HOUSTON CAN AVOID WARRIORS COMPARRISONS AND VALIDATE REGULAR SEASON BY WINNING IT ALL

Astros need to finish what they started

Astros World Series
photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Astros have had one of the greatest regular seasons in baseball history. They set the franchise record for most wins with 107, as well as leading the league in several offensive marks including batting average, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage while striking out less than every other team. They also led all of baseball in fielding percentage while putting together one of the most dominant pitching staffs the game has seen in quite some time.

Led by Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, the Astros struck out more hitters than any other team in the game, issued the fewest walks, had the best WHIP and strikeouts per nine innings and second-best ERA. Both power pitchers eclipsed the 300 strikeout mark for the season as they finished the campaign in a dead heat for the Cy Young Award. It was a regular season for the ages and one that Houstonians won't soon forget, but in order for this year's team to be immortalized in baseball history, there is still work to be done. You see, when it comes to sports history and team sports, in particular, it doesn't mean a thing if you don't win that ring.

Steph Curry vs. James Harden. Getty Images.

The Astros need not look any farther than the Rockets most recent rival, the Golden State Warriors to find the perfect example of a historically great regular season team that lost luster and shine by not winning the championship at the end of the year. The 2016 Warriors set the all-time NBA record for regular-season wins with a 73-9 record. They steamrolled the rest of basketball and had everyone talking about the greatest team ever assembled. Then, a funny thing happened on the way to etching their name in stone as the greatest team ever, they lost in the NBA Finals to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers and while the "king" took their crown, the Cavs tarnished their place in history.

Now, instead of praising their incredible season and talking about being one of the greatest teams ever, they talk about the asterisk next to their record that symbolizes their inability to validate that accomplishment with a title. For that reason alone, there are many that think the 1996 Chicago Bulls team that went 72-10 is the greatest team ever. Led by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, that team did what the Warriors couldn't do and won it all to seal the deal and forever memorialize how great that team was.

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I think you get my point and see where I am going here. I want this Astros team to win their second championship in the last three years and I want them to bring another title to H-town. I want them to be the first team in MLB history to have the Cy Young award winner, the MVP and the A.L. Rookie of the year all come from the same squad and to have that team win the World Series as well, that would be the icing on the cake.

I want all of those things because I want this team to be remembered, not just by Astros fans, but by baseball fans for years to come. This has been a storybook season for the Astros and their fans, all we need now is the perfect ending to solidify their place in history.

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Houston defeats TCU, 60-45. Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images.

Kelvin Sampson knows how to win a Big 12 Tournament, leading Oklahoma to three straight titles in the early 2000s.

He has Houston two wins away from its own.

The Cougars ramped up their suffocating defense on TCU, Emanuel Sharp had 14 points and Big 12 player of the year Jamal Shead scored 12, and the No. 1 team in the nation rolled to a 60-45 victory on Thursday in the quarterfinal round of its first tournament in its new league.

“They're all good. All the teams are really good,” said Sampson, whose team was beaten soundly on the boards by the bigger Horned Frogs yet still won with ease. “You win by 15, you move on to the next one, man.”

In this case No. 25 Texas Tech, which romped to a victory over No. 20 BYU earlier in the day.

“Texas Tech is good enough to beat us,” Sampson said. “We're going to have to play a lot better than we did today.”

Hard to imagine it on the defensive end, where the No. 1 seed Cougars (29-3) held eighth-seeded TCU without a point for nearly 10 minutes to start the game and was never threatened the rest of the way in winning its 10th consecutive game.

Micah Peavy had 13 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Horned Frogs (21-12). Leading scorer Emanuel Miller followed up his 26-point performance in a second-round win over Oklahoma by scoring just three points on 1-for-10 shooting.

TCU wound up going 17 of 73 from the field (23.3%) and 2 of 20 from beyond the 3-point arc.

“It wasn't our day to make shots,” Horned Frogs coach Jamie Dixon said. “I don't know how many were tough shots. I thought there were layups, we had a couple of kickout 3s off rebounds. It's probably something to do with them, because you can't take away from what they've done game after game. Their numbers are off the charts.”

Longtime rivals in the old Southwest Conference, the Cougars and Horned Frogs were meeting for the first time in the Big 12 Tournament — otherwise known as a neutral floor, where Houston had never lost in eight other games with TCU.

The Cougars never left a doubt that it would be nine.

Fresh off a 30-point blowout of Kansas, the regular-season Big 12 champs scored the first 16 points of the game, shutting down Dixon's team with the kind of in-your-shorts defense that has become the Cougars' hallmark over the years.

TCU missed its first 16 field-goal attempts and did not score until Peavy's bucket with 10:25 left in the first half.

“That's a whole other level of not making shots,” Dixon said.

Even when Houston went through its own offensive dry spell in the first half, it continually hounded the Horned Frogs. They were 3 for 23 with six turnovers at one point, and during one possession, they missed four consecutive shots at the rim.

TCU trailed 31-15 at halftime, missed its first eight shots of the second half and never threatened the rest of the way.

“The past four years I've been here,” Shead said, “we've approached every game the same. We said at the beginning of the year the Big 12 was a lot harder competition at a consistent level, but our preparation is usually the same. It's just about going out there and executing what we work on.”

UP NEXT

TCU should be safely in the NCAA Tournament field for the third consecutive year.

Houston routed the Red Raiders 77-54 in January, when Shead poured in 29 points in the win.

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