College Basketball Roundup

Houston and Texas Tech both dominant, battling for seeding

Chris Beard and Tech look mean again. Sarah Stier/Getty Images

TEXAS LONGHORNS (15-12) 7-7 Big XII

Last week (0-1):
L- @ Oklahoma 69-67

This week: Wednesday @ Baylor, Saturday vs. Iowa State

Texas lost a close one in Norman, 69-67 to Oklahoma over the weekend. The Horns played without leading scorer Kerwin Roach, who was suspended indefinitely for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Texas had a chance to win the game, but Jamal Bieniemy blocked a last second 3-point attempt from Matt Coleman III. Jase Febres, who started for Roach, led the Horns in scoring and hit several key 3 pointers in the final moments. Texas showed some fight in the second half after being down 14 at the break. Roach is unlikely to play against Baylor, but Shaka Smart said he wouldn't rule out a return for Roach at some point this season. Texas has a road game at Baylor and a home date with Iowa State this week.

TEXAS A&M AGGIES (12-14) 5-9 SEC

Last week (2-0): W- Alabama 65-56, W- @ Arkansas 87-80

This week: Tuesday @ LSU, Saturday vs. Vanderbilt

Texas A&M is arguably playing their best ball of the season. The Aggies came back from a 12-point second half deficit to beat Alabama, 65-56. Savion Flagg and Wendell Mitchell each had 18 points for the Aggies in the win. The difference in the game was made at the free throw line. A&M hit 15 of 16 from the line, while Alabama made just 4 of 7 free throws. The win gave the Aggies a season sweep of Bama. They followed that up with just their third road win of the season, 87-80 at Arkansas. Flagg led the way again with 22, and Mitchell added 20 more in the win. The Ags overcame an 18 turnover day with a strong day on the glass, out rebounding the Hogs by 10. Texas A&M gets LSU and Vanderbilt this week.

HOUSTON COUGARS (26-1) 13-1 American

Last week (1-0): W- South Florida 71-59

This week: Wednesday @ East Carolina, Saturday vs. UCF

The Cougars inched closer to the 2-line with a win over South Florida, 71-59. After a 12-2 run to start the game, USF drew within 1 with 4 minutes to go in the half, but the Cougars took over from there. DeJon Jarreau scored 17 points off the bench to lead the Cougars in the victory. The Coogs shot 47% from the field, and held the Bulls to just 31%. Houston enters the week with a one-game lead in the AAC, with East Carolina and UCF on deck this week.

RICE OWLS (11-17) 6-9 CUSA

Last week (1-0): W- @ UTEP 85-81 2OT

This week: Sunday vs. Middle Tennessee State

Rice has been a tough read this season. They were awful, then had a spurt of being pretty solid, then back to awful. The game against UTEP was no different, as the Owls trailed by as many as 19 in the first half, before rallying to force overtime, and then a second overtime before leaving with an 85-81 win over the Miners. The Owls hit 46% from 3-point range in the game. Junior Robert Martin led the Owls with 23 points and 13 rebounds. The Owls are resting until Sunday when they take on Middle Tennessee State at home.

BAYLOR BEARS (18-9) 9-5 Big XII

Last week (2-0): W- @ Iowa State 73-69, W- West Virginia 82-75

This week: Wednesday vs. Texas, Saturday @ Kansas State

Baylor needed a big week after losing 3 out of 4, and they got it. The Bears went 2-0, including an upset road win at Iowa State, 73-69. Jared Butler led the way for Baylor with 17 points. Makai Mason returned from his toe injury with 14 points, but on an inefficient 18 shots. The Bears dominated the glass, 44-28, including 19 offensive rebounds. Baylor followed that up with a closer than expected win over a pretty bad West Virginia team, 82-75. The Bears had a 16-5 run in the last 3 minutes to seal the comeback victory. Mario Kegler paced the Bears with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Mason struggled again, going 0-7 from the field in 33 minutes on the floor. Baylor will try to carry that momentum through to this week when they face Texas and Kansas State.


TCU HORNED FROGS (18-9) 6-8 Big XII

Last week (1-0):
W- Iowa State 75-72

This week: Tuesday @ West Virginia, Saturday vs. Texas Tech

Kouat Noi and Alex Robinson both had double doubles for TCU, who got a much needed win over Iowa State, 75-72. Noi, who previously missed the last two games, had 20 points and 12 rebounds in his return. Robinson had 12 points and 10 rebounds. JD Miller scored 17 and Desmond Bane scored 19 in a balanced scoring attack for the Frogs. TCU was helped by Iowa State's ineptitude from behind the arc, where the Cyclones shot just 2-20. The Frogs have West Virginia and Texas Tech on tap for this week.

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (22-5) 10-4 Big XII

Last week (1-0): W- Kansas 91-62

This week: Wednesday vs. Oklahoma State, Saturday @ TCU

The defense showed up as usual, but the offense was amazing in Texas Tech's 91-62 win over Kansas this weekend. The Raiders were 61% from the field and an incredible 62% from 3-point range (16-26) in the blowout win. The game was never within a possession after the first 4 minutes of the game, and Tech had a 45-20 lead at halftime. Jarrett Culver was 10/21 from the field and had 26 points in the win. Texas Tech moved to 11th in the polls, and has games against Oklahoma State and TCU on tap for this week.


