COLLEGE BASKETBALL REPORT

NCAA hoops: Huge week for UH; Baylor is back in the mix

Kelvin Sampson and the Cougars had a big week. UHCougars.com

TEXAS LONGHORNS (16-11, 6-8 BIG XII)

Last week (1-1): L-Baylor 74-73 (2OT), W-@ Oklahoma 77-66

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

Texas continues to be sort of a roller coaster ride. The started the week with a 74-73 double overtime loss to Baylor. The Horns, already the worst scoring team in the conference, shot horribly again against the Bears. They shot 36% from the field and a miserable 16% from 3-point range. Texas really was only able to stay in the game as long as they did because they shot free throws well, and won the turnover battle 13-5. Mohamed Bamba led Texas with 16 points and 16 rebounds in the loss. They followed it up by taking advantage of a scuffling Oklahoma team with a 77-66 win. OU’s Trae Young got his points (26), but Texas limited him to 7-of-21 shooting for the night. On the offensive end, Dylan Osetkowski was the leader with 21 points. Bamba added 10 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks in the game. Texas won the rebounding battle 43-31. Texas really needs the coming week to be a good one, with winnable matchups at Kansas State and against Oklahoma State. 

TEXAS A&M AGGIES (17-10, 6-8 SEC)

Last week (0-2): L-@ Missouri 62-58, L-@ Arkansas 94-75

This week: Tuesday vs. Mississippi State, Saturday @ Vanderbilt

After starting 1-5 in SEC play, Texas A&M had clawed its way back to 6-6 in conference with back to back wins against Auburn and Kentucky. Then things fell apart last week. The Aggies first dropped a 62-58 contest against Missouri. The Aggies had averaged 82 PPG during their 4 game winning streak. Missouri was able to shut down the Aggie attack. Turnovers killed them, as Missouri scored 12 points off of 16 takeaways. TJ Starks and Admon Gilder both scored 14 in the loss, but the Aggie bench scored just 2 points on 1-of-12 shooting. Things only got worse over the weekend, as Texas A&M got housed by Arkansas 94-75. The Aggies couldn’t slow the Arkansas attack, and the Razorbacks hit just under 50% from the field. The Aggies, ranked third in the country in rebounding, were beat on the glass 45-33. Gilder and Robert Williams both put up 20 in the loss. The Ags will look to get back on track this week with games against Mississippi State and Vanderbilt.

HOUSTON COUGARS (21-5, 11-3 AAC) 

Last week (2-0): W-Cincinnati 67-62, W-@ Temple 80-59

This week: Thursday @ Memphis, Sunday vs. East Carolina

The Cougars continue to roll, gaining two of their bigger wins of the season last week. First, maybe their best win of the year, a 67-62 win against No. 5 Cincinnati. The win, paired with their earlier win against Wichita State, gave Houston wins over multiple top-10 teams for the first time since 1984, when they were runners up for the national title. The game started out poorly for the Coogs, as Cincinnati jumped out to an early 13-2 lead. Corey Davis and Devin Davis paced the Cougars with 16 each in the win. Things continued to click for the Coogs against Temple, as they finally got the strong road win that has eluded them, 80-59. The Cougars jumped out to a 15-0 lead, and the Owls didn’t score for almost the first seven minutes of the game. Corey Davis again led the way with 20 points. Houston was +31 in rebounding for the game. The Cougars, now confident they have a tournament bid locked up, face a down Memphis team and a bad East Carolina team this week. 

RICE OWLS (5-22,  2-12 CUSA)

Last week (0-2): L-Marshall 93-80, L- Western Kentucky 85-66

This week: Thursday @ Florida Atlantic, Saturday @ Florida International

At this point there isn’t much positive to say about the Owls’ season. They dropped two more games last week, starting with a 93-80 loss against Marshall. The Owls were solid offensively, but Marshall shot 57% from the field and 54% from 3-point distance in the game. Connor Cashaw led Rice with 24 points in the loss. The defense didn’t get much better against Western Kentucky, who blew out Rice by a score of 85-66. The Hilltoppers had their way from the field as well going 56% overall and 56% from distance. Malik Osborne led the Owls in scoring with 15. They limp into the week with road games against Florida Atlantic and Florida International, who provided Rice one of their five wins this season. 

