Here's how the UH Coogs stack up against Miami

The Coogs face Miami on Friday night. Photo by David Becker/Getty Images.

After defeating Northern Kentucky and Auburn in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, Houston’s run to the Final Four sees them matchup with Miami in the Sweet 16.

Although the Cougars are favored to win this game, the Hurricanes shouldn't be underestimated, as they have championship aspirations of their own.

Miami was ranked as high as number 12 during the regular season and made it to the ACC tournament semifinals before ultimately losing to Duke.

The Hurricanes have been successful this season thanks in large part due to their balanced and potent offense led by ACC Player of the Year Isiah Wong. The junior guard put the team on his back and scored a team-high 27 points in their win against Indiana on Sunday.

In addition to Wong, the Hurricanes have a plethora of other players who can shoot from all over the court as the team averages 54.1% of 2-point attempts, and 36.8% of 3-point attempts this season.

Miami is poised to make a deep tournament run, but might come up short against a defense that is one of the best in the county.

Houston ranks near the top in both defensive efficiency and points allowed this season. This is in large part due to head coach Kelvin Sampson instilling a defense first mentality into his players and getting maximum effort from them game after game.

J’Wan Roberts and Jarace Walker are excellent in the paint and the other three starters (Jamal Shead, Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark) are some of the best perimeter defenders in the nation.

Houston is one of the hardest teams to score on as they force teams to hold the ball longer and make their opponents take highly contested shots, which usually lead to misses or turnovers.

This was apparent in their victory over Northern Kentucky, as the Cougars held them to 27.5% shooting and 5-33 from 3-point range.

Houston's defense was a key reason as to why they were able to defeat Auburn as well. By slowing down the Tiger's offense in the second half and forcing them to shoot 5-16 from beyond the arc, the Cougars rallied to overcome a 10-point deficit and advance to the Sweet 16.

If Houston can play a similar level of defense against Miami, they should win this matchup with ease.

On the offensive side, the Cougars are led by Marcus Sasser, who seems to have healed from his injury. The senior guard dealt with a groin issue during the AAC tournament, which caused him to only play 14 minutes in their first round matchup against Northern Kentucky. Sasser responded by playing 31 minutes in the following game and scored 22 points in Houston’s aforementioned come from behind victory against Auburn.

On Thursday both Sasser and fellow guard Jamal Shead (knee injury) said they would be ready to play against Miami.

With both Sasser and Shead on the court at full strength, the Cougars look to have the upper hand against the Hurricanes.

As long Houston doesn’t overlook Miami, and can sustain their elite level of defense consistently, they should advance to the Elite 8 for the third straight year to play Xavier or face-off against their in-state rival UT.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
Numbers don't lie. Composite Getty Image.

The Astros better be mindful. The Texas Rangers are better than the Astros right now because while the Rangers’ offense has been awesome, the Astros’ attack continues to rate as screamingly average. The Rangers have opened up a four and a half game lead over the Astros in the American League West. 27 games represent one-sixth of the regular season schedule. Over their last 27 games the Astros have gone 19-8. Extrapolated over 162 games that’s awesome 114 win baseball. Over those 27 games the Astros have gained zero ground in the standings on the Rangers.

While 19-8 is an impressive stretch no matter what, it is notable that within that stretch the Astros went 11-1 versus the A’s, Cubs, and White Sox, three bad teams. Winning five of six from the mediocre Angels was good, particularly beating Shohei Ohtani twice. The Astros lost two out of three to the Brewers, lost two out of three to the Twins, and need a getaway win in Toronto to gain a split with the Blue Jays.

Maybe the Rangers will be akin to the 1979 Astros, rising but not quite ready yet. July 4, 1979 the Astros led the Reds by 10 and a half games in the National League West. Reds’ pitcher and top 10 greatest pitcher ever Tom Seaver said no worries, the Astros would “fall like a lead balloon” in the second half. The Reds won the division. Here is one stat that points toward Rangers' slippage: as a team they are batting a preposterous .335 with runners in scoring position. No way that holds up all season. The Astros and Rangers have a four game series in Arlington starting June 30. That series looms as much more important to the Astros than one would have thought back in spring training.

