A.J. HOFFMAN

NCAA basketball report: Texas gets off to fast start; Aggies drop one

Shaka Smart and UT are off to a good start. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

TEXAS LONGHORNS (3-0)

Last week (3-0): W- Eastern Illinois 71-59, W- Arkansas 73-71 (OT), W- UL Monroe 65-55

This week:  Friday vs. Citadel

Texas’ first game of the year went about as expected, but was highlighted by the return of Andrew Jones from his leukemia treatments. He didn’t exactly fill the stat sheet, adding a single point, rebound, assist and steal in his 9 minutes of floor time, but he clearly gave the crowd and his teammates something to cheer about. Jones is still undergoing chemotherapy treatments, and his availability will be sporadic, at least early in the season. Matt Coleman led the team with 13 points. Notably absent was Kerwin Roach II, who was suspended for the first game of the season. The biggest complaint for the Horns in Game 1 was that they hit only 32% from 3-point range. They have struggled the last two seasons with outside shooting, and this doesn’t instill much hope in a turnaround. Roach made his presence felt, including behind the 3-point line, in the second game of the week for Texas. Roach led the team with 18 points, including the 3-pointer at the buzzer that sent the game to overtime. Jericho Sims and Dylan Osetkwoski added 14 and 11, respectively. They were both bolstered by six free throw makes a piece, part of what kept Texas in the game during a terrible second half scoring drought. Texas played a back and forth game with UL Monroe on Monday, eventually pulling away in the last 10 minutes for a 10 point victory. Roach led the team with 13 points, but he was amongst the many who was inefficient behind the arc, as the Horns shot just 24% from distance. Texas gets Citadel this week. 

TEXAS A&M AGGIES (1-1)

Last week (1-1): W- Savannah State 98-83, L- UC Irvine 74-73

This week: Thursday @ Gonzaga, Sunday vs. Minnesota

The Aggies knew they would have to run this season, and run they did in Game 1 of the season against Savannah State. That came with positives and negatives. On the positive side, that led to Savion Flagg putting up 24 points to lead an Aggie team that had five players in double digits. The negative was the Aggies turning the ball over 24 times. Despite losing so much size from last season’s team, the Aggies were still +25 in rebounding and blocked eight shots in the victory. The second game of the week didn’t go as well for the Aggies, as they dropped a hard fought game to the UC Irvine Anteaters 74-73. A quick glance at the box score explains why they couldn’t win this game, as the Aggies shot 21% from 3-point distance and 36% from the field. Irvine shot the ball well, especially late in the game. Saint Francis transfer Josh Nebo led the Ags with 15 points. Things won’t get easier this week, as Billy Kennedy’s crew heads to the Pacific Northwest for a battle against thirrd-ranked Gonzaga and come back on Sunday for a date with Minnesota. 

HOUSTON COUGARS (1-0)

Last week: W- Alabama A&M 101-54

This week: Wednesday vs. Rice, Monday (11/19) vs. Northwestern State

Armoni Brooks, last season’s AAC 6th Man of the Year, started his season with a bang. Brooks hit 6 3-pointers as part of his 24 points against Alabama A&M. Corey Davis, Jr. added 22 in a 101-54 rout. The Cougars were 61% from the field and 50% from deep in a completely lopsided game that was never in question. The Cougars get Rice on Wednesday and Northwestern State next Monday. 

RICE OWLS (2-1)

Last week: W- St. Leo 80-64, L- Penn 92-76, W- Alabama A&M 73-59

This week: Wednesday @ Houston, Saturday vs. Northwestern State

The Rice Owls may have gotten two of the few wins they will get this season last week, notching an 80-64 victory over Division 2 St. Leo. Robert Martin went 6-of-6 from the field en route to his 18 points. He also added in six boards and three steals. Junior Aka Adams added 14 in the win. Game 2 of the week didn’t go nearly as well, as Penn blew the doors off of Rice in Philadelphia. Martin again led the Owls with 16 points off the bench. Sophomore Josh Parrish added 15 in the loss. The Quakers won the free throw battle by 15 points in the game. Rice never trailed against Alabama A&M, pulling away to a 73-59 rout. Adams dominated the game, scoring 22 points (including 5 3-pointers) and bringing in 7 rebounds. Rice gets Houston and Northwestern State in the coming week.

BAYLOR BEARS (2-1)

Last week: L- Texas Southern 72-69, W- Southern 80-53,  W- Prairie View 91-80

This week: Thursday vs. Nicholls 

Texas Southern is a good team, but Baylor couldn’t have thought they would be starting the season 0-1. Baylor had gone 56-0 against SWAC teams before this one, but TSU wasn’t worried about history. King McClure led the Bears with 23 points. The Bears struggled mightily at the free throw line, shooting a pathetic 27%. The Bears got in the win column against Southern a couple days later. Southern led about five minutes into the second half, but Baylor pulled away and never looked back. They forced 21 turnovers in the win. Devonte Bandoo led the charge for the Bears with 25 points. The Bears got another win against Prairie View on Monday, 91-80. Freshman Jared Butler led Baylor with 22 points, and McClure added 21 in the win. The Bears had their own turnover problems in this one, giving it away 16 times on the night. The Bears play just one game this week, a home tilt with Nicholls. 

TCU HORNED FROGS (2-0)

Last week: W- CS Bakersfield 66-61, W- Oral Roberts 79-62

This week: Thursday vs. Fresno St.

