College Basketball report Week 15

The Baylor Bears keep rolling while the TCU Horned Frogs pick up one of their most impressive victories of the season

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TEXAS LONGHORNS (14-11), (4-8)

Last week: (0-1): L - Iowa State 81-52

This week: Wednesday vs. TCU, Saturday vs. Kansas State, Monday vs. West Virginia

In one of their worst performances of the season, the Texas Longhorns dropped their fourth consecutive game in an 81-52 loss to the Iowa State Cyclones, despite a 21 point outing by Courtney Ramey. Texas defense was a no-show in the loss, as the Longhorns allowed the Cyclones to shoot 57.7% from the floor, to go along with 40.0% from behind the arc.

Texas will look to end their losing skid in a home match against the TCU Horned Frogs on Wednesday, before taking on Kansas State on Saturday.

TEXAS A&M AGGIES (12-12), (6-6)

Last week: (1-1): L - Florida 78-61, W - Georgia 74-69

This week: Wednesday vs. Alabama, Saturday vs. Mississippi State

After dropping a close game against the Florida Gators on Wednesday, the Texas A&M Aggies pulled off a much-needed victory against the Georgia Bull Dogs, Saturday afternoon, inside the Reed Arena in College Station.

Against one of the nation's top freshmen in Georgia's Anthony Edwards (6 points), Emanuel Miller shined in the Aggies' win with a career-best 21 points and 10 rebounds on the night. Texas A&M erased a 12-point halftime deficit, as the Aggies outscored the Bulldogs 45-31 in the second period.

Following the win, Texas A&M will take on the Alabama Crimson Tide on Wednesday, prior to their home match against Mississippi State on Saturday.

Houston Cougars (20-6), (10-3)

Last week: (1-1): W- USF 62-58, L - SMU 73-72

This week: Wednesday vs. Tulsa, Saturday vs. Memphis

After recording their third victory in a win over the USF Bulls, the Houston Cougars dropped a heartbreaking loss to the SMU Mustangs in a 73-72 overtime loss Saturday evening.

In the best performance of his collegiate career, Houston's freshman guard Marcus Sasser scored a career-high 26 points (8-15 FG, 5-10 3PT) in the loss. With the game on the line late in the second half, Sasser stepped to the charity stripe to hit three free throws to send the game into overtime.

Unfortunately, Sasser fell short of becoming the Cougars' unsung hero, as SMU's Emmanuel Bandoumel connected on an off-balance 3-point field goal to give the Mustangs the win. Up next, the Cougars will look to return to their winning ways on Wednesday, in a home match against the Tulsa Hurricanes.

RICE OWLS (13-14), (5-9)

Last week: (1-1): L- Old Dominion 73-70, W - Charlotte 70-54

This week: Saturday vs. UTEP

The Rice Owls longest winning streak of conference play came to an end in a 73-70 loss to the Old Dominion Monarchs.

In a loss, Ako Adams registered 22 points while shooting 46.6% from the field, as the rest of his team shot 32% as a whole. Adams would also be outshined by the Monarchs' Malik Curry, as the junior guard scored 25 points (8-19 FG, 8-11 FT), nine rebounds, five assists and three steals in the win.

The Owls would go on to bounce back in a blowout victory over the Charlotte 49ers. Rice will hit the road on Saturday to take on the UTEP Miners.

BAYLOR BEAR (23-1), (12-0)

Last week: (1-0): W - West Virginia 70-59

This week: Tuesday vs. Oklahoma, Saturday vs. Kansas

After a series of single-digit wins over the past two weeks, the Baylor Bears picked up an 11-point victory over West Virginia on Saturday. As always, sophomore guard Jared Butler led the Bears in the win with 21 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals.

As the nation's top-ranked school, Baylor will put their 22-game winning streak on the line Tuesday, in a showdown against the Oklahoma Sooners inside the Lloyd Nobles Center in Norman, OKLA.

TCU Horned Frogs (14-11), (5-7)

Last week: (1-0): W - Kansas State 68-57

This week: Wednesday vs. Texas, Saturday vs. West Virginia

After dropping six games in a row, the TCU Horn Frogs ended their losing streak in a 68-57 victory over the Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday. TCU connected on 15 3-point field goals while shooting 45.5% from behind the arc.

