HARRIS COUNTY - HSA INSIDER

A weekly look at all things Houston sports from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority: City pursues women's Final 4

The women's Final 4 is a big event. NCAA.com

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Could the third time be the charm?

Houston hopes so.

The fourth-largest city in the country has hosted Men’s Final Fours, Super Bowls and World Championships and now it is a finalist to host one of the premier women’s events in the country – the Women’s Final Four.

The NCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Committee announced Thursday that Houston was one of the eight finalist bid cities for the 2021-2024 Final Fours. Houston didn’t make the cut the first time it bid in 2011 and, in 2014, made the finals but did not get selected.

And now? Well, Houston has a pretty impressive pitch, which includes the downtown footprint used for both the 2016 Men’s Final Four and Super Bowl LI.

“We have the George R. Brown Convention Center, Discovery Green and Toyota Center,’’ said Holly Kesterson, Senior Events Manager for the Harris County – Houston Sports Authority. “We were able to utilize the convention center and Discovery Green for Men’s Final Four, but they played in NRG Arena.  The women would get the whole downtown experience.’’

In addition, Houston has a strong women’s presence with groups around the city, including WISE (Women in Sports and Events). “We have a huge platform for women to come together,’’ Kesterson said.

The women’s event is smaller and more of an arena event than the men’s event, which means it is open to many more cities. This year, Columbus, OH, will host the 2018 Women’s Final Four.

In Toyota Center, Houston has a NBA facility and that, along with the hotels and event opportunities downtown could combine for an impressive event.

Kesterson and others have already met with NCAA officials and had numerous discussions. The final bid is due in April and the NCAA will conduct site visits in July or August to see the planning in person.

“We’ll have the chance to show the NCAA the depth of what we have,’’ Kesterson said.

The NCAA’s final decision will come in October.

Houston will partner with Texas A&M as a host institution, but all the local universities will also be a part of the event.

The other cities in the final eight are Cleveland, Dallas, Indianapolis, Kansas City (Missouri), Minneapolis, Nashville and San Antonio. Indianapolis has hosted three Women’s Final Fours (2005, 2011, 2016), while San Antonio has hosted two (2002, 2010). Dallas, which hosted the 2017 Women’s Final Four, joins Cleveland, Kansas City, Minneapolis and Nashville as cities that have all hosted one Women’s Final Four.

“We were encouraged by the number and quality of potential host cities for the Women’s Final Four,” said Rhonda Lundin Bennett, chair of the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee and senior associate athletics director and senior woman administrator at the University of Nevada.

“The Women’s Final Four selection process will ultimately identify those cities that have the enthusiasm and energy to continue to build the legacy of one of America’s premier women’s sporting events.”

Houston has certainly demonstrated the enthusiasm and energy in hosting previous events here and would love to show off that same commitment and #HoustonStrong attitude for a Women’s Final Four.

Will the third time be the charm for Houston? Stay tuned.

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We'll see if Watson is in pads on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of the Houston Texans.

The Houston Texans had their last practice before pads come on for the first time on Tuesday. There was plenty to see on Monday.

1. Deshaun Watson had his usual extremely light level of work. He did very little throwing to teammates, though he did throw to the tight ends in 1-on-1 drills.

2. Texans head coach David Culley said "nothing has changed" when asked if Deshaun Watson will be in pads Tuesday. Culley has maintained that answer for a couple of sessions now.

3. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was back after missing Saturday with an excused personal day. Taylor has been the best quarterback in camp by a wide margin. Taylor makes better decisions with the football than other quarterbacks, but he does struggle on deeper passes. Taylor missed wildly on one deep ball and was a little wobbly on another.

4. Nobody in camp can cover wide receiver Brandin Cooks. This could be the easiest training camp of his life. He easily gets open in 1-on-1 situations.

5. Rookie wide receiver Nico Collins continues to flash his abilities in camp. Collins easily shook loose from defensive back John Reid and took the route vertical for an easy score. Collins later had a tough catch in traffic.

6. It's only been a few days, but the competition for inside wide receiver reps is tough. Former Bears wideout Anthony Miller has looked quick and nothing like the "draft bust" the Bears fans watched. Keke Coutee has rarely lost a rep, but Desmond King did win a few times over Coutee in the opening days of camp. Former Bengals wideout Alex Erickson finds himself constantly open. The cuts at wide receiver are already shaking out to be difficult.

7. Davis Mills bounced back in a sense that he couldn't be worse than he was on Saturday. The performance from Mills on Saturday was abysmal, but head coach David Culley said he liked how Mills responded today. With Tyrod Taylor back, there were fewer reps for Mills, but he had some impressive throws to go along with an off-target throw or two. Mills was far better than Jeff Driskel on Monday. Driskel tossed two interceptions right to defenders, including one that would've gone the wrong way for a score.

8. This linebacker group is interesting. With a new defensive scheme under Lovie Smith, the type of linebacker is very different from previous years. There was a clear emphasis on cover ability as these linebackers were added to the team.

9. Kamu Grugier-Hill and Kevin Pierre-Louis have both had some significant wins for the linebackers in coverage.

10. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan looks the part physically, but he's had a rough few days, including a drop on Monday.

11. With the pads coming on Tuesday, it will be fun to watch the rebuilt defensive line clash with the many combinations of the offensive line. There will be no J.J. Watt who historically stirred up the team on day one of pads. Laremy Tunsil's cool confidence about the offensive line over the weekend leads me to believe they are a confident group, while there are spots to be won on the defensive side of the line.

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