TALE OF THE TAPE

Here's how the UH Coogs stack up against Miami

UH Kelvin Sampson
The Coogs face Miami on Friday night. Photo by David Becker/Getty Images.
Let's examine how the UH Coogs stack up against UAB

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.

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Are the Astros hitting their stride at the perfect time? Composite Getty Image.

The Houston Astros passed their first test of the second half with flying colors by going to Seattle and taking two of three from the Mariners.

The Astros starting pitching managed to outduel Seattle's, only allowing eight runs in the series. Hunter Brown continues to look like a top of the rotation starter, and Framber Valdez has allowed 3 earned runs or fewer in six consecutive starts.

On the offensive side of the ball, Yainer Diaz and Yordan Alvarez are keeping the lights on as the team awaits the return of slugger Kyle Tucker.

In the meantime, the 'Stros have an important series with the Athletic's looming, followed by an epic clash with the Dodgers. It will be in the club's best interest to take care of business against the lowly A's, because wins could be tough to come by against LA.

Both the Mariners and Rangers have the White Sox on their schedule this week, so this appears to be a three horse race in the AL West as the trade deadline arrives next Tuesday and beyond.

Outside of pitching, first base continues to be the area where Houston could stand to upgrade. Both Jon Singleton and Mauricio Dubon have fallen back to Earth a bit. And The Athletic's Chander Rome reported that Yainer Diaz was taking ground balls at first base recently.

That's an interesting nugget considering the struggles of Singleton and Dubon. Plus, Victor Caratini is back with the team after being activated off the injury list.

Will Joe Espada give Diaz some starts at first base with Caratini back in the fold? Only time will tell. Having a hitter like Diaz playing catcher certainly gives the Astros an edge over many teams.

But at the same time, it's hard to find teams with worse options at first base than what Houston is running out there on a daily basis.

Be sure to watch the video above as we react to the series win over Seattle, look ahead to the upcoming matchups with the A's and Dodgers, and much more!

Plus, we examine how the Astros offense can take another step forward!

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and Charlie Pallilo discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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