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

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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Kiper has the Texans bolstering their defense in Round 2. Composite Getty, Wiki Commons image.

In Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest two-round mock, he provided insights into potential draft picks and areas of concern for the Texans as they prepare for the upcoming NFL Draft. The Texans currently have two picks in the second round.

When considering the Texans' needs, he selected Illinois defensive tackle Johnny Newton with the No. 42 overall pick and Michigan cornerback Mike Sainristil with the No. 59 pick.

Kiper praised Newton for his exceptional performance as a defensive tackle, noting his impressive 7.5 sacks last season, the most among FBS defensive tackles.

With the departure of Maliek Collins, Newton could fill a crucial void in the Texans' defensive line, providing much-needed pass-rushing ability from the interior.

Another prospect Kiper identified as a potential target for the Texans is Michigan slot cover corner Mike Sainristil.

Kiper hailed Sainristil as the best slot cover corner in the draft, citing his impressive statistics from the previous season, including 6 interceptions, 2 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. With the Texans' re-signing of veteran corner Desmond King, there is still uncertainty about King's role on the roster, according to Kiper, opening the door for Sainristil to make an impact.

Despite his relatively smaller stature at 5-foot-9, Sainristil's playmaking ability and versatility make him an attractive option for the Texans' secondary. Draft expert Lance Zierlein thinks Sainristil would be a good fit in Houston.

As the draft approaches, all eyes will be on the Texans' front office as they make critical decisions that will shape the future of the franchise.

*AI assisted.

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