HARRIS COUNTY-HOUSTON SPORTS AUTHORITY INSIDER

Once again, Houston is in the mix to host the Final Four

Houston hopes to host the Final Four again. Courtesy photo

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Three Super Bowls. Two Final Fours. Three NCAA Regionals.

Any questions?

We may not have any, but the NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee does have a few which is why two members of the committee and other NCAA officials are in town for one final site visit before the group meets to decide the venues for the 2023-2026 Men’s Final Fours.

There’s no arguing that the Bayou City knows how to throw a mega sports event, but Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhardt and Duke AD Kevin White flew into Houston Thursday to take it all in one more time.

They’re here to ask questions, spend time with organizers, look over venues, hotels and, Houston hopes, choose the Bayou City to host its  third Final Four.

Houston is one of seven finalists for one of those coveted four years up for bid, and the decision will be made by the 10-person committee in mid-July in Boston.

“You get a real sense of Houston that it has become a championship city. That may sound a little Pollyana,’’ said White, referring to the Disney character who always looks on the bright side, “but it’s not . . . .

“This is a city that knows how to put on, how to host major events. There’s a real track record of success. And now we find out it has (the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo) that goes on for a couple of weeks. This community knows how to support major events and that will be pretty impactful when the committee meets.’’

Just how impactful? Every little bit helps when you’re up against North Texas and AT&T Stadium, San Antonio, Detroit, Indianapolis and Los Angeles. All but Los Angeles has hosted a Final Four and LA is building a facility in Inglewood.

Houston’s bid was on stage Thursday at NRG when Barnhart, White and the NCAA toured the facility and attended a welcome reception at the stadium.

“Our campaign is Three for the Win,’’ said Janis Burke, CEO of the Harris County – Houston Sports Authority. “We’re excited to be among the finalists and we look forward to showing off what we feel is a tremendous host city one more time for the committee.’’

Barnhardt and White both noted that they’ll be looking at the new hotels and upgrades since the last time the Final Four was here in 2016. The use of Discovery Green and much of the downtown campus during Super Bowl LI have also caught the committee’s eyes.

“All the pieces of the puzzle have been here,’’ White said. “Now they’re enhanced . . . There is some very strong competition – let’s be very frank and honest about that. But I cannot imagine that Houston, by the end of the day, will not be seriously in the mix. “

Barnhardt, who was here with Kentucky in 2011, said the fan-friendly atmosphere plays a role in the city bids too.

“First and foremost, it’s about the athletes and the players being able to enjoy and have a really quality experience,’’ he said. “Secondly, the fans. We want them to have an opportunity to feel the life of the city, to enjoy themselves and experience some great basketball and have a really, really cool experience.’’

White and Barnhardt will take their findings to the committee and the seven finalist cities will have one more chance to sell their bid and answer any final questions.

“Then,’’ White said, “as, within the Catholic community, we’ll see white smoke.’’

Houston will host a 2020 NCAA Regional and the city was recently awarded the  2024 College Football Playoff National Championship game. The city is also one of the eight finalists for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Fours from 2020-2024, which will be awarded later this year.






 

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans out-Patriot the Patriots

Texans take down the Pats. Photo by Getty Images.

Every dog has its day. A broken clock is right two times a day. All the clichés about it being better to be lucky than good can apply here with the Texans 27-20 win over the Patriots. In a matchup that broke a record for the oldest combined age for opposing head coaches, 141 years old, Romeo Crennel beat his former boss Bill Belichick. There were other narratives at work here, as well as a few things (good and awful) that the coaching staff did.

First thing I saw that I liked was the spread and no-huddle on offense. If you've been following this series of articles, you know I've been on this train quite a while now. This allows Deshaun Watson to find the matchup he likes, exposes the defense because they can't sub, takes advantage of Texans' speed at receiver, and creates a tempo most defenses can't keep up with. Not to mention the spread is the offense Watson operated in at Clemson. 28/37 for 344 yards and two touchdowns of production from Watson was enough for me to say they need to have this as their M.O. moving forward.

Tim Kelly called a great game. He used the short, quick pass game in lieu of the run game. This also helped since Laremy Tunsil was out and Roderick Johnson had to play at left tackle. This offensive line is not very good at run blocking. Hence, why Watson was again the team's leading rusher with only 36 yards. Almost all of those were on scrambles. By going spread and no-huddle, Watson can take advantage of man and zone coverages to extend plays or scramble because most teams won't spy him. Even when they do, he makes them look silly.

Not everything was on the up and up. The defense continued to look like booty juice. Cam Newton threw for 365 yards and Damiere FREAKIN Byrd torched them for 132 of those yards! When I heard the quote from Crennel that defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver is getting the most out of his guys, I found it laughable. To double down on that, Weaver was quoted as saying, "This narrative that's being painted like my guys aren't disciplined and running around blocks, quite frankly and to put it bluntly, is bull---t!" Sorry guys, but you're both wrong. This defense can't fight its way out of a wet paper bag if you gave them knives. The worst part about it is that the offense's best chance at success sets the defense up for failure. Their hurry up scheme leaves little time for this porous defense to catch its wind. If they could get some turnovers or just off the damn field and get stops, it would help the offense.

With six games left, their three games outside the AFC South (Bengals, Lions, Bears) are all winnable. The two matchups against the Colts and the season finale against the Titans will prove to be their biggest tests. However, this is the same team that has four one possession losses. 3-7 could look a lot different if the offense stepped up against the Browns, or the defense made stops against the Steelers, Vikings, or Titans. Let's hope they can build off this win and salvage whatever they can of this season.

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