COLLEGE BASKETBALL RECAP

NCAA Hoops: The week that was and the week to come for teams of interest in Houston

The Texas Longhorns had a big win and a pair of tough losses. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

A look at college basketball teams of interest in the Houston area. How they did last week and what lies ahead:

TEXAS LONGHORNS (4-2)

Last week (1-2): W-Butler 61-48, L-#1 Duke 85-78 OT, L-#17 Gonzaga 76-71 OT

This week: Wednesday vs. Florida A&M (1-7)

Texas started strong at the PK80 Invitational with a bang, defeating Butler 61-48. They were paced by Andrew Jones 16 points and Mo Bamba’s 12 rebound, 4 block performance. The 2nd round looked like it was going to be the best win of the year for Texas, as Texas had a 16 point 2nd half lead over the top-ranked Duke Blue Devils. Coaching errors and the inability to stop Marvin Bagley (34 points, 15 rebounds) brought Duke all the way back, where they eventually pulled away in OT. Kerwin Roach was 7-9 from the field for 18 points in his best game of the young season. The consolation game had Texas in the opposite role, trailing Gonzaga by 21 points, but the Horns stormed back and outscored the Bulldogs 15-4 in the last 3 minutes. Overtime again went awry for Texas though, and Gonzaga got a 5 point win. Texas only has one game next week, and it should be a chance to get back on track against a hapless Florida A&M team. 

TEXAS A&M AGGIES (6-0)

Last week (4-0): W- Oklahoma State 72-55, W- Penn State 98-87, W- Pepperdine 81-65, W- @#10 USC 75-59

This week: Thursday vs. UT- Rio Grande Valley 

What a week for the Aggies. They started off with a bludgeoning of Oklahoma State in the Progressive Legends Classic. Robert Williams played his first game of the year for the Aggies and posted 11 points and 11 rebounds in a 17 point win. Duane Wilson led Texas A&M to the Progressive Legends Classic championship with his 22 point outing against Penn State. The team shot 61% from the field. The Aggies went back to College Station, and after a slow start, took care of business against Pepperdine before hitting the road to take on 10th ranked USC. The Aggies crushed the Trojans with another dominating defensive performance, holding USC to 28% from the field and out rebounding them 52-39. The Aggies have a light week ahead, with only a home matchup against UT-RGV on the schedule.

HOUSTON COUGARS (4-1) 

Last week (1-0): W-Incarnate Word 97-58

This week: Wednesday vs. New Orleans, Saturday vs. Arkansas

The Cougars had their way with the Cardinals of Incarnate Word, getting a balanced attack with 6 double-digit scorers. Houston shot 53% from the field and 55% from 3-point range en route to a 39 point win. Houston starts this week on Wednesday against another Southland team, the New Orleans Privateers (1-3) before taking on an Arkansas (5-1) team that already has wins over Oklahoma and UConn. 

RICE OWLS (2-4)

Last week (1-2): L-UNLV 95-68, L-Ole Miss 79-62, W-St. Thomas (TX) 70-59

This week: Wednesday @ UT-Arlington, Saturday vs. UT-Rio Grande Valley

The Owls trip to Vegas was ugly, as they were thumped by UNLV in the opener of the MGM Resorts Main Event. A.J. Lapray led the Owls with 15 in the loss. Things didn’t get much better the next night against Ole Miss. The Rebels had their way from long distance, shooting 12 of 32 from outside. The Owls shot 7 of 31 from 3. Connor Cashaw scored 24 in the loss. Rice got back in the win column against NAIA opponent St. Thomas on Saturday. A.J. Lapray had another solid night (16 points, 10 rebounds) in the win. The Owls will travel to Arlington to play a strong UT-Arlington team on Wednesday before getting the UT-RGV Vacqueros at home on Saturday. The Owls have already lost four games this season, a mark they didn’t hit until December 31st last year. 

BAYLOR BEARS (5-0)

Last week (2-0): W-Wisconsin 70-65, W-Creighton 65-59.

This week: Tuesday @ #15 Xavier, Saturday vs. #6 Wichita State

Scoot Drew’s Bears won the Hall of Fame Classic by besting the Wisconsin Badgers and Creighton Bluejays, running their overall record to 5-0. Baylor led by 19, but didn’t score for the last nearly 9 minutes of the game, allowing the Badgers to make it a sweat. Senior guard Manu Lecomte finished with 24, including 13-15 from the FT line. Baylor was the team making the comeback against Creighton. The Bears’ zone defense forced Creighton to try to win from deep, and they shot 5-30 from 3. King McClure had 19 points and Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. had 15 points and 15 rebounds in the win. This week will provide two great tests against teams coming off their first losses of the season. Xavier(5-1) just dropped their first game to Arizona State and Wichita(4-1) blew a 16 point lead against Notre Dame in the Maui Invitational title game. 

