College Basketball Report: Week 5

The Baylor Bears extend their winning streak to six, while the Texas A&M Aggies continue losing after a 10-point defeat to Texas

Are Buzz Williams and the Aggies No. 1?

TEXAS LONGHORNS (8-1)

Last week (2-0): W - UAB 67-57, W - Texas A&M 60-50

This week: Saturday vs. Central Michigan

The Texas Longhorns continued their success with a perfect 2-0 record last week with wins against the University of Alabama at Birmingham (67-57) and Texas A&M (60-50). They won both games by a 10 point margin, with second-year guard, Andrew Jones, leading the way averaging 16.0 points on 52% shooting from the field, 57.1% shooting on made 3-point field goals.

In the midst of riding a four-game win streak, the Longhorns will return to the court on Saturday for a match against Central Michigan, inside the Frank C. Erwin Jr. Center in Austin.

TEXAS A&M AGGIES (3-5)

Last week (0-1): L - Texas 60-50

This week: Sunday vs. A&M-Corpus Christi

Following a rough outing at the Orlando Invitational, the Texas A&M Aggies dropped their fourth consecutive game in a 60-50 loss to the Longhorns on Sunday. In the loss, A&M struggled to buy a basket from behind the arc as they shot 3-for-11 (27.3 %) in the game.

Buzz Williams and the Aggies will look to right the ship in a home match against the A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders on Sunday.

HOUSTON COUGARS (5-2)

Last week (2-0): W - Texas State 68-60, South Carolina 76-56

This week: Wednesday vs. UT Arlington, Sunday Oklahoma State

The Houston Cougars has been on a roll as of late with back-to-back wins against the Texas State Bobcats (68-60) and the South Carolina Gamecocks (76-56). Quentin Grimes is on his way to his second AAC Player of the Week honor, after averaging 22.5 points on 44.1% shooting from the field and a sizzling 42.8% from deep.

After the win, the Cougars will return to Houston for a two-game homestand against UT Arlington on Wednesday and Oklahoma State on Sunday.

RICE OWLS (6-4)

Last week (1-0): L - Lamar 73-60

This week: Saturday vs. Houston Baptist

Senior guard Ako Adams and sophomore forward Drew Peterson scored a combined 34 points on Saturday, but was unable to come away victorious in a 73-60 loss to the Lamar Cardinals. The Owls had no answer for the Cardinals inside presence, as Lamar outscored Rice 32-12 in points in the paint.

Following the loss, the Rice Owls will look to get back to their winning ways on Saturday, in a home against the winless (0-7) Houston Baptist Huskies.

BAYLOR BEARS (7-1)

Last week (2-0): W - Maryland-Eastern 78-46, W - Arizona Wildcats 63-58

This week: Tuesday vs. Butler

The sizzling continued their early-season success with wins against the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks (78-46) and the Arizona Wildcats (63-58). Their defensive presence played an immense role in the Bears' success last week, as they held the Shore Hawks and the Wildcats to a combined 26.7% shooting from the floor, 18.7% from deep, to go along with a total of 31 made field goals

Win the win, Baylor has extended their winning streak to six, ahead of their home match against the Butler Bulldogs on Tuesday.

TCU HORNED FROGS (6-2)

Last week (1-1): W - Illinois State 81-69, L - USC 80-78

This week: Wednesday vs Winthrop, Saturday vs Lamar

The TCU Men's Basketball team split their two games last week starting with an 81-69 victory over Illinois State. The Horned Frogs dropped their second game of the week in a two-point defeat to the USC Trojans. Behind a 17 point and 11 rebounds performance by forward Kevin Samuel, TCU nearly pulled off an incredible comeback after trailing by 18 early in the second half.

TCU will return to action on Wednesday to face off against Winthrop and Lamar on Saturday.

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (5-3)

Last week: (0-1) L - Depaul 65-60

This week: Tuesday vs. Louisville, Monday vs. Southern Mississippi

Following a 5-0 start to the season, the Texas Tech Raiders are in a three-game skid following a 65-60 overtime loss to Depaul last Wednesday. The Red Raiders held a four-point led over the Blue Demons before Jalen Coleman-Lands took over late for Depaul with a clutch 3-point basket and free throws to ice the game.

Freshman guard, Terrence Shannon, Jr. scored a career-high 24 points on 9-for-18 (50%) shooting to go along with eight rebounds in the loss. Texas Tech will look to end their three-game losing streak on Tuesday against the Louisville Cardinals before taking on Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles.

SMU MUSTANGS (8-1)

Last week (1-1): W - Northwestern State 77-51, L - Georgetown 91-74

This week: No Games Scheduled

After starting the season with a perfect 8-0 record in a win over Northwestern State (77-51), The SMU Mustangs dropped their first game on the year in a 91-74 loss to the Georgetown Hoyas. Georgetown proved to have too much firepower for the Mustangs with four players scoring in double figures for the Hoyas. With no games on the schedule, SMU will return to the floor on Tuesday, December 20th against the Georgia Bulldogs

LSU TIGERS (7-2)

Last week (2-0): W - New Orleans 90-54, W - Northwestern State 109-59

This week: Wednesday vs East Tennessee St.

The LSU Tigers proved to be too much for their competition-winning by an average margin of 43 points with wins over New Orleans (90-54) and Northwestern State (109-59). LSU will look to extend their winning streak to five on Wednesday in a home match against the East Tennessee St. The Tigers will continue their four-game homestand on Tuesday against New Orleans and Northwestern State on Sunday.

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What do the numbers say about him? Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Carlos Correa endeared himself in the heart of Astros fans during his 2020 postseason run. He talked the talk off the field, and he walked the walk on the field. Correa slashed .362/.455/.766 in the postseason, hitting more home runs in 13 postseason games than he did in 58 regular season games. His performance has sparked discussions about whether or not the Astros should seek an extension with him this offseason.

Aside from the gaudy postseason numbers, he asserted himself as a team leader. The images and stories of Correa talking to Framber Valdez on the mound, telling Dusty Baker he was going to hit the walk off, and saying this is the most fun he's ever had playing baseball are fresh in everyone's minds.

However, that's just thirteen games out of a 667 game career (counting the postseason). The postseason games are the most important, and Correa seems to show up when the lights shine brightest, but the Astros have to assemble a team good enough to play under the bright lights for Correa to get that moment to shine. What do the numbers say about him?

Hard Hit % - 41.8%

Barrel % - 5.9%

K% - 21.8%

BB% - 7.3%

Chase % - 31.8%

(Numbers from 2020)

By the numbers, Correa didn't have the greatest regular season in 2020. He slashed .264/.326/.383 with a 97 wRC+, meaning he was 3% worse in run production that the average hitter. He was tied for 14th amongst qualified shortstops with Nick Ahmed of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Francisco Lindor (100 wRC+) was one spot ahead of Correa, while Orlando Arcia (96 wRC+) was one spot behind. His Hard Hit % was in the 65th percentile in MLB, and his Barrel % was in the 34th percentile.

His expected numbers suggest that the dip in performance wasn't a matter of bad luck. His .256 xBA is slightly worse than his actual batting average. His .406 xSLG is slightly better than his actual .SLG, but not by much. Correa had a wOBA of .305 and a nearly identical xwOBA of .306. Lastly, his .324 BABIP was actually a .021 point jump over last year, and it's a touch above his career mark of .316.

Correa likely struggled during the regular season because of a downturn in production to the opposite field. Correa pulled the ball 49% of the time in 2020. That was 16th amongst qualified hitters, and it's a complete outlier for him in his career. It was 14.4% higher than 2019, and it was 15.6% higher than his career average. In 2019, Correa had a 9% HR% on batted balls to the opposite field. He had an average exit velocity of 87.7 MPH with an average launch angle of 27°. His batting average was .368 with a xBA of .349 to that part of the field. In 2020, Correa had a 0% HR% to the opposite field (meaning he didn't hit one). He had an average exit velocity of 86.8 MPH with an average launch angle of 30°. His batting average was .382, but his xBA was .259. Keep in mind, Correa missed most of the 2019 season with injury, so the sample sizes aren't all that different (57 AB's in 2019 versus 34 AB's in 2020).

It's a similar story for the straightaway portion of the field. In 2019, Correa had an 11% HR%, 90.4 MPH avg. exit velocity, 8° avg. launch angle, .370 BA, and .424 xBA between the gaps. In 2020, Correa had a 5% HR%, 88.5 MPH avg. exit velocity, 4° avg. launch angle, .349 BA, and .362 xBA.

That all changed in the postseason.

Here is an overlay of Correa's spray charts from postseason games in which he hit home runs. Five of his six postseason homers were to center field, and three of the five to center field were on the opposite field side of second base.

Correa also made some physical changes at the plate over the course of the season, particularly late in the season, which means that the uptick in offensive performance is related to a physical change, not just some sort of ability to turn it on in the postseason. Correa mentioned that he and Alex Cintron compared video to his rookie season to look at hand positioning, and Correa started to mimic that. Then, there's the already-famed story of Correa and Cintron running to the cages mid-game to open up his shoulders and be less closed off. All of those changes are clearly visible on video.

On the left is Correa early in the 2020 season when the Astros were in San Diego playing the Padres. In the middle is Correa's first career home run in 2015. On the right is Correa's walk-off homer against Tampa Bay. There are four clear and obvious changes. First, he's holding the bat nearly straight up, which he wasn't doing at the beginning of the season. It supports Correa's claim that he and Cintron were looking at video from 2015 and trying to mirror that swing again. Then, there's the change with Correa's shoulders. In the first photo, if it weren't so grainy, you could read "C-O-R-R-E" in Correa. Same deal with the second photo, except it's even more clear. In the third photo, you can only read "C-O" which also supports the story of that mid-game adjustment with Cintron. Third, Correa has a lot less forward body lean with his torso. Correa hasn't spoken as to why he made that change, but it is probably tied to shoulder and bat orientation and helps him feel more comfortable. Lastly, Correa opened his stance, which is almost always going to help with vision.

The changes all probably help Correa feel more free when he swings. His postseason swing was much more North-and-South than East-and-West. His hands are able to work freely underneath his shoulders, and he has to do a lot less work to clear space for his hands to work. It's encouraging that the uptick in performance is clearly tied to physical work in the cage.

Correa did bring solid defense to the table as well. He's a finalist for the AL Gold Glove Award at SS along with Niko Goodrum of the Detroit Tigers and J.P. Crawford of the Seattle Mariners. Correa will likely win the award. However, the defensive metrics are mixed on his performance.

Errors don't count as an advanced statistic, but they still bring value to the table. There's a direct correlation between making errors and giving up free bases. Now, just because a player doesn't make many errors doesn't mean he's an elite defender, but it's hard to be an elite defender if you make lots of errors. Correa takes care of the baseball, as his one error was tied for the least amongst shortstops. Correa also performed glowingly by DRS (Defensive Runs Saved). His DRS of 8 was second amongst shortstops, second behind only Dansby Swanson. However, UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) had Correa at -0.7, which is below average. His OAA (Outs Above Average) of 0 roughly agrees with his UZR rating. Essentially, the numbers say Correa makes the routine plays about as well as anybody, but he isn't particularly rangy. His arm is also impressive and brings a lot to the table. Correa isn't a bad defensive shortstop by any means, he's above average, but this is probably the only Gold Glove he'll ever be nominated for, much less win.

When Correa is healthy and on his game, he is one of the most electric players in baseball. The problem is he hasn't been healthy and on his game nearly enough in his career. Over his five full major league seasons, Correa has missed 203 out of 708 games. He's been unavailable, mostly due to injury, in 30% of games over that time. That's quite a bit. The three injuries that have caused him to miss the most time are all back and torso related. The fact that the back issues have recurred is alarming, and it's something to monitor. It is really hard to be a good baseball player with a bad back. Credit to Correa, he stayed healthy for all of 2020, but it was only a 60 game season, which means there were fewer opportunities for injury. If he has another healthy season in 2021, it'll be enough to put the injury prone label to rest, but he hasn't done it yet.

And again, there's the issue of his performance being up-and-down over the years. In 2018, Correa missed 52 games due to injury, and had a wRC+ of 100, meaning he was exactly league average. That means he's been only league average or worse in two of his six big league seasons. Correa played extremely well in 2019, racking up 3.2 WAR and 143 wRC+, but he only played 75 games.

Between COVID, injury history, and streaky performance, there's too much uncertainty to give Correa a long term deal right now. However, his peaks, leadership ability, and apparent willingness to stay in Houston certainly make him a candidate for one. 2021 will be a "prove it" year for Correa, and it will go a long way in ranking him amongst the crop of shortstops hitting the free agent market after next year. Is Correa at the top of that market with Francisco Lindor, or is he at the bottom of that market with Javy Baez?

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