College basketball week in review

Texas in a tailspin; LSU and Baylor surging this week

Shaka Smart and Texas are fading fast. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

TEXAS LONGHORNS (11-9) 3-4 Big XII

Last week (0-2):
L- @ TCU 65-61, L- @ Georgia 98-88

This week: Tuesday vs. Kansas, Saturday @ Iowa State

Texas' tournament chances are fading. They lost both of their games this week, and have now lost five of their last six games. They started off with a 65-61 loss at TCU. Texas actually kept pace with the Frogs from a shooting standpoint (46.1%-45.6%) but lost the turnover and rebounding battles. The Horns hung in the game until late, but missed a desperation 3-point attempt with a chance to tie after the Frogs used their fouls to give to disrupt the Texas offense. Kerwin Roach III led the Horns with 15 points in the loss. Things went from bad to worse against Georgia, with the Dawgs taking down Texas 98-88 in the Big XII-SEC Challenge. The Bulldogs had their way from the field, shooting 67% from the field and 71% from 3-point range. Texas forced 26 turnovers, but the hot shooting of Georgia prevented them from taking advantage of it. Courtney Ramey scored 19 points to lead Texas in the loss. Things don't get much easier this week for Shaka Smart's team, with Kansas and a road trip to Iowa State on the schedule.

TEXAS A&M AGGIES (8-10) 1-5 SEC

Last week (1-1): L- @ Florida 81-72, W- Kansas State 65-53

This week: Wednesday vs. LSU, Saturday vs. Tennessee

Odd week for the Aggies. First, they dropped an 81-72 battle to Florida, dropping them to 1-5 in SEC play. Florida killed the Aggies from outside, shooting 18-37 from distance. The Aggies led for a long portion of the game, from the middle of the first half to the middle of the second half, but finally gave up the lead for good with about nine minutes to play. Wendell Mitchell scored 25 points to lead the Aggies in the loss. Texas A&M then got their best win of the season, and their first win over a likely tournament team, beating Kansas State 65-53. The Aggies trailed by four at halftime, but dominated the second half. Wendell Mitchell scored 22 to lead the Aggies, and all of them came after halftime. The Aggies used a zone-heavy defensive scheme, and it paid dividends, as the Wildcats shot just 33% from the field and 23% from 3-point range. The Aggies have tough matchups this week against LSU and the No. 1 team in the country, Tennessee.

HOUSTON COUGARS (20-1) 7-1 American

Last week (2-0): W- East Carolina 94-50, W- @ Tulsa 77-65

This week: Thursday vs. Temple

Houston continues to roll through AAC competition. They got a dominant win over East Carolina, 94-50. Armoni Brooks led the Cougars with 17 points, but it was a balanced attack from UH. Twelve players saw minutes in the blowout win, with 10 of them logging points. The Coogs dominated on the boards, 47-22 and at the 3-point line, 67% to 9%. Houston then went on the road, and got an impressive road win over an underrated Tulsa team, 77-65. Brooks again led the way for the Coogs, scoring 22 points, including six 3-pointers. The rebounding difference again told the story, with the Coogs grabbing 49 boards to Tulsa's 24. Houston became the first team in the country to hit the 20 win mark. The 2-0 week bumped the Cougars to 13 in the latest polls. UH has just one game this week, a home game with Temple that will give them the opportunity to avenge their lone loss of the season.

RICE OWLS (8-13) 3-5 CUSA

Last week (1-1): W- Middle Tennessee 72-68, L- UAB 89-86

This week: Thursday @ Charlotte, Saturday @ Old Dominion

It's hard to say that Rice is having a solid season, but they are definitely better than expected. The Owls got their eighth win of the season last week, 72-68 over Middle Tennessee, surpassing their 2017-18 win total. Chris Mullins had 19 and Trey Murphy put up 18 in the win. The two combined to go 7-of-12 from deep. The Owls trailed by four at halftime, but controlled the second half on their way to an easy win. They followed it up with a tough loss, 89-86 against UAB. Murphy put up 24 points in the losing effort. Rice shot the ball well (52%) but the difference came in the turnover department, where the Blazers bested the Owls 13-3. The Owls have a good shot at another win this week, with a road game at CUSA bottom-feeding Charlotte before heading to Old Dominion.