SMU MUSTANGS (13-13) 5-9 American

Last week (1-1):
W- Connecticut 77-59, L- @ UCF 95-48

This week: Wednesday vs. Cincinnati, Sunday vs. Wichita

Mixed bag of results for the Mustangs last week. Things started out well enough, with a 77-59 blowout win over Connecticut. SMU had lost five straight and 7 of 8, with their only win coming against lowly Tulane before the UConn win. Jahmal McMurray led the way for the Ponies with 25 points in the win. The defense was also sharp, as they held the Huskies to just 31% from the field. Things took a drastic turn for the worse on the road, where the Mustangs were obliterated by UCF, 95-48. The Mustangs had no answer for Tacko Fall, who had 23 points and 20 rebounds for the Golden Knights. SMU didn't have anyone in double digit scoring, as Ethan Chargois led them with 9 points. The Mustangs get Cincinnati and Wichita at home this week.

LSU TIGERS (22-5) 12-2 SEC

Last week (1-1):
L- Florida 82-77, W- Tennessee 82-80

This week: Tuesday vs. Texas A&M, Saturday @ Alabama

LSU had a frustrating home loss to Florida, 82-77 to start the week. The Tigers gave up 15 offensive rebounds, a department they usually dominate. The other downfall came at the free throw line, where the usually sure shooting Tigers shot just 64%. Tremont Waters shot just 3-12 for LSU, who were paced by Skylar Mays' 18 points in defeat. LSU followed it up with an improbable 82-80 win over Tennessee. Javonte Smart hit two free throws with .6 seconds left to cap a career-high 29 point night. Mays added 23 points on a night where leading scorer Waters sat out with an illness and 3rd leading scorer Nad Reid scored just 1 point. The Tigers now have 2 top-5 wins in the last 10 days. 13th ranked LSU gets Texas A&M and Alabama this week.

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Can Hunter Brown replace an Astros legend like Peña did? Composite image by Brandon Strange.

It’s official. Justin Verlander’s time with the Houston Astros has come to an end after he agreed to a two-year, $86.7 million deal to be the newest pitcher for the New York Mets.

Now with the 39-year-old, soon to be 40-year-old, in a different shade of blue and orange, Houston’s starting pitching rotation has completely turned over a new leaf. What exactly is next for the group?

Verlander, who joined the Astros at the last hour in 2017, helped lead Houston to two World Series championships, and he was a key figure in the organization during his tenure. His latest season, coming off Tommy John Surgery, was nothing short of sensational.

He won his third AL Cy Young award by unanimous vote. He led Houston with a 1.75 ERA, a WHIP of 0.83, and an 18-4 record in his starts. In the postseason, Verlander’s run was filled with more ups and downs, but he also accomplished new accolades, including getting his first career win in the World Series in the pivotal Game Five. Replacing his production will be a tough task.

The Astros, overall, are in great position with their starting rotation. Framber Valdez presumably slides in as the new No. 1, although he is in arbitration with the team. The same goes with Cristian Javier, Luis Garcia, and Jose Urquidy, all of whom showed they can start, and who are also in arbitration or close to entering it.

Lance McCullers Jr. is the only starting pitcher with a long-term deal in place as of now, however, his health and ability to stay on the mound for Houston has been a long-time concern. The name that is interesting for the Astros is Hunter Brown.

The 24-year-old appeared in 10 games for the Astros in 2022, including three in the postseason. Coincidentally, Houston won every game in which he made an appearance. In the short sample size, Brown pitched in only 20.1 innings with a 0.89 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and a 2-0 record in the regular season.

Most importantly, Brown showed flashes of brilliance in the postseason. The most noteworthy performance came in Game Three of the American League Divisional Series against the Seattle Mariners.

With no room for error, the young pitcher came into a scoreless game knowing that one swing of the bat could hand Houston a loss. He not only managed to control the nerves in front of a hostile crowd that hadn’t seen a postseason game in over 20 years, and he pitched two scoreless innings, only allowing one hit.

Again, only a short resumé, but impressive nonetheless. Brown should have a rotation spot secured. Ultimately, the Astros need to see if his flashes were previews of a young, bright career. Best-case scenario, Brown could become the 2023 version of Jeremy Peña, which would be incredible for the Astros.

Owner Jim Crane said a week ago during José Abreu’s introduction news conference, Houston can never have enough pitching. The Astros could kick the tires on available free agents.

With the Astros saving $43 million in 2023 had they matched the Mets’ offer for Verlander, and Crane also saying the biggest needs were an outfield player and a catcher, it would not make sense for Houston to spend big on another pitcher, especially one that would be fourth or fifth in the rotation.

However, it would make sense to bring one on a budget, with the promise of competing for another championship.

Some names worth taking a look at could be Nathan Eovaldi, who is from Houston, Noah Syndergaard, who the Astros saw in the World Series, and Corey Kluber. All three pitchers had an ERA of 4.34 or less in the 2022 season, and according to Sportico, are anticipated to have a market value less than $17 million, which also offers the Astros flexibility to improve other positions.

What the Astros do, only Crane, and probably Jeff Bagwell, know. One thing is for sure, regardless if a new face is brought in or not, Brown deserves a spot in Houston’s 2023 starting rotation.

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