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

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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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These next six games will be very telling. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

Houston has six games left in the 2022 regular season, two three-game series in which they need just one more win, or a Yankees loss, to secure the top seed for the AL side of the postseason bracket. They've accomplished what they set out to do over the 162-game drudge that is the regular season, so you're likely to see them use the opportunity to get some players off their feet in the remaining games.

Even so, having one of the best teams means that while putting out a lineup with some starters missing, they can still beat most teams on any given day. So then, what could that mean for the teams still vying for postseason spots or positioning in the remaining games?

Affecting the NL playoffs

It's a relatively sure bet that if they haven't locked up that top seed by the time they enter the final three games, they will before that last series is over. That means that when the Phillies come to Minute Maid Park to close out the season next week, Philadelphia will have much higher stakes in those games than Houston.

Under the expanded playoff format starting this season, the two best teams in each league receive a bye, while the remaining four teams square off in a Wild Card series, with all those games taking place at the better seed's stadium. That means teams will be very motivated to secure their best Wild Card positioning.

As of now, the Phillies hold just a half-game lead over the Brewers for the third and final Wild Card spot for the National League. Things could change this weekend, but whether they still lead or have fallen back and have ground to makeup, the games will matter to them against the Astros.

They also sit 2.5 games behind the Padres, meaning that Philadelphia could potentially be looking at a chance to jump into the second Wild Card spot. However, it's questionable if that's an envious position or not. With the juggernaut battle between the Mets and Braves coming down to the wire, with one team winning the NL East and a first-round bye and the other starting with home-field advantage in a Wild Card series, whoever gets the second Wild Card spot is going to be heading to face a really tough, and potentially angry, team on the road.

It will make things interesting for the Phillies when they face the Astros. They could be playing for their playoff lives or jockeying for position. Either way, the games will be meaningful.

Affecting the AL playoffs

There's a similar scenario at play for the American League side of things with the Astros' three-game series against the Rays this weekend. Just like the Phillies, the Rays enter the weekend holding on to the third and final spot in the AL Wild Card race.

Tampa Bay is only 0.5 games back of the Mariners for the second spot and two games back of the Blue Jays for the first Wild Card spot. Farther behind, the Orioles still have a chance for something crazy to happen, sitting five games behind.

So based on the result of their series with the Astros and how the other teams fare this weekend and in the final stretch of games, the Rays have a range of outcomes that could cause havoc in the AL bracket. They could end up taking the top Wild Card spot and hosting a series, traveling to face the Blue Jays, Mariners, or Guardians, or, less likely, missing the playoffs altogether.

This variance in positioning could have ramifications for the Astros directly in the ALDS round as well. The Astros are likely to be favored regardless of the three potential teams they face; however, some matchups would make things easier.

Houston went 2-4 against the Blue Jays this year and are currently up 3-0 on the Rays with the three games remaining in the season series. And while the Astros took the season series 12-7 against division-rival Seattle, that could give the Mariners all the more reason to be ultra-motivated for the ALDS if they faced the Astros.

So, while the Astros may not have any direct milestones to play for other than locking up their top seed, these remaining six games will have plenty of storylines and drama to follow for them and their opponent.

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