HARRIS COUNTY - HSA INSIDER

A weekly look at all things Houston sports from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority: Big things are ahead

The Final Four in 2016 was a huge success. Courtesy photo

The Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Insider will take you inside Houston Sports each Friday because #WeAreHoustonSports!

A new year and a few more things that could have Houston sports fans celebrating.

Yes, we’re just a little more than month away from the inaugural star-studded Houston Sports Awards Feb 8 at the Hilton Americas and more than excited, but we’re talking longer term here.

Sometime this summer, the NCAA will determine the cities that will host the Men’s Final Four from 2023-2026 and the Women’s Final Four from 2021-2024 and, yes, Houston is in the running for both.

Doug Hall, Vice President of Special Projects for the Houston Sports Authority, said the group submitted the Men’s Final Four bids in mid-December and is putting the finishing touches on the Women’s Final Four bid, due this spring.

Houston drew great reviews as host for the 2011 and 2016 Men’s Final Fours, but, despite several bids, has never been selected to host a Women’s Final Four. They are, without question, different events.

The men’s event is a stadium event that draws incredible crowds. Hall estimates there are only about a dozen cities in the country that have the facilities to host the men.

The women’s event is smaller, more of an arena event and opens up many more potential host cities. Hall said the proposal would make Toyota Center available for the event.

The 2016 Final Four Championship game came down to Kris Jenkins’ three-pointer at the buzzer that gave Villanova a 77-74 win over North Carolina. It was Villanova’s first national title since 1985.

At the time, Dan Gavitt, the NCAA vice president of men’s basketball championships, calls the game “one of the best national championship games in tournament history.” The event attendance total was 149,845 – at the time, the second highest attendance in Men’s Final Four history. The championship game drew 74,340, also, at the time, the second-highest in championship game history.

The 2017 Final Four in Phoenix pushed both those numbers to third on the all-time list, but with the scope of the event changing annually, it is no surprise.

“We certainly have built on the success of the 2011 and 2016 Men’s Final Fours, but part of our proposal is toward the future,’’ Hall said. “The tournament continues to evolve. It’s a long way away and we expect that it will grow in size and scope.’’

Gavitt also noted Houston “showed the teams and fans Southern hospitality and put on terrific fan events, including youth clinics, the March Madness Music Festival and the Final Four Fan Fest.”

You can expect Houston to keep looking forward – it’s what made the 2017 Final Four special and Super Bowl LI one of the best ever.

Like Hall said, it’s all evolving. And if Houston manages to land one or both of the events? By 2021-2026, those events will look different than 2018 events.

Houston will be ready.

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Houston gets back in the win column

Astros end six-game skid thanks to a gem by Greinke

Zack Greinke tossed a gem Saturday night. Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

After the Mariners roared back Friday night to get a walk-off win over the Astros, dashing their hopes of ending their losing streak, Houston tried to even the series with a win on Saturday night with their ace Zack Greinke on the mound. Greinke would do his part, throwing a terrific game, and the Astros would squeak out one run, which was enough to get back in the win column.

Final Score: Astros 1, Mariners 0

Astros' Record: 7-7, fourth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Zack Greinke (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Chris Flexen (1-1)

Plenty of hits, but only one run

Although the Astros were racking up hits against Chris Flexen, they had little to show for it. Eight different batters would notch ten hits against him, but the only time it amounted to a run was on a two-out RBI-single by Taylor Jones in the top of the fourth, giving Houston a 1-0 lead.

Greinke spins a gem

Luckily for them, Zack Greinke was making it look like that would be enough. He cruised through the Mariners all night, allowing just four hits while giving up zero runs along with six strikeouts, one of which moved him past 2,700 on his career. He could have attempted to finish the complete-game shutout, but at 91 pitches after eight, Dusty Baker opted to bring in closer Ryan Pressly for the ninth. Greinke's final line: 8.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K, 91 P.

Houston finally ends their losing streak

With the high-leverage save opportunity in the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Pressly entered to hold on to the one-run lead. He would do his job, finishing off the win for Greinke and putting an end to Houston's disappointing losing streak.

Up Next: The third and final game of this series will get underway at 3:10 PM Central on Sunday. Jake Odorizzi (0-1, 13.50 ERA) will look to make a rebound from his disappointing first start with the Astros, while the Mariners will start Nick Margevicius (0-1, 7.04 ERA).

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