Three players scored in double-figures with Desmond Bane leading the way with 17 points (6-14 FG, 5-10 3pt), eight rebounds and eight assists. Both RJ Nembhard and Jaire Grayer scored 15 points apiece shooting a combined 50% from behind the arc. TCU will return to action on Wednesday in a match against the Texas Longhorns.

Texas Tech Red Raiders (16-9), (7-5)

Last week: (0-1): L- Oklahoma State 73-70

This week: Wednesday vs. Kansas State, Saturday vs. Iowa State

Winners of four of their last five games, the Texas Tech Red Raiders suffered a three-point defeat in a road match against the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

In a surprising turn of events, Oklahoma State missed its final eight shots from the field, but made its free throws in the closing seconds to secure a 73-70 win over Texas Tech on Saturday. The Red Raiders' loss was a result of their rebounding issues, as the Cowboys outrebounded Texas Tech 37-22, as well as giving up 15 offensive rebounds which converted into 12 second-chance points.

Texas Tech will return to the court on Wednesday for a BIG 12 showdown against the Kansas State Wildcats, before taking on the Iowa State Cyclones on Saturday.

SMU Mustangs (18-6), (8-4)

Last week: (2-0): W - Connecticut 79-75, W - Houston 73-72 OT

This week: Wednesday vs. Tulane, Saturday vs. Tulsa

After recording a four-point win over the Connecticut Huskies, the SMU Mustangs survived a 73-72 overtime victory over the Houston Cougars, Saturday night, inside the Moody Coliseum in Dallas.

Despite a career-best performance by Houston's guard Marcus Sasser (26 pts), Tyson Jolly scored 20 points (5-7 FG. 10-10 FT) to lead the way for SMU. Emmanuel Bandoumel became the unsung hero for the Mustangs, as the sophomore guard connected on an off-balance 3-point field goal to give SMU the win.

Up next, the Mustangs will look to make it three straight wins on Wednesday, in a road match against the Tulane Green Waves.

LSU Tigers (18-7), (9-3)

Last week: (1-1): W - Missouri 82-78, L - Alabama 88-82

This week: Tuesday vs. Kentucky, Saturday vs. South Carolina

Following a 10 game winning streak, the LSU Tigers are in their worst slump of the season. After coming away victorious in an 82-78 win over the Missouri Tigers, LSU dropped their third loss in four outings in an 88-82 defeat against the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Down 40-29 at the half, the Tigers scored 53 second-half points and shot 56% as LSU tried to rally from an 18-points deficit. With 1:35 left in the game, LSU came within a point but was unsuccessful to slow down the Crimson Tide on the defensive end.

Up next, LSU will return to the court on Tuesday to face off against the Kentucky Wildcats.

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Tucker looks like the real deal. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Kyle Tucker finally had his breakout season in 2020. The 23-year-old flashed potential to be a legitimate five-tool threat. He slashed .268/.325/.512, swiped eight bags, and played above average defense. Is Tucker's performance sustainable? Not only that, but is there room for growth?

Hard Hit % - 44.5%

Barrel % - 9.1%

K % - 20.2%

BB % - 7.9%
Chase % - 26.2%

The first thing to realize with Kyle Tucker is the small sample size at the MLB level. Despite appearing in three separate seasons, he's played in a total of 108 games, which is obviously quite a bit shy of even one full season. He also has an extremely unique swing that you wouldn't teach to anybody, but it "works" for him. This makes him a tough hitter to judge, as it's uncomfortable judging mechanics that work for him, and it's uncomfortable judging numbers that haven't had time to develop trends.

Hard Hit, Barrel, and Chase numbers are unavailable for the minors, but walk and strikeouts percentages are. This creates the ability to at least look at one trend.

Tucker broke onto the scene in 2018 with a monstrous season for AAA Fresno, the Astros affiliate at the time. In 2018, Tucker slashed .332/.400/.590 with 24 homers and 20 steals. He had an 18.1% K% and a 10.3% BB% that season. In 2019, Tucker struck out a little bit more (21.6%) but also walked a little bit more (11.2%). Tucker's 20.2% K% in 2020 is more in line with his minor league K%, indicating he's adjusted to major league pitching.

Tucker essentially put the pieces of contact ability and quality of contact from his previous MLB stints together in 2020. In 2018, Tucker didn't strike out very much (18.1% K%), but his 3.9% Barrel % didn't strike fear in any opponent.

In 2019, Tucker had a 12.8% Barrel %, and his 92 MPH average exit velocity is the best of his three seasons in MLB, but he struck out 27.8% of the time and walked just 5.6% of the time.

In 2020, there's a marriage between the two. His K% and BB% aren't as good as his 2018 marks, but they're better than his 2019 marks. His exit velocity and Barrel % aren't as good as his 2019 marks, but they're better than his 2018 marks. Tucker became a hitter that was able to do more damage without sacrificing consistency.

Tucker had a xBA of .267, which is right in line with his .268 average. His .459 xSLG lags behind his .512 actual SLG, but it isn't a catastrophic drop. The version of Tucker Astros fans saw is essentially who he is, but how does he improve?

What really unlocked Tucker in 2020 was a change in his setup.

Image via: GraysonSkweres/Twitter/Screenshot

Here he is on August 2nd against the Angels. As you can see, he's standing pretty straight up, and he has a "neutral" stance. Following the game on Aug. 2, Tucker was batting .200/.250/.300 with no homers.

Image via: GraysonSkweres/Twitter/Screenshot

Here's Tucker on August 6th, just a few days later. He's started to close off his stance just a bit, but he's still pretty neutral, and he has a little more forward body lean with his torso. Following the game on Aug. 6, he was batting .214/.267/.357 with a homer.

Image via: GraysonSkweres/Twitter/Screenshot

Now, here's Tucker on August 10th. His stance is considerably closed off, and he's maintaining the forward body lean he adopted on August 6th. Following the game on Aug. 10, Tucker was batting .190/.230/.328. It would be the last time any of those numbers would be that low the rest of the year. He maintained that stance for the rest of the season, and he finished the month of August hitting .272/.333/.588.

The swing change allowed him to be a factor on the outside pitch. Tucker would pull off on his front side, which made it tough for him to keep balls fair on the pull side. He'd often yank inside fastballs into the stands down the right field line. It also made him uncompetitive on outside strikes, as he'd either swing-and-miss, or roll them over into the shift.

After he made the change, Tucker started steering inside pitches fair, and he was able to do something with pitches on the outer third.

The next step is finding a way to continue to diversify his batted ball profile. Tucker's pull percentage in 2020 was 47%. That's a higher pull % than guys like Kyle Schwarber and Matt Olson. It was only 1% lower than Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo.

The one dimensional batted ball profile allows teams to shift Tucker aggressively. Teams shifted Tucker in 74% of his at-bats. His wOBA against the shift is .304. In AB's where teams didn't shift him, Tucker had a .455 wOBA. The shift hurts Tucker more than most as well, because he hits the ball on the ground 39% of the time. Gallo and Olson hit it on the ground 32% and 35% of the time respectively.

Lastly, Tucker's performance on breaking balls leaves a lot to be desired. He crushes fastballs, as he batted .303 with a .574 SLG against fastballs in 2020, with a .292 xBA and .528 xSLG. His .208 AVG and .396 SLG against breaking balls aren't very good, and his .209 xBA and .340 xSLG don't tell a prettier story. His 32% whiff % against breaking balls is nearly double his whiff % on fastballs.

If Tucker can learn to be more competitive against breaking balls and learn to use the whole field, then he'll be a really scary hitter. If he doesn't, teams will be able to gameplan for him, and he'll see streaky production similar to other one dimensional hitters like Matt Carpenter and the aforementioned Gallo and Olson.

While the bat may be streaky, Tucker brings it with the glove and on the bases. He had 5 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) in the outfield in 2020, a 0.6 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), and he was plus-4 in Outs Above Average. His well above average speed and instincts give him the ability to be a rangy outfielder and dangerous baserunner.

Tucker had a breakout season in 2020, but there's still changes left to be made if he wants to be a breakout star and not a one hit wonder.

This is part four of an offseason series covering the 2020 Houston Astros. Be sure to check out parts 1-3 on SportsMap.

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