to turn it around but it seems like the Big 12 admitted the wrong team into the conference. Time will tell which would have been the better move, but after year one it is Louisville by a large margin.

  • Can the Braves go all the way? Is Matt Harvey a Cy Young candidate? Atlanta taking baseball by storm

    With their completion of a sweep of the Washington Nationals (my pick to win the World Series) this weekend, the Atlanta Braves improved to 11-1 on the season, their only loss a 2-0 decision at the hands of Cliff Lee and the Phillies.

    Off to its best start since the 1994 season, Atlanta owns a rotation in which four starters own a 2.50 ERA or lower. Paul Maholm, the winning starter on Sunday, is 3-0 and hasn’t allowed a run in 20 1/3 innings pitched. He is the first Braves pitcher to open a season with three straight scoreless starts. Perhaps a more startling stat is the fact that he has allowed just one hit with his off-speed pitches. Closer Craig Kimbrel has six saves in six opportunities and hasn’t allowed a run either.

    Although B.J. Upton has struggled in his first few games as a Brave, his brother, Justin, leads the league in homeruns, with seven in 12 games. Evan Gattis is making Braves fans forget about the fact that their all-star catcher, Brian McCann, is hurt after he underwent shoulder surgery in October. The catcher who thought he was done with baseball in high school is hitting .324 with four bombs and 10 RBIs in his first nine games as a Brave.

    A pleasant addition to the explosive Braves lineup has been former Astro, Chris Johnson. The third baseman is third in the National League, sporting a .405 batting average.

    Now, however, perhaps some bad news: according to the Elias Sports Bureau, of the four other teams to start the season 11-1 since 1995, only one (the 2003 San Francisco Giants) made the postseason. None of the other three (the 2002 Cleveland Indians, 2003 Kansas City Royals, and the 2009 Miami Marlins) even made the playoffs.

    Other NL East news:

    New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey, who took a no-hitter into the seventh inning on Saturday against the Minnesota Twins, is, along with Maholm, one of the hottest pitchers in baseball right now. He is the fourth pitcher in the liveball era to begin a season with three straight outings of at least seven innings pitched and three or fewer hits allowed. He is currently 3-0 with a 0.82 ERA with 25 K’s in 22 innings. Opposing hitters have gotten are hitting at a .088 clip against him so far this season. No one pitcher has been as visibly dominant on the mound as Harvey has been this season. With a fastball that can reach up to 98 mph with movement and filthy slider that can get up to 90 mph, Harvey has completely overpowered opposing hitters.

  • Top five title contenders heading into the NBA Playoffs

    Come this time of the year, only one thing matters: Who will hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy in June? Well, below are a few possible answers.

    1. Miami Heat 

    Many believe that the Heat’s success depends on the play of the best basketball player in the world, LeBron James. Others believe that it depends on his two elite sidekicks, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. But what will truly define the success of the Heat is the play of its role players: Ray Allen, Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier and Chris Andersen. As the great Michael Jordan once said, “Talent wins games. But … teamwork wins championships.” Michael Jordan couldn’t have won six rings without Steve Kerr’s big time shots. LeBron James can’t win his second without Ray Allen’s big time shots.

    2. Oklahoma City Thunder

    The key to the Thunder is quite different. The Thunder’s success is largely dependent on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Arguably, Durant and Westbrook are the best 1-2 punch the NBA has to offer. Nevertheless, there is only one obstacle that lies firmly in their path to winning the Larry O'Brien Trophy: Westbrook’s understanding and acknowledgement that Durant is the best player on the team. When Wade acted likewise, James took the Heat to insurmountable heights.

    3. San Antonio Spurs

    Health, health, health. Unfortunately, the Spurs have very little momentum going for them. Although this is due to the injury bug, their playoff success depends on how well Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili can stay up. Losing Ginobili equates to the loss of one of the best X-Factors in the NBA and the impact of Parker’s loss – does that even need to be described?

    4. Indiana Pacers

    Do the Pacers remind anyone of the '88-'90 Detroit Pistons teams that manhandled Michael Jordan? The way those teams played resembled street ball much more than professional basketball. The Pacers’ gritty, rough and tough, relentless defense is certainly capable of shutting down even the best offenses in the league. However, whether Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert can stand tall on the offensive side of the court is still in the air. Ultimately, I love the Pacers’ dependence on their reliable defense rather than their occasionally shaky offense in controlling the tempo of the game and winning a seven-game series.  

    5. New York Knicks

    Equation: 2013 New York Knicks = 2011 Dallas Mavericks. Jason Kidd helping run the point and Tyson Chandler anchoring the defense are two obvious similarities. J.R. Smith and his offensive firepower strikes a remarkable resemblance to Jason Terry. The only question though, is: Can the 2013 Carmelo Anthony lead, inspire and carry like the 2011 Dirk Nowitzki has? If Anthony can embody the electrifying beast that Nowitzki was in 2011, I like the Knicks' chance to make the NBA Finals for the first time in 14 years.