BAYLOR BEARS (14-6) 5-2 Big XII

Last week (2-0):
W- Alabama 73-68, W- @ Oklahoma 77-47

This week: Saturday vs. Alabama, Sunday @ Oklahoma

Baylor played their role in helping the Big XII win the Big XII/SEC Showdown with a 73-68 win over Alabama. Sophomore Mario Kegler led the way with 17 points in the victory. Statistically, the teams were even for the most part. Baylor used a slight edge in rebounding and turnover margin to seal the win. There wasn't anything even about Baylor's matchup with Oklahoma. The Bears trounced the Sooners, 77-47. The Sooners last lead was at 9-8, and Baylor went on to dominate on both ends. The Bears shot 54% from the field, compared to Oklahoma's 27%. Baylor dominated in basically every statistical metric. Makai Mason led the Bears with 12 points in the win. Baylor gets TCU at home on Saturday.

TCU HORNED FROGS (15-5) 3-4 Big XII

Last week (2-1):
W- Texas 65-61, W- Florida 55-50, L- @ Texas Tech 84-65

This week: Saturday @ Baylor

TCU started the week strong, with a 65-61 win over Texas. Kouat Noi had missed the previous game with an illness, but showed no signs of it against the Horns, posting 15 points and 11 rebounds in his first career double-double. Desmond Bane led the Frogs with 17 points. TCU was +9 in rebounding, and was able to hold off a late Texas charge to take home the win. They followed that up with a non-conference win over a solid Florida team, 55-50. Noi was big again, this time leading the Frogs with 22 points. Again the Frogs dominated the glass, with a 45-33 rebounding advantage. Things didn't go as smoothly on the road, as TCU got smashed by Texas Tech in Lubbock, 84-65. Noi played well again, with 17 points, but TCU lost the rebounding battle and turned it over nearly twice as many times as the Raiders. TCU has an important road game against Baylor on Saturday.

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (17-4) 5-3 Big XII

Last week (2-1): L- @ Kansas State 58-45, W- Arkansas 67-64, W- TCU 84-65

This week: Saturday @ Kansas, Monday vs. West Virginia

Texas Tech started off the week with their third straight loss, 58-45 to Kansas State. Tech got a taste of its own medicine, as the Wildcats held the Raiders to just 33% from the field. Jarrett Culver had 17 and Tariq Owens added 12 to lead Tech, but no other Red Raider scored more than 6 points in the loss. They righted the ship against Arkansas, taking a 67-64 victory at home. The Raiders got their shooting percentage back up to 51%, and Davide Moretti led the way with 21 points in the victory. Tech lost the turnover battle, a rarity this season, but overcame it with hot shooting from outside, hitting 10-of-19 from long range. The Red Raiders stepped on the gas against TCU, drubbing the Frogs 84-65. Culver and Matt Mooney both had 18 points in the win, and Owens added 17. The Raiders handled the ball well all night, dishing out 20 assists and committing only seven turnovers. Tech has a road trip to Kansas and a home tilt against West Virginia in the next week. They currently sit at 16th in the poll.

SMU MUSTANGS (12-7) 4-3 American

Last week (1-0):
W-Tulane 85-75

This week: Wednesday @ Wichita State, Saturday @ Cincinnati

SMU rebounded from back to back losses last week with an 85-75 win over Tulane. This was a back and forth game for the most part, but a 9-0 run gave the Mustangs enough juice to pull ahead and stay ahead, taking the season sweep over the Green Wave. The Mustangs forced 16 turnovers, and only gave it back nine times. Jahmal McMurray led the Mustangs with 29 points. Isiaha Mike went 5-of-5 from 3-point range to help him to 20 points. SMU hits the road this week against a struggling Wichita State team and a strong Cincinnati squad.

LSU TIGERS (16-3) 6-0 SEC

Last week (2-0):
W- Georgia 92-82, W- @ Mizzou 86-80 (OT)

This week: Wednesday @ Texas A&M, Saturday vs. Arkansas

LSU continued to roll through the SEC with another 2-win week. The Tigers got a 92-82 win over Georgia in a game that saw Tremont Waters break out. Waters was 9-of-14 from the field and had 26 points to go along with four assists and four steals. Skylar Mays added 20 points in the win. Mays came up even bigger against Mizzou, leading them to an 86-80 overtime win. Mays scored 11 of his 24 points with under three minutes to go in regulation. The Tigers were down by 14 points with just over two minutes to play, and were able to roar back and force overtime. LSU dominated in overtime to get a six-point win. Ja'Vante Smart and Nad Reid each added 14 in the win. The Tigers jumped from 25 to 19 in the latest polls. They get Texas A&M and Arkansas this week.

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TO BE THE MAN, YOU GOTTA BEAT THE MAN!

The answers in the outfield are becoming clearer than the Astros hoped

*Note: Some Advanced Statistics, courtesy of Baseball Savant, do not include Thursday night's game against the Diamondbacks. Others, courtesy of Fangraphs, do include Thursday night's game*

The Corpus Christi Hooks Twitter account confirmed that Yordan Alvarez is alive and able to take swings, meaning the slugger's return to the Astros lineup is getting closer. Alvarez will get a bulk of the DH at-bats. With Springer being the primary center fielder, and Brantley being the primary left fielder, Dusty Baker will have to choose between Josh Reddick and Kyle Tucker for his primary right fielder. Who should he choose?

How do you boil down picking between two players to one question? What is the most important thing to judge a hitter on? The answer

The better player is the player that does the most damage consistently.

Sounds easy, right? But how do you judge that?

  1. Hard Hit %
  2. BB:K
  3. Contact %

Why these three? Well, hitting the ball hard usually leads to damage, so it is good to hit the ball hard. A player that walks and strikes out roughly the same amount is generally pretty consistent, so BB:K ratios closer to 1:1 (this is extremely rare, and a vast majority of MLB hitters are worse than 1:2) are good. Lastly, players that make contact a lot not only can generally do more of the little things like moving runners over, lifting a ball with a runner on third, or executing a hit & run, but also they generally don't swing and miss at their pitch when they get it. Action happens.

Kyle Tucker has a hard hit % of 38.5% so far in 2020. That is 55th in MLB amongst players with at least 25 batted balls (Tucker has 26). For context, Padres star third baseman Manny Machado is ranked 54th with 38.9%, thorn-in-the-Astros-side Kole Calhoun is t-58th at 37.9%, and Padres star shortstop Fernando Tatis leads the big leagues at 66.7% (wow).

So, more than 1/3rd of the time Tucker makes contact, he hits it hard. That's pretty good...But how often does he make contact?

Tucker has a contact % of 75.6%, meaning he makes contact with the baseball three out of every four times he swings the bat. That is 88th amongst qualified hitters. He is 1% worse than the slumping Jose Altuve, tied with that guy Kole Calhoun again, and about 1% better than the also-slumping George Springer. Tucker is far from elite at putting the bat on the ball, but he isn't terrible either.

However, despite hitting baseball's hard one-third of the time and making contact three-thirds of the time, Tucker strikes out entirely too much. His 29.3% K-rate is the 35th worst in baseball, and he doesn't offset the strikeouts with a lot of walks either. Tucker walks just 7.3% of the time, which is the 62nd lowest. Ultimately, Tucker has a BB:K ratio of 0.25, which is 49th in MLB right now.

Lastly, while it isn't part of the criteria above, Tucker doesn't have a very diverse batted ball portfolio. Tucker hits the ball to the pull side 65% of the time, and he's hit it on the ground 50% of the time. Eventually, teams will start placing heavy shifts on him, and those balls that have snuck through holes in the early parts of the year won't anymore.

But, is Josh Reddick any better? While none of Tucker's numbers blow you away, they aren't terrible, and he's a young prospect that needs playing time to develop.

Reddick has a 31.3% hard hit % so far in 2020, about seven percentage points below Tucker. 31.3% places Reddick in 96th place, between players like Marcus Semien and Yuli Gurriel. So, Tucker has Reddick beat here, but it isn't by a landslide.

Reddick has a contact % of 80.5%, which is 50th in MLB right now. He's better than Tucker by 5%, and he's in the top quartile in baseball. Reddick also sprays the ball around when he makes contact, hitting the ball to center field 43.8% of the time, right field 37.5% of the time, and left field 18.8% of the time. His ground ball rate is also 31%, almost 20% lower than Tucker's. That would explain why Reddick and Tucker's Barrel % (hard hit baseballs hit in the most desired exit velocity) are within a percentage point of one another despite Tucker having a seven point hard hit advantage.

Lastly, Reddick doesn't strike out very much. He strikes out 14% of the time, which is the 34th best K% in baseball (funny enough, Gurriel and Brantley are 33rd and 32nd). While Reddick doesn't walk a ton either, he walks more than Tucker, clocking in four percentage points better at 11.6%. That results in a BB:K ratio of 0.83, which is tied with Bryce Harper and Freddie Freeman for the 30th best in MLB.

Throw in the fact that Reddick plays significantly better defense, and it's really a no-brainer who should play. Astros fans might want the sexier and newer model in Tucker, but it isn't time to trade in old reliable just yet. When Yordan Alvarez returns, Josh Reddick is the right answer in right field.

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