Here's the catch

Dusty Baker this week offered his most elaborate explanation for his playing time split at catcher. It was largely balderdash. Thursday’s series finale in Toronto is Martin Maldonado's 45th start behind the plate. Yainer Diaz has 15 starts, Cesar Salazar three. Dusty talked of how there is more to the catching position than hitting. Fair point. His “points” deteriorated from there. It’s definitely attention getting that General Manager Dana Brown has publicly acknowledged talking with Baker about Diaz playing more. Good for Dana.

Let’s leave aside that Maldonado is a lousy offensive player, while Diaz brims with potential and recently has translated some of that potential into results. The Astros’ record is better with Diaz catching than with Maldonado. The pitchers’ earned run average is better when Diaz catches. The “Machete” blade has dulled. Maldonado has thrown out just six of 28 base stealers. Diaz has nailed seven of 18. Maldonado has three passed balls (and at least a couple more that were generously for him scored wild pitches), Diaz has none. All upside growth lies with Diaz.

Dusty sees it as tough to have rookie pitchers throwing to a rookie catcher. I guess if they stink that’s true. Especially dubious is Dusty’s “point” in having Maldonado catch Hunter Brown’s last six starts so that should Diaz get hurt, Maldonado wouldn’t have to start catching Brown with little familiarity. How about the inverse? Diaz catching all the other starters more so that should the approaching 37 years old Maldonado break down, Diaz is more up to speed. Oh, Brown’s earned run average over those six starts with Maldonado is 4.81. Over his first six starts, five of them pitching to Diaz, Brown’s ERA was 2.60.

Wednesday Dusty gave Alex Bregman and Jeremy Pena the night off. Nothing wrong with that. The 29-year-old Bregman had played in all 61 games this season to date, the 25-year-old Pena in 60 of 61. Meanwhile, 36-year-old season long disaster Jose Abreu was penciled into the starting lineup for the 60th time in 62 games. Abreu’s ended the night with his OPS at .534. He is the worst player in the Major Leagues getting everyday run. Thursday marks his 61st start in 63 games. Another spot where Diaz should be getting more time.

All eyes on Texas

Some more on those Rangers, who last season finished 68-94. They are now 40-21, and that with their desperate five year 185 million dollar contract dice roll on pitcher Jacob deGrom crapping out. deGrom finishes with all of six starts and now faces a second Tommy John surgery that could sideline him until 2025. One of the very few pitchers to ever pitch viably again after two Tommy John surgeries is Alvin native Nathan Eovaldi. The Rangers gave him 34 million guaranteed for two years, which so far is the best signing of the offseason. Eovaldi has been every bit as good as Framber Valdez.

Will he hold up is a very fair and very important question. Since 2015, only in 2021 has Eovaldi topped 125 innings in a season. He’s on pace for about 200 this year. Overall, Rangers’ starting pitchers have a lower ERA than Astros’ starters. The Rangers weakness is their bullpen. There is virtually no doubt they will strengthen it by the trade deadline. Their offense has had no weaknesses. Only one team since 1950 (1999 Indians) has amassed more than 1000 runs in a season. About 40 percent of the way through this season the Rangers are on pace for 1025. Going position by position, Yordan Alvarez remains the only Astro who would crack the Ranger lineup so far this year.

Reminder that there are no one game tiebreakers to decide division titles or wild card spots. Season series winners win out. Astros-Jays Thursday outcome decides the season series. It’s conceivable that could be very important come season’s end.

Get your Astros fix every Monday!

Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule a first video segment goes up at 3PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, with the complete audio available in podcast form at outlets galore. Such as:

Apple Podcasts


Google Podcasts






SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome