College Basketball Report Week 9: Conference play begins

The No. 4 Baylor Bears and Houston Cougars keep their winning streaks alive during the opening week of conference play

The No. 4 Baylor Bears and Houston Cougars keep their winning streaks alive during the opening week of conference play
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TEXAS LONGHORNS (10-3), (0-1)

Last week (0-1): L - Baylor 59-44

This week: Wednesdayvs. Oklahoma, Saturday vs. Kansas State

It was not the greatest offensive performance as both teams shot under 35.0% from the field, but the Texas Longhorns could not overcome their struggles with a 59-44 loss to the streaking No. 4 Baylor Bears to open their Big 12 Conference schedule. After shooting 34.6% from the field, and an unpleasant 18.8% from 3-point range, the Longhorns scored a season-low 44 points in Waco on Saturday.

Texas' junior forward, Jericho Sims, posted a double 13 points and tied a career-high with 15 rebounds, but UT still lost the battle of boards 48-35 and allowed 21 second-chance points to the Bears.

Following the loss, the Longhorns will look to right the ship on Wednesday, in a home match against Oklahoma before taking on Kansas State on Saturday.

TEXAS A&M AGGIES (6-6), (0-1)

Last week (0-1): L - Arkansas 69-59

This week: Tuesday vs. Ole Miss, Saturday Vanderbilt

After riding a three-game win streak into the SEC Conference play on Saturday, the Texas A&M Aggies came up short in a 69-59 defeat to the Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville, Ark.

It was a solid outing for freshman Andre Gordon in his first conference game, as the guard out of Ohio scored 15 points while shooting 58.3% from the field. He had some help for his frontcourt mate, Josh Nebo, who tallied his fourth double-double of the season with 10 points and 13 rebounds in the loss.

Unfortunately, the Aggies' defense was a no-show, as four of the Razorbacks' starters scored in double digits, led by Isaish Joe who scored a game-high 17 points (6-14 FG, 5-12 3PT) in the win. Following a disappointing outing, the Aggies will return to their home floor on Tuesday for a match against Ole Miss before traveling to Vanderbilt on Saturday.

Houston Cougars (11-3), (1-0)

Last week (1-0): W - UCF 78-63

This week: Tuesday vs. Temple, Saturday vs. Tulsa

In their first game back following the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, the Houston Cougars opened their American Athletic Conference play with a 78-63 victory over the UCF Knights, Friday night, inside the Fertitta Center in Houston.

Sophomore guard Nate Hinton led the Cougars to their fifth straight win with 20 points, 16 rebounds, five steals and three assists — his seventh double-double of the season.

Houston will look to continue its hot streak against Temple on Tuesday prior to taking on Tulsa on Saturday. Both games will be on the road for the Cougars.

RICE OWLS (8-7), (0-2)

Last week (0-1): L - Marshall 89-69, L - Western KY 68-61

This week: Thursday vs. Florida Atlantic, Saturday FIU

The Rice Owls did not get off to a good start to open their CUSA Conference play in the past week. Following a 20-point defeat to the Marshall Thundering Herd, Rice dropped their second consecutive conference game in a seven-point loss to Western Kentucky.

Against the Hilltoppers, the Owls missed nine of their final 10 shots in the last five minutes, as Western Kentucky went on a 10-3 run to end out the game. After a slow start to the year, the Owls will look to end their three-game losing streak in a home match against the Florida Atlantic Owls on Thursday.

BAYLOR BEARS (11-1), (1-0)

Last week (1-0): W - Texas 83-57

This week: Tuesday vs. Texas Tech, Saturday Kansas

It was not the greatest offensive performance as both teams shot under 35.0% from the field, but the No. 4 Baylor Bears overcame their struggles to take a 59-44 win over the Texas Longhorns to open their Big 12 Conference schedule with a home victory.

Junior guard, Macio Teague, scored a game-high 21 points (5-16 FG, 9-9 FT) and six rebounds in the win, as Baylor won the battle of the boards 48-35 and tallied 21 second-chance points.

Following their 10th straight victory, the Bears will take their winning streak to Lubbock for a Texas Showdown against the Texas Tech Red Raiders on Tuesday.

TCU HORNED FROGS (10-3), (1-0)

Last week (1-0): W - Iowa State 81-79

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

Winners of four out of their last five, the TCU Horned Frogs began their Big 12 Conference play with an 81-79 overtime thriller against the Iowa State Cyclones, Saturday night, inside the Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth.

RJ Nembhard proved to be too much for Iowa State, as the sophomore guard scored a career-best 31 points, which included a game-tying 3-point field goal with 1.7 seconds left in the game. In addition to Nembhard, Desmond Bane followed up his career performance with 16 points shooting 6-for-13 (46.1%) from the floor, 4-for-6 (66.0%) from deep.

Following the win, TCU will continue their conference play against Kansas State on Tuesday.

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (10-3), (1-0)

Last week: (1-0) W - Oklahoma State 85-50

This week: Tuesday vs. No. 6 Baylor, Saturday vs. West Virginia

The Texans Tech Red Raiders won their fifth consecutive game in a convincing 85-50 victory over the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Saturday. Despite a mediocre performance from behind the arc (36.3% 3PT), the No. 22 Red Raiders stayed hot with their inside game, as Texas Tech shot 50.0% from the field and scored 28 points in the paint.

With four players scoring in double digits, star guard Jahmi'us Ramsey scored a game-high 18 points with Ty Holyfield adding in 17 points in the win.

Following the win, The Red Raiders will welcome the hot No. 6 Baylor Bears to their home floor on Tuesday, for a Texas Showdown inside the United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock, TX.

SMU MUSTANGS (11-2), (2-0)

Last week: (1-0) W - USF 82-64

This week: Wednesday vs. UCF, Saturday ECU

After opening the American Athletic Conference with an 18-point win over USF, the SMU Mustangs won their third straight game with a 92-81 overtime victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday.

It was a come from behind victory, as SMU erased a 15-point deficit with six minutes left in the second half. After two made 3-point field goals in the final nine seconds of regulation, the Mustangs outscored Vanderbilt 15-4 in overtime. With the Mustangs connecting on 10 of their 19 attempts from behind the arc, Kendric Davis led SMU in scoring with 24 points while shooting 8-for-15 (53.0%) from the field.

Up next, the Mustangs will look to keep UCF winless in conference play on Wednesday in a home match inside the Moody Coliseum in Dallas TX.

LSU TIGERS (9-4), (1-0)

Last week (1-0): W - Tennessee 78-64

This week: Wednesday vs Arkansas, Saturday Mississippi State

The LSU Tigers opened their SEC Conference schedule with a 78-64 win over the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday. Sophomore guard, Javonte Smart, scored a game-high 21 points, while Skylar Mays added in an additional 17 points in the win.

Following the win, the Tigers will welcome the Arkansas Razorbacks to Baton Rouge to begin a two-game homestand that will end with Mississippi State on Saturday.

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The Astros are back in action Friday night against the A's. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

The Astros need to whip up on the Oakland A’s this weekend in California as they did in sweeping four from them last week at Minute Maid Park. That was the start of a homestand which ended up with seven wins in 10 games. That goes down as a successful homestand, especially since it felt like the Astros’ prior winning homestand came while Donald Trump was President (it actually started in late July). Still, 7-3 doesn’t feel like a smashing success with it ending by dropping two of three games to the lowly Los Angeles Angels.

It is not exactly with bated breath that anyone should be waiting on Jose Abreu’s return to the lineup, but it’s coming. It should not be on this road trip. After the three games with the A’s the Astros move up the coast for a big four game set with American League West leading Seattle. The M's start all right-handed pitchers. That is no time to sit Jon Singleton to see if Abreu has managed to pump a few drops of gas into his tank while spending the better part of this month at the Astros’ minor league complex. It’s not as if Singleton has been stellar since Abreu’s departure, but by comparison, he’s been Lou Gehrig-esque. The series with the Mariners isn’t make or break but the Astros are strongly advised to get at least a split. That it should be Framber Valdez starting the opener Monday night doesn’t breed tremendous confidence, coming off his meltdown outing against the Angels. Another start, another opportunity.

The Mariners are at the Nationals this weekend, starting it a mere four and a half games ahead of the Astros. In four of the five other divisions the Astros' 22-28 record would have them at least 10 games off the lead.

One step forward, two steps back

Speaking of washed-up first basemen, Joey Votto should be a future Hall of Famer. The 40-year-old Canadian is trying to make it back to the big leagues via the minor leagues with the Toronto Blue Jays. Votto was an absolutely tremendous player with the Cincinnati Reds. As the Beastie Boys said, “Ch-check it out.” Over Jeff Bagwell’s first ten seasons with the Astros he hit .305 with a .417 on-base percentage and .552 slugging percentage, yielding a phenomenal .970 OPS. Over Votto’s first ten full seasons with the Reds: .313/.429/.540 for an exactly phenomenal .970 OPS. Where am I going with this? Read on!

Votto had phenomenal strike zone and bat control. He turned 30 during the 2013 season. That year Votto had 581 at bats. He popped out to an infielder once the entire season. Alex Bregman turned 30 the third day of this season. Bregman popped out to the shortstop four times in the Angels series. So much for Bregman’s “knob past the ball” epiphany that saw him hit three home runs over two games last week. Going into the weekend Bregman has one hit in his last 23 at bats. His season stats continue to be pitiful: a .209 batting average and .607 OPS. Bregman has only struck out once in the 23 at bats of his latest deep freeze. It’s that so much of his contract is feeble. There is a lot of season left for Bregman to build up to decent numbers, but one-third of the regular season will be complete after the Astros play the Mariners Monday night.

While Bregman’s season to date has basically been one long slump, Jose Altuve is in a funk of his own. Since blasting a homer Monday, Altuve is hitless in 12 at bats. Mini-slumps happen to everybody but Altuve’s woes trace back farther. Over his last 15 games, Altuve is batting .175. He last had more than one hit in a game May 5. He’s also drawn just two walks over those 15 games. It’s tough to ever sit Altuve, but he’s probably playing a little too much. Altuve turned 34 earlier this month. He has started 48 of the Astros 50 games at second base. Mauricio Dubon should be getting a start per week at second (and probably another at third given Bregman’s level of play). Over a full season not playing the field once per week still means 135 starts. Altuve should mix in some more at designated hitter (he has just one DH game so far this season). Wear and tear is a real thing, players don’t grow less susceptible to it as they get to their mid-30s.

King Tuck

On the flip side, Kyle Tucker! So far this season, he’s making himself as much money as Bregman is costing himself. Only Shohei Ohtani (1.069) starts the weekend action with an OPS higher than Tucker’s 1.060. The law of averages dictates that Tucker won’t finish as high as 1.060, but if he does, it would be the greatest full-length season offensive performance in Astros’ history. Jeff Bagwell posted an absurd 1.201 OPS in the strike-shortened 1994 campaign. Yordan Alvarez came in at 1.067 in his 87 games played rookie season of 2019. Lance Berkman’s 2001 was a monster. Enron Field was more hitter-friendly then than Minute Maid Park is now, but Berkman’s numbers were “Oh My Gosh!” spectacular. .331 batting average, 55 doubles (second in franchise history to Craig Biggio's 56 in 1999), 34 homers, .430 on-base percentage, .620 slugging percentage, and 1.051 OPS. And that was just Berkman’s second full season in the majors. Lance finished fifth in National League Most Valuable Player Award voting. Giant-headed Barry Bonds won MVP with his 73 home runs among other sicko stats.

* Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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