NCAA hoops: Mixed bag for most teams of interest in Houston; TCU has big week

TCU was the only team in the report to go 2-0 last week. TCU/Facebook


Last week (1-1): L-@ Kansas State 58-48, W-Oklahoma State 65-64

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

Texas really could have used a sweep this week. Kansas State decided that didn’t work for them. Texas fell 58-48 to Kansas State on Wednesday. The game was tied at half, but the Wildcats pulled away in the 2nd frame. Texas, who has shot poorly all season, was absolutely awful again. The Horns shot 29% from the field and 11% from 3-point range. Matt Coleman led the Horns with 14 points in the loss. Texas edged out Oklahoma State on Saturday, 65-64. The Horns were shorthanded, as Mohamed Bamba sat out the second half after aggravating a toe injury, and Eric Davis was sidelined while Texas looks into allegations that he took money from a sports agency. Dylan Osetkowski led the Horns with 13 points and 9 rebounds. Texas finds themselves firmly on the bubble for the NCAA tournament, as they look to avoid missing it for the second straight year. A win at Kansas on Monday almost surely puts them in, but they have lost eight straight to the Jayhawks. Texas wraps up its regular season on Saturday with a home game against West Virginia.

TEXAS A&M AGGIES (18-11, 7-9 SEC)

Last week (1-1): L-Mississippi State 93-81, W-@ Vanderbilt 89-81

This week: Wednesday @ Georgia, Saturday vs. Alabama

The Aggies split this week, losing their home game and winning on the road. First, they fell 93-81 to Mississippi State in a game that they were dominated in. Mississippi State outscored them 19-5 in points off turnovers, 23-6 in bench points, and out rebounded the Ags 44-31. Free throws also were a struggle for Texas A&M, as they shot only 57% from the line. Tyler Davis was a bright spot for the Aggies, posting 25 points and 11 boards in the loss. Davis was strong again in the Aggies 89-81 win over Vanderbilt, putting up 22 points and 9 rebounds in Nashville. The Aggies had a 24-point lead in the second half, but had to fight off a Commodore run late to hold onto the win. The Aggies were bolstered by a strong 3-point shooting night, shooting 53% from deep on 8-15 shots. The Aggies are likely in the tournament at this point, but finishing out with wins over Georgia and Alabama this week would lock their spot up. 


Last week (1-1): L-@ Memphis 91-85, W-East Carolina 109-58

This week: Wednesday @ SMU, Sunday vs. UConn

The Cougars were coming off their best week of the season, and stepped right into a trap, falling 91-85 to Memphis. Houston was up at halftime, but shot horribly in the second half (32%) in the loss. The defense also let them down, as Memphis’ 91 points was the most allowed by the Coogs this season. Rob Gray had 30 points and 7 assists in the loss. It was a frustrating night for the Cougars, who had just crawled into the top 25 for the first time all season. They took that frustration out on East Carolina, decimating the Pirates 109-58. The halftime score was 62-13, as the Cougars shot 12-16 from deep in the first half. Armani Brooks paced the Cougars with 21 points in only 18 minutes on the floor. Rob Gray added 19 points and 11 assists in the win. The Coogs close out the regular season with SMU and UConn this week. 

RICE OWLS (6-23,  3-13 CUSA)

Last week (1-1): W-@ Florida Atlantic 79-76 OT, L-@ Florida International 67-64

This week: Thursday vs. UTEP, Saturday vs. UTSA

The Owls showed a little fight this week, winning their first game and almost winning the second. Rice beat Florida Atlantic 79-76 in overtime, in one of the wildest games of the season. Rice blew a 13-point halftime lead, capped by an FAU 3-pointer with 3 seconds left on the clock to force overtime. FAU hit two free throws with two seconds left to tie the game, and it appeared to be headed toward double OT. Ako Adams hit a 3 at the buzzer though, and Rice came away with the win. Najja Hunter led the Owls with 23 points. The Owls came up just short of winning back-to-back games for the first time this season, falling 67-64 to FIU. The Owls shot only 32% from the field and 26% from 3 in the loss. Malik Osborne led Rice with 20. The Owls wrap up their season with home games against UTEP and UTSA this week. 


Last week (0-2): L-West Virginia 71-60, L-@ TCU 82-72

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

Ouch. Baylor had scratched and clawed their way back into the tournament picture, and now seem like a long shot again. The Bears fell twice this week, starting with a 71-60 loss to West Virginia. The story of the game was Baylor’s first half, where they put up only 18 points. After making their first shot of the game, Baylor made one of their next 15 shots from the field. Jo Lual-Acuil led the Bears with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Things didn’t get better against TCU, as the Bears fell 82-72 in Fort Worth. The Bears had little answers defensively for TCU, as the Frogs shot 54% for the game. Acuil again led the team with 22 points in the loss. The Bears will look to pick up wins against Oklahoma and Kansas State this week before heading into the Big XII tournament.


Last week (2-0): W-@ Iowa State 89-83, W-Baylor 82-72

This week: Tuesday vs. Kansas State, Saturday @ Texas Tech

TCU has solidified its tournament resume with two more wins last week. First, the Frogs got a road win over Iowa State 89-83. TCU fell behind early, but eventually overwhelmed the Cyclones, who only dressed seven players for the game. The Frogs shot the lights out, hitting 58% from the field. They were led by Desmond Bane’s 27 points, but four starters were in double digits. Alex Robinson led the way for TCU against Baylor in an 82-72 win. The TCU point guard had 22 points, including 16 after halftime in the win. The hot shooting continued, as the team went 54% from the field in the Baylor game. TCU closes out the regular season with Kansas State and Texas Tech this week. 


Last week (0-2): L-@ Oklahoma State 79-71, L-Kansas 74-72

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

It’s hard to tell if Texas Tech is out of steam, but they are definitely sputtering toward the finish line. They started the week with a head scratching loss to Oklahoma State, 79-71. Tech, which has been leaning on its defense all season, struggled to get stops against the Cowboys. Oklahoma State hit 11 of  22 3-point attempts in the game. Keenan Evans struggled mightily on the offensive end, scoring just 2 points on 1-of-7 shooting. Zhaire Smith led the Raiders with 18 points. Then the Red Raiders fell 74-72 to Kansas, in a game that clinched the 14th straight regular season conference title for the Jayhawks. The Jayhawks shot 50% from the field for the game. Evans was miserable again, scoring six points on 1-of-6 shooting. Smith again carried the load with 20 points. The Red Raiders wrap up the season with West Virginia and TCU this week. 

SMU MUSTANGS (16-13, 6-10 AAC)

Last week (1-1): W-@ East Carolina 77-58, L-Wichita State 84-78

This week: Wednesday vs. Houston, Sunday @ South Florida

SMU got a split this week, which is a welcome sight after a five-game losing streak. They took a win over East Carolina 77-58. The Mustangs shot the ball well, hitting 11-21 from 3-point range. All five Mustang starters were in double digit, led by Jahmal McMurray’s 20. Shake Milton’s absence was felt more against Wichita State, and the Ponies lost 84-78. The Shockers dominated the rebounding department, 41-23. SMU was able to keep it close by hitting 15 3’s, but could never overtake the Shockers. McMurray hit 6 of those 3’s as part of his 28 point night. SMU closes out AAC play with Houston and South Florida this week. 

LSU TIGERS (16-12, 7-9 SEC)

Last week (1-1): W-Vanderbilt 88-78, L-@ Georgia 93-82

This week: Wednesday @ South Carolina, Saturday vs. Mississippi State

LSU went 1-1 this week, and while they probably aren’t headed to the tournament, they have to feel good about Will Wade’s first year as the Tiger head coach. Tremont Waters led the way against Vanderbilt, as LSU took an 88-78 win. Waters had 28 points and 9 assists. The Tigers as a team shot 63% from the field. LSU’s road struggles continued against Georgia, 93-82. It was their sixth straight SEC road loss. Waters was great again, scoring 25 in the loss. Skylar Mays added 20. LSU closes out the season with a road game at South Carolina and a home game against Mississippi State. 

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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