Golden’s Nuggets: Can Texas earn a top eight seed, host super regional?

The Texas Longhorns roared into the No. 12 slot in the top 25 poll after a Big 12 title-clinching series sweep of TCU, and barring an unforeseen turn of events, the Horns will host an NCAA regional in two weeks.

While a top eight seed — and a super regional at UFCU Disch-Falk Field — is unlikely, coach David Pierce has his team performing at a nice level at the right time of the season. A deep run in the conference tournament could make things interesting, but Texas’ 15 RPI puts the Horns behind several big-name programs at this point. With that said, Pierce’s team has shown it can go into hostile territory and win ballgames.

Here’s why a deep playoff run is possible: They have a national player of the year candidate in junior second baseman Kody Clemens, plus plenty of momentum — they’re 28-9 in their last 37 games after starting the season 9-9 — and a fan base that’s starved to return to the glory years when the words “Omaha is mandatory” carried a lot of weight.

Omaha is possible because not only do the Horns have some nice offensive punch but also because the team has displayed that clutch gene that played a starring role in Augie Garrido’s greatest moments in Austin. Clemens delivered in humongous fashion in the Big 12 title-clinching win over TCU as he has for most of his season.

The biggest question entering the postseason is if the Horns will get grown-man performances from that pitching staff on those days when the offense is struggling. There are plenty of live arms but they’re inexperienced for the most part when you’re talking about postseason experience.

Sports gambling isn’t legal in Texas just yet, but I wouldn’t bet on the Horns at this point. We’ll see if they can maintain this surge through the conference tournament and beyond. Who knows, maybe one of these youngsters will come of age at money time. Shoot, Huston Street was 18 years old when he saved four games in Omaha.

Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni dropped a four-letter word Sunday night that wasn’t profane, but pretty damning of the league’s top seed.

“(We) played soft, actually. I mean, you can’t do that with these guys,” D’Antoni told reporters after the 126-85 loss in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals. “These guys are good.”

Soft. The word that gave former Texas football coach Mack Brown nightmares during the five-year losing streak to Oklahoma. A word that bites into the psyche of wounded teams.

The 41-point drubbing was the worst playoff loss in franchise history. If the Rockets somehow recover and go on to win a title, they would become the first NBA champion in the modern 16-team format to lose a playoff game by 40-plus points.

Golden State’s Steph Curry may have gotten an earful from his mother for his language during Game 3, but he provided a nice lesson to young players in shooting slumps: When the jumper isn’t falling, take it to the hole.

Curry’s 18-point blitz came in a five-minute span of the third quarter where he hit all five field goal attempts, but it didn’t happen until he ventured into the lane and converted three layups. Then he knocked down a couple of trademark three-pointers from ungodly range to the put the Rockets on ice.

Curry remains the most devastating deep shooter I’ve ever seen — scarier than Ray Allen or Reggie Miller — but he is smart enough to know that when the jumpers aren’t falling — and he made only one of his first seven three-pointers — he can help his team in other areas. He challenged the Rockets on the interior and went off at a time when Clint Capela, Houston’s best shot blocker, was on the bench.

So the Warriors are back on top in this series with Game 4 coming up Tuesday and Curry is apparently back in the groove. Remember all the stories about James Harden and Chris Paul making sure they isolated Curry one-on-one on the defensive end? It worked early but Harden paid the price with a couple of embarrassing defensive efforts after Curry put him on skates twice in the third. Not that The Beard is ever going to be confused with Kawhi Leonard on that end of the floor.

And for those who always say Curry is hurt or tired when he’s struggling only to laud him when he goes off like this, give it a rest. You can’t have it both ways. Houston is smartly getting physical with him because they know he isn’t in game shape after missing the final 10 games of the regular season and six playoff games.

Lucky for Curry, his team is deep enough to win even when he can’t buy one. He has a championship ballclub around him, including the incomparable Kevin Durant, sharpshooter Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, the most impactful glue guy this league has seen since Dennis Rodman. The Warriors will have few contests like Game 2 when several players are struggling.

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