BAYLOR BEARS (17-10, 7-7 BIG XII)

Last week (2-0): W-@ Texas 74-73 (2OT), W-Texas Tech 59-57

This week: Tuesday vs. West Virginia, Saturday @ TCU

Baylor, once 2-7 in the conference and basically left for dead as far as tourney prospects go, have ripped off a five-game win streak, and now likely find themselves on the good side of the bubble. This week went well, as they started off with a double overtime win at Texas 74-73. Jo-Lual Acuil had a put-back dunk to win it for the Bears. Terry Maston led the Bears with 26 points in the win. The Bears dominated the glass, with a plus-12 rebounding margin for the game. Baylor then overcame a poor shooting performance against Texas Tech to take a 59-57 win over the Red Raiders. The Bears shot just 33% from the field, but held Tech to 39% and won the turnover battle 18-12. Maston sparked the Bears again with 24 points in the win. Baylor will look to keep the momentum going with matchups against West Virginia and TCU this week. 

TCU HORNED FROGS (18-9, 6-8 BIG XII)

Last week (1-1): L-@ West Virginia 82-66, W-Oklahoma State 90-70

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

The Horned Frogs were let down by their defense in Morgantown, as West Virginia shot 51% from the field and 56% from 3-point range in an 82-66 loss for TCU. Desmond Bane led the way for the Frogs in the loss, adding 16 points. West Virginia’s bench outscored TCU’s bench 38-8. Things got better for TCU against Oklahoma State, as the Frogs rode a dominant 2nd half to a 90-70 victory. TCU got a balanced attack with 6 players in double-digit scoring, led by redshirt freshman Kouat Noi. The Frogs were 50% from 3-point range on the day, knocking down 8-of-16 from deep. TCU goes to Iowa State on Wednesday before a crucial matchup with Baylor on Saturday. 

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

Last week (1-1): W-Oklahoma 88-78, L-@ Baylor 59-57

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

Texas Tech got off to a great start this week, taking an impressive 88-78 win over Oklahoma. The Red Raiders held the Big 12’s leading scorer, Trae Young, to 19 points on 4-of-16 shooting. Young was 0-for-9 from 3 in the game. The conference’s second leading scorer, Tech’s Keenan Evans, put up 26 points on 9-of-15 shooting. The win was the 17th straight at home for Tech, the longest streak in the conference. Things took a turn for the worse against Baylor. Not only did the Raiders drop the game 59-57, but they also lost Evans in the first half to a foot injury that he didn’t return from. Coach Chris Beard has yet to say much about the extent of the injury, but Tech can ill-afford to be without Evans for any significant amount of time. Zhaire Smith led the Red Raiders with 15 points in the loss. Tech goes to Oklahoma State on Wednesday and returns home for a game against Kansas. Tech and Kansas are currently tied for first in the conference. 

SMU MUSTANGS (15-12, 5-9 AAC)

Last week (0-2): L-Memphis 70-67, L-@ UCF 52-37

This week: Wednesday @ East Carolina, Saturday vs. Wichita State

The wheels are officially off at SMU. After a 12-3 start, the Mustangs have gone 3-9 since and have lost any shot at an at-large bid that they may have had. This week started off with a 70-67 home loss to Memphis. Jahmal McMurray did his part, scoring 33 points including 9 made 3’s. The Tigers outshot SMU 51%-37%. The Ponies only shot six free throws for the game, converting on three of them. It went from bad to worse for SMU, falling 52-37 to Central Florida. The Mustangs shot a pathetic 25% from the field, and were 2-of-15 from 3-point range. Ben Emologu led the Mustangs with 12 points in the loss. SMU travels to East Carolina before returning home to face Wichita State on Saturday. 

LSU TIGERS (15-11, 6-8 SEC)

Last week (1-1): L-@ Alabama 80-65, W-Missouri 64-63

This week: Tuesday vs. Vanderbilt, Saturday @ Georgia

LSU fell to Alabama 80-65 on Tuesday in a game that saw the Tigers make just one field goal over a 13 minute run in the second half. They allowed Bama to shoot 55% for the game, and only managed 39% themselves. Daryl Edwards was the lone bright spot, putting up 21 points on 8-10 shooting in the loss. While the Tigers’ shooting woes continued on Saturday, they were able to pull off a 64-63 win over Missouri. Tremont Waters led the Tigers with 21 points in the win. Waters hit the game winner with 19 seconds left on the clock. LSU gets Vanderbilt at home before traveling to Georgia, so they face two teams this week who are below them in the SEC standings. 