CS Bakersfield gave the Frogs all they could handle in the season opener. TCU trailed by double digits for a good portion of the first half. Desmond Bane took over at halftime, though, and the Frogs escaped with a victory. Bane had 14 points and 10 rebounds in the win. Alex Robinson had 12 points and 9 assists in the game. TCU shot only 19% from distance in the win. TCU had an easier time against Oral Roberts, but the main contributors were the same. Bane and Robinson combined for 45 points in the win. The Frogs played stout defense, and were able to get their 3-point percentage up to 47%. TCU has Fresno State at home this week. 

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (2-0)

Last week: W- Incarnate Word 87-37, W- Mississippi Valley St. 84-52

This week: Tuesday vs. Southeast Louisiana, Monday (11/19) vs. USC

One team who you can’t accuse of starting slow is Texas Tech, as their average margin of victory in the first week was 41 points. Jarrett Culver scored 16 points in the season opener against Incarnate Word. Defensively, Tech dominated. They allowed just 7 points on 3 of 30 shooting in the 2nd half. Tech used 13 players in the win, showing some of their depth, presumed to be a strength this season. Davide Moretti led the way for the Raiders in their 84-52 win over Mississippi Valley State, scoring a career high 17 points, including 5 of 7 from distance. Jarrett Culver also added 12 points for the Raiders. Tech gets Southeast Louisiana and USC in the week ahead. 

SMU MUSTANGS (1-1)

Last week: W- Northwestern State 69-58, L- Southern Miss 74-64

This week: Wednesday vs. Western Carolina, Saturday vs. Lipscomb

SMU didn’t look as sharp as they would have hoped in the first game, but they escaped with an 11 point win over Northwestern State. The Mustangs shot 39% from the field and just 25% from 3 in the win. Jimmy Whitt, Jr. was one of the bright spots for the offense, scoring 19 points with 6 rebounds and 5 assists. They couldn’t get away with sloppy in their next game, as the Southern Miss Golden Eagles downed SMU 74-64. Ethan Chargoise scored 25 points in 32 minutes. Whitt, so great in the previous game, only added 2 points in the loss. The Ponies will look to rebound this week with matchups against Western Carolina and Lipscomb. 

LSU TIGERS (2-0)

Last week: W- Southeastern Louisiana 94-63, W- UNC Greensboro 97-91

This week: Tuesday vs. Memphis, Friday vs. Louisiana Tech

To the dismay of the SEC, LSU’s recruiting class looks as good as advertised. All four Tiger freshmen were in double digits in the season debut against Southeastern Louisiana, led by Nad Reid’s 17. Marlon Taylor added 15 in the 94-63 win. The Tigers were inefficient from behind the arc, shooting only 25%, but they dominated on the defensive end, forcing 20 turnovers in the game. The Tigers had a tougher time against UNC Greensboro, holding on late for a six-point victory. Reid and Tremont Waters combined for 50 points in the win. The Tigers shot 50% from the 3-point line, but Greensboro was able to hang by hitting 19 3-pointers of their own. The Tigers will look to build on their fast start, with matchups against Memphis and Louisiana Tech this week. 

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The Marlins are showing interest in Yuli Gurriel. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

As the reporting date for pitchers and catchers draws near, there are still some decisions hanging over the Astros. One of them is whether or not to bring back Yuli Gurriel. “La Piña,” as he's affectionately called, is 38 years old. He turns 39 in June. His leadership and instincts cannot be matched. The man has seen a ton of baseball and comes from a family of baseballers. So, what's the holdup?

Enter the Miami Marlins. The ownership group, led by Bruce Sherman, is undoubtedly trying to capitalize on the heavy Cuban population in the Miami area. Bringing in the Cuban Babe Ruth is a great way to attempt to get more fan engagement. The franchise has only been to the playoffs three times. First two times (1997 and 2003), they won it all. In 2020, they were swept in the NLDS. They're most likely offering him a ridiculous amount of money to come to a team with a losing history. Knowing the Marlins are willing to hand out stupid money, would you blame La Piña for taking one last ridiculous payday?

Think about it. He's got two rings and made a ton of money. He can safely retire very comfortably. The lure to come back for another year or two would definitely be about money. The Marlins aren't a real threat in the next couple of seasons to do anything, but are willing to pay me like I'm still a star? Plus, I'm closer to my home country with all my family and friends? Sign me up!

This is where the Astros have to make a decision. Bring Yuli back for another year or move on. If he follows through with his last four years, this should be a bounce back year. Since 2016, his first year in Houston and MLB, he's hit .262, .299, .291, .298, .232 (pandemic shortened season), .319, and .242 last season. The man is a professional hitter. He knows how to work an at-bat and can drive pitchers nuts. His defense isn't bad either. He's a more than capable first baseman.

This won't win me any favor, but I think it's time to move on. Yuli will always have a place in my heart because he was a major factor in the Astros' two World Series wins. Last season's title run was even more satisfying since it helped silence the haters. That was the mouthwash that got rid of the stench of the sign stealing scandal. Piña was there through it all.

Now, it's time to start transitioning towards the future. Piña, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Justin Verlander, and Lance McCullers Jr were the only holdovers from the 2017 team. Verlander was one of the guys the Mets backed the Brinks truck up for this offseason. Altuve (32), Bregman (28), and McCullers (29) should be all that's left of that group. While it would've been great to have Verlander (39) back, the emergence of the youth movement in the pitching staff made his loss somewhat expendable. At some point, the nostalgia wears off. Father Time and Mother Nature are both undefeated. If they were to bring Piña back, he should be a part timer transitioning into a hitting coach. Careers come to an end. It's time to start looking at his exit.

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