Texas Tech Elite Eight bound with chance for much more

Chris Beard and Tech look mean again. Sarah Stier/Getty Images

It took a while for anything resembling offense to appear but when the 40 minutes were over the Texas Tech Red Raiders were headed to the Elite Eight once again.

It was the top two defensive teams in the country and you could tell. Michigan had their lowest output ever in the first half of a tournament game managing just 16 points to Texas Tech's 24. Even the trek to 24 by Texas Tech involved a lucky turnaround three with the shot clock expiring by guard Matt Mooney. Sure, luck on those three, they were gritty and determined the rest of the game on their way to a 63-44 win.

Texas Tech absolutely has a path to playing not only in the Final Four in Minneapolis, but the title game. Defense this time of year can sour even the most impressive of offenses and if Texas Tech can lean on Jarrett Culver just a couple more times there's hope for three more games on the schedule.

An unlikely spot to find the Red Raiders after losing six of their top eight scorers last year including consensus All-American Keenan Evans and the 16th overall pick in last year's NBA draft Zhaire Smith. But the Red Raiders are back in the Elite Eight for the second time in school history with a team even better than last year's surprising squad. Chris Beard's dogged determination to make life hard on offenses has paid off. The best defense left in the tournament belongs to the Red Raiders.

Standing in their way is one of the most impressive Gonzaga teams in recent memory. The Bulldogs dispatched Florida State in a revenge game from the previous year. The Red Raiders have the athleticism to hang with Gonzaga and the defense to throw the Bulldogs top-ranked offense into disarray. It wouldn't be easy but it isn't out of the question to see Texas Tech score just enough to sneak into the school's first ever Final Four.

Should they escape the showdown with their region's number one, a likely rematch with Duke would await. Texas Tech and Duke played earlier in the year and it was an early test for the Blue Devils and the first loss for the Red Raiders who had led at halftime. The Blue Devils poured it on while the Red Raiders offense went cold and the showdown in Madison Square Garden went to Zion Williamson and company.

Thinking Duke and beyond is ahead of ourselves though. Gonzaga is the next test. Loaded with athleticism top to bottom and a coach who has been to the tournament twice as many seasons as Beard has been a head coach the Bulldogs are the toughest team Texas Tech has faced all season besides Duke.

Of all the team's headed to the Elite Eight, four more punch their ticket Friday, Texas Tech might be low on the list of the likely contenders. Maybe even seventh in the likely pecking order of potential champions. Being picked seventh suited the Red Raiders just fine before the season, surely they won't mind it again.

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Houston goes up 1-0 in the series

Altuve, Correa help lift Astros to ALCS Game 1 win over Red Sox

Carlos Correa's go-ahead homer in the seventh inning of ALCS Game 1 helped lift the Astros to a 1-0 series lead. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Despite one rough loss to the White Sox in the ALDS, the Astros looked like the dominant team they are capable of being, taking that series 3-1 to advance and taking ownership of home-field advantage in the ALCS against the Red Sox, who upset the Rays. In Game 1, despite trailing for the middle portions of the game, Houston would get more highlight moments from the faces of the franchise to start the series with a win.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 4

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek

Losing Pitcher: Hansel Robles

Houston strikes first, but Boston sends Valdez to an early exit

Both starting pitchers worked in and out of trouble in the early goings of ALCS Game 1, starting with Framber Valdez in the top of the first. After erasing a leadoff single by inducing a double play, he went on to load the bases on a single and two walks but would strand all three runners to keep Boston off the board. The Astros jumped in front in the bottom half, with Jose Altuve working a leadoff walk, moving to second on a one-out single by Alex Bregman, advancing to third on a wild pitch, then ultimately scoring on a sac fly by Yordan Alvarez to put Houston ahead 1-0 after one frame.

They had a chance to extend their lead in the bottom of the second, taking advantage of a shaky inning by Chris Sale, who loaded the bases with one out as Houston would get two singles and a hit-by-pitch. That flipped the order over to the top, but a great diving catch by former Astro Kiké Hernández would end the inning. Hernández led off the top of the third against Valdez, and he would tie things up with a solo homer.

Things went downhill from there for Valdez and the Astros, as a one-out walk followed by a single gave the Red Sox the go-ahead run in scoring position. On a groundball that likely should have been a double play to end the inning, it would get through Altuve's legs, scoring a run and keeping the inning alive for Boston. They took advantage, getting an RBI double to extend their new lead to 3-1. Valdez would get one more out before Dusty Baker would give him the early hook, bringing in Yimi Garcia, who finished the frame.

A battle of the bullpens, Altuve ties it up

Like Valdez, Sale would also not make it through three innings, getting two outs while putting two on base before Boston would start their bullpen's night as well. Both sets of relievers settled the game down, with the Red Sox stranding two of Houston's runners in the third as well as the fifth, maintaining their two-run lead. After Garcia finished the third, Cristian Javier entered to eat up a couple of innings, and he would do just that by getting through two frames with just one hit, four strikeouts, and no runs.

Next, Phil Maton took over in the top of the sixth and erased a leadoff walk to keep things in striking distance for the home team. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put another runner on base, getting a one-out single by Chas McCormick. Two batters later, with two outs, Jose Altuve provided yet another career postseason highlight, tying the game 3-3 with a two-run home to re-energize the Minute Maid Park crowd.

Astros take ALCS Game 1

Now a brand new ballgame in the top of the seventh, Brooks Raley came in to face three batters, getting two strikeouts while allowing a single before Dusty Baker would move on to Ryne Stanek, who would get the third out. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Carlos Correa continued his march to a monster off-season contract, putting Houston back on top with a solo homer, making it 4-3.

Houston kept the script after Stanek with the new lead in hand, going to Kendall Graveman as the setup man in the top of the eighth. Despite a two-out single, he would get out of the inning with the lead intact, putting Houston three outs away from the victory. After a walk, single, and hit by pitch to start the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded, Altuve would drive in his third run of the game, getting a sac fly to extend the lead to two runs at 5-3.

That insurance run proved pivotal, as closer Ryan Pressly was met with a leadoff solo home run by Hernandez, his second of the night for Boston, to make it 5-4. Pressly refocused and was able to get the next three batters in order, though, wrapping up the win to start Houston off with a 1-0 series lead and putting them three wins away from advancing to the World Series.

Up Next: The two teams will have a moderately quick turnaround, with ALCS Game 2 scheduled to start at 3:20 PM Central on Saturday ahead of NLCS Game 1 between the Dodgers and Braves getting the night slot. The pitching matchup is expected to be Nathan Eovaldi for Boston, who is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his two starts this postseason, going opposite Luis Garcia, who had a rough outing in the ALDS for Houston, giving up five runs without completing three innings in Chicago.

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