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The Astros have 12 games left in the regular season. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

A five-year anniversary Astros-Dodgers World Series matchup would be a doozy on several levels. It’s the most likely matchup, but that doesn’t make it probable much less inevitable. Still, my goodness are they towering over their respective leagues as the regular season is into its final two weeks. With an 8-4 finish over their remaining games the Astros equal the franchise record 107 regular wins amassed in 2019. If the Astros don’t lose again and total an awesome 111 victories, they still probably don’t catch the Dodgers for homefield advantage should they meet in the Series. The Astros are heading to their seventh postseason in the last eight years, the Dodgers to their 10th in a row. That is insane sustained excellence for both. However, each has won only one World Series during these runs. Eight different franchises have won the last eight World Series. From 1982 through 1990 nine different franchises won the World Series.

And then, there were twelve

With the Astros down to a dozen games left as they arrived in Baltimore, a dozen Astros thoughts:

Justin Verlander's start in the series opener vs. the Orioles is his antepenultimate (hoity-toity word for third from last) regular season start. Verlander needs the win in all of them to finish 20-3.

Jose Urquidy starts Friday. In his three remaining starts Urquidy must show better than he has in his last couple or there would be no good reason to go with him over Cristian Javier as the Astros fourth starter in the postseason.

Framber Valdez goes Saturday trying to add on to his single season Major League record of 25 consecutive quality starts. It’s not an official statistic, and “quality” is a stretch when three earned runs allowed in six innings qualifies, but it is remarkable that Framber has had zero bad outings 25 straight times out. The evidence can’t be clearer than NO OTHER PITCHER IN THE HISTORY OF THE GAME has done it. In 18 of the 25 Valdez has yielded no more than two earned runs. Verlander has been magnificent all season. His longest “quality start” streak is 10. Verlander has made 25 starts, meeting the “quality” definition in 20 of them.

Decisive game five of their American League Division Series matchup, the Astros lead 3-2 after seven innings with the opposition top of the order due up in the eighth. Since the robot managerial handbook dictates Ryan Pressly be saved for the ninth, which Astro reliever do you most trust in the eighth?

Yordan Alvarez is batting .302 with 37 home runs and 94 runs batted in. The only Astros ever to hit .300 with 40 homers and 100 RBI in a season are Jeff Bagwell (twice), Lance Berkman, and Richard Hidalgo. As frame of reference, Albert Pujols did .300/40/100 six times.

Yordan is obviously the better hitter but Kyle Tucker is the better all-around player. The Astros signed Alvarez for six years 115 million buying out three years of potential free agency. Tucker is on the same service time schedule as Alvarez was, not free agent eligible until after the 2025 season.

Free agent-to-be Aledmys Diaz looms large in the Astros’ postseason lineup. He largely stunk through July 4th but has been firecracker hot since, giving better production per game played than a healthy Michael Brantley would have given. Doubting me? Don’t. From July 5 forward Diaz has a higher slugging percentage than Yordan.

Yuli Gurriel’s defense at first base remains excellent, but if he looked any more washed up at the plate than he has most of this season he might wake up in front of the Galveston Seawall.

It’s just 41 games but other than an early power surge following his acquisition, Trey Mancini has not impressed. Gurriel needs to be replaced, but Mancini hasn’t made much of a case that he’s the man for the job next year.

Jose Altuve’s spirits seemed fine in the dugout Wednesday night after he was removed from the game an inning after taking a pitch off of his left elbow. The elbow needs to be fine. Like Yordan, an injured or ineffective Altuve renders the Astros’ lineup no better than mediocre.

Chas McCormick is fine as part of a platoon in center field. James Click should be in the market for a left-handed hitting CF complement for next season, or a right-handed hitter who handles right-handed pitching adequately. If Click is back as General Manager. What gives there, Jim Crane?

The Astros have played one game all season with Minute Maid Park’s roof open. That should change on the final home stand. It likely won’t, but it should. Most evenings are comfortable now once the sun is down, and it’s not like the air conditioning has to be turned off as the roof opens. The optimal ballpark experience has the roof open. And…if the Astros make it back to the World Series and MLB then dictates the roof be open if rain is not a factor, it is sensible to get a few games under their belts with roof open conditions.

Finessing the game

Whatever one thinks of the LIV golf tour, it absolutely is hurting interest in the PGA Tour. Too many big name players grabbing LIV megabucks is crushing the marketability of PGA tournament fields. Like the upcoming Houston Open November 10-13 for instance. Want a “free” ticket to any remaining Astros home game this year? Just buy a golf ticket through this Sunday.

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