Houston ascends to No. 1 in AP basketball poll for the first time in 39 years

In 1983, Phi Slama Jama became all the rage in college basketball. Hakeem (formerly Akeem) Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Larry Micheaux made the sport a happening on campus at the University of Houston.

The Cougars reached No. 1 in the Associated Press poll en route to an NCAA tournament run that would take them to the national finals.

Thirty-nine years later, the Coogs have done it again. A team coached by veteran Kelvin Sampson and led on the floