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Rice’s men’s basketball team is currently in the midst of one of its best-ever seasons. If the Owls can win one of their final four regular season games, they will have their most conference wins since joining Conference USA in 2005. Despite the success, the team still has work to do in the final weeks of the season. If Rice can finish in the top four of the regular season standings, it will earn a bye to the quarterfinals in the conference tournament. This past weekend, Rice split its two home contests, beating the University of Texas, San Antonio and falling to the University of Texas, El Paso.
Last week in the Thresher’s baseball insert, multiple Rice players said their goal this season is to qualify for the College World Series. After one series, the Owls’ record stands at 2-2. Despite the high expectations of the team heading into the season, the opening series was not a setback. Rather, the season-opening series revealed strong hitting from the bottom of the lineup and a deep pitching staff that can carry the Owls deep into the postseason.
Women’s indoor track finishes second at Conference USA Championships
This season is unlike any we have seen in the past 20 years. For the first time since 1996, Rice baseball is not the defending conference champion. The 20-year streak of championships spanned three different conferences, included seven College World Series appearances and, of course, included the 2003 national championship. This year’s Owls, however, are not going to look back on the end of this streak. They are hoping to begin a new one.
Although football season has only been over for about two months, the most important day of the offseason happened earlier this month. On Feb. 1, national signing day, Rice football signed 17 new student-athletes to its 2017 recruiting class to bolster a roster that went 3-9 last season. The class ranked 123rd nationally and 12th out of 14 in Conference USA according to 247sports, a prominent source of recruiting data.
This week, the Atlanta Falcons will use Rice’s football fields to prepare for Super Bowl LI against the New England Patriots. Forty-two years ago, however, Rice served as far more than a practice facility. On Jan. 13, 1974, Rice Stadium hosted Super Bowl VIII, the first Super Bowl ever played in the city of Houston.
While most students were relaxing over the Martin Luther King Day long weekend, some members of the Rice community were doing just the opposite. That Sunday, some Rice students competed in the 45th running of the Houston Marathon, a 26.2-mile endurance run through the streets of the city. A couple of the students earned top finishes and qualified for further marathons.
Rice swimming is riding a wave of momentum. Fresh off a victory in a four-team meet in San Diego, the Owls are cruising as they enter into their final month of preparation for the Conference USA championships.
Rice women’s basketball is three games over .500 in January for the first time since 2014 and has one of the better records in Conference USA. The Owls, however, have yet to win a conference game. They have started the conference season 0-4 after going 9-2 in nonconference play.
The back of Tudor Fieldhouse — currently home to an empty pool, abandoned racquetball courts and curiously, the kinesiology department — is set to undergo a facelift. On Friday, Rice Athletics announced a $4 million project which will remake the old pool and recreation center into new space for four of Rice’s varsity teams.
Rice men’s basketball entered 2017 with a chance to open a new chapter in the program’s history. So far, the year has not gone as planned. After a 10-3 start to the season in nonconference play, the Owls have gone just 1-3 in their first four Conference USA games.
Rice women’s basketball is off to a 3-2 start, its best start since the 2011-12 season. The Owls have three double digit wins including a 26 point blowout of Houston Baptist University. Their two losses have come to major conference foes Louisiana State University and Oklahoma State University, the first in a 66-55 loss and the second in a 65-51 loss. Junior guard Shani Rainey leads the team with 16 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game. Senior guard Maya Hawkins is tops on the team with 22 assists in five games. The team is outscoring its opponents by five points per game and is allowing just 58 points per game. The Owls will look to improve on their hot start this weekend on the road in San Antonio against the University of the Incarnate Word.
In a chilly rain in front of a sparse Stanford Stadium crowd, the Rice football team finished off a 3-9 season with a 41-17 loss to No. 24 Stanford University Saturday night. The loss ushers in an offseason that will spark numerous decisions regarding the coaching staff, though head coach David Bailiff will return to the Owls next year.
Rice baseball opened its trip to Cuba with a shutout victory over professional team Artemisa. Less than 24 hours later, their plans drastically changed. Late Friday night, news broke that former Cuban leader Fidel Castro had died at age 90. The team, which embarked on a trip to the island nation last week, has suspended all of its scheduled games against teams from the Cuban Baseball Federation for the remainder of its journey.
Rice volleyball opened the Conference USA Tournament as the host and the sixth seed, an underdog in its first match against Marshall University. After a hard-fought run through the bracket, the team’s season came to an end with a five-set loss to No. 20 Western Kentucky University in the Conference USA championship game.
Down 21-0 in the first half to the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, it looked like the Rice University football team was headed to yet another blowout loss. This time, though, the Owls rallied. Rice scored the final 22 points of the game to claim a 22-21 victory over Charlotte for its first Conference USA win of the season.
I know it’s early, but wow. What Rice men’s basketball did to James Madison University on Sunday afternoon was nothing short of spectacular. The Owls faced a team that competed for its conference championship last year and absolutely obliterated it. In doing so, Rice validated the preseason hype surrounding the team and gave reason to believe it can compete for the Conference USA title.
Rice University football again failed to protect its home turf as it fell to Florida Atlantic University 42-25 on Saturday for its fourth home loss of the season. The loss dropped Rice to 1-8 on the season and 0-6 in Conference USA.
In the early hours of the weekdays, when most students are still asleep, Rice student-athletes are already training. Athletes arrive at the soccer field, track and football field or the pool as early as 7 a.m. and often return to do further conditioning after classes. Many athletes keep up this commitment for the duration of their time at Rice. Some, however, find the requirement too extreme. The grueling schedule, stressful culture and perceived lack of support from students can make the Rice athletic experience difficult and even harmful according to some athletes.
Last week, the Big 12 finally made its decision regarding expansion. And no, Rice was not invited to join the conference. In fact, neither was the University of Houston. Or anyone. After months of speculation, presentations from at least 11 different schools and weeks of deliberation among the current conference members, the Big 12 ultimately decided not to expand.