TCU HORNED FROGS (6-0)

Last week (3-0): W-Omaha 99-66, W-New Mexico 69-67, W-St. Bonaventure 89-79

This week: Wednesday vs. Belmont, Saturday vs. Yale

TCU won the Emerald Coast Classic last week, starting with an easy win over Omaha on their campus. The Mavericks turned the ball over 26 times in that game. New Mexico proved more of a test, but the Frogs prevailed behind a dominating performance from Kenrich Williams (23 points, 17 rebounds). Jaylen Fisher (20 points) led TCU, who had 5 players in double digits in the title game victory over St. Bonaventure. TCU will take on Belmont(4-2) and the always tough Yale Bulldogs (3-4) this week in Fort Worth.

TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (6-0)

Last week (2-0): W-Wofford 79-56, W-Savannah State 103-69

This week: Thursday vs. Seton Hall (New York, NY)

The Red Raiders continued their hot start by rolling through Wofford and Savannah State. Freshman Jarrett Culver scored 21 on Wednesday and added 18 more on Saturday to pace the Raiders. Tech faces arguably their toughest test of the non-conference season, as they will meet the 5-1 Seton Hall Pirates in Madison Square Garden as part of the Under Armour Reunion. Don’t be surprised if Texas Tech has a ranking in front of their name going into this next week. 

SMU MUSTANGS (5-2)

Last week (1-2): L-Northern Iowa 61-58, W-#2 Arizona 66-60, L-Western Kentucky 63-61

This week: Tuesday vs. Texas-Rio Grande Valley, Saturday vs. USC

There were some highs and lows in paradise for SMU at the Battle 4 Atlantis in The Bahamas. They lost to Northern Iowa in the opening round, as the Mustangs shot 39% from the field and only 29% from deep. The Mustangs shot poorly again in the second round against Arizona, but dominated the glass and got a 20 point night from Ben Emelogu. SMU blew a 10 point lead against Western Kentucky and missed a buzzer beater in the tourney’s 5th place game. The Ponies will try and get back on track against UT-RGV before taking on the ranked USC Trojans at home on Saturday. 

LSU TIGERS (3-2)

Last week (1-2): W-Michigan 77-75, L-#13 Notre Dame 92-53, L-Marquette 94-84

This week: Wednesday vs. UT-Martin, Sunday vs. UNC Wilmington

LSU coach Will Wade knows moral victories won’t help him keep his job, but this was a pretty decent 1-2 week for the Tigers. They got a win over a solid, albeit somewhat rebuilding Michigan squad in the opener of the Maui Invitational. Tremont Waters led the Tigers with 21 points. Point guard Brandon Sampson hurt his ankle early in the Notre Dame game, and they missed him on both ends in a 39 point loss. LSU was competitive against a solid Marquette squad in the 3rd place game, but couldn’t hold Andrew Rowsey (30 points) and left with a 10 point loss. Waters scored 39 points in the loss. LSU sees a considerable drop in competition this week against the 1-5 Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks and the 2-3 UNC-Wilminton Seahawks. 

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Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March. Photo via: NRG Park/Facebook

Football players, coaches and general managers have come and gone, but only one person has been running the business side of the Texans, well, even before they were the Texans. Jamey Rootes has been President of the Houston Texans since 1999, when an NFL team in Houston was still just a gleam in owner Bob McNair's eyes. That's before the team adopted the name "Texans" in 2000, before there was NRG Stadium, which opened as Reliant Stadium in 2000, and before they became serial champs of the AFC South, six titles between 2011-2019.

The precise date was Oct. 6, 1999 when NFL owners voted 29-0 to award the NFL's 32nd and newest franchise to Houston. Not only that, Houston was awarded the 2004 Super Bowl. Rootes, 34 years old with no NFL experience, had his work cut out for him. Before taking the job in Houston, Rootes was team president, general manager and CEO of selling peanuts and popcorn for the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer.

Major League Soccer, with all due respect, is not nearly a national obsession like the National Football League.

"I wasn't intimidated," Rootes said. "There's a quote that I love, 'Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.' I've always been a purpose-driven person. As for the step up to the NFL, I went from knowing nothing at the start of my time in Columbus to five years later thinking, OK, I've got this sports thing down. Actually, I had a very significant reduction in my responsibilities in Houston. When I was in Columbus, I ran the stadium, I ran the team's business, I was the general manager so I did the talent side of it, too. When I came to Houston, all I had to do was the business, so that was great."

Rootes has captured his remarkable journey from the soccer team at Clemson to grad school at Indiana University to the business world at IBM and Proctor & Gamble to the Clemson Crew, to ultimately being named President of the Houston Texans in his new book, The Winning Game Plan: A Proven Leadership Playbook for Continuous Business Success, available next week.

I've known Rootes from his day one with the Texans, but I still had to ask: everybody knows what the general manager does, and what the head coach does. What exactly does the President of an NFL team worth $3.3 billion do?

"I like to use the parallel of a pharmaceutical company to describe my job. There are two sides to that company. First you put scientists in one building and you leave them alone. They create products, which is what our football team is. The football side has a coach and general manager and all the people who prepare the team to play on Sunday. But getting that product to market is done by the business side, traditional business disciplines. Those are the things that fall to me. Basically, everything between the white lines is run by the football side. Everything outside of those lines, I do," Rootes said.

Between 1999 and 2002, when the Texans played their first game (let the record show the Texans defeated the Dallas Cowboy, 19-10), the team was essentially a massive start-up project. First orders of business for Rootes involved building a new stadium, developing relationships with suppliers, contractors and government officials, preparing for a Super Bowl and, most important, developing a relationship with fans.

Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March, but it's really an accumulation of lessons learned and behind-the-scenes stories about building the Texans from scratch into one of the most admired and valuable franchises in all of sports.

"I've always been a meticulous note-taker. I've kept every presentation I've ever done. I took all of my notes and concepts and put those down on paper," Rootes said. "To be a good leader, you need a wild imagination. You can show me a blank piece of paper, but I don't see it as blank. To me, it's a finished product that hasn't been created yet," Rootes said.

Rootes lays out his leadership strategy in seven chapters: Are You a Manager or a Leader, Get the Right People on Your Team, Build a Winning Culture, Create Raving Fans, a Winning Playbook for Adversity and Success, Your Leadership Playbook and Play to Win.

He learned lesson No. 1 the hard way. A friend once counseled Rootes, "your staff doesn't like the way you're all up in their business, you need to back off." Rootes took that advice to heart.

"It was an epiphany. I wasn't a leader. That's when I truly began thinking about leadership. I say this all the time, I don't do anything. All I do is create an environment where exceptional people can be their very best self. I know what's going on. I'm fully informed. I leave every game day exhausted. I get there early. I do the things I need to do. I kiss babies. I shake hands. I present checks. I entertain clients. I'm dialed in. It absolutely wears me out because I love this organization so much. I am so proud of what we've been able to do for this great city of Houston."

I asked Rootes, as someone who lives for Game Day and a packed NRG Stadium, are you devastated by 2020, the year of COVID-19 and small crowds limited by Centers for Disease Control guidelines?

"I don't look at it that way. I think there's a song by 10,000 Maniacs that said, these are the days that you'll remember. I told my staff, I know you're all going through hell right now, but later on in life, you'll talk about this year. Things that are important are memorable, for the positive and those things that leave a scar. You learn from adversity and you're a better person for enduring it. Victor Frankl said 'We can discover meaning in life in three different ways, by creating a work or doing a deed, experiencing something or encountering someone, and by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.' Suffering is part of life. He should know, he survived a Nazi concentration camp," Rootes said.

H-E-B President Scott McClelland wrote the forward to The Winning Game Plan. Rootes dedicates the book to late Texans owner Bob McNair. Rootes' book is a fun read. All I kept thinking was, where was this book when I needed it? And before you buy too much into Rootes as a leader, consider that Rootes admits that he had to ask for wife Melissa's permission before he could accept the Texans job.

Personal note: I believe that a big part of leadership is the ability to keep a promise. Several years ago, I was riding my bicycle with my dog Lilly on a leash. It was the only way I could keep up with her. Well, one time Lilly saw a squirrel and pulled me off my bicycle. I tumbled a few times and rolled next to the curb. When I looked up, there was Jamey Rootes. I told him, "There's no need for you to tell anybody about this." He never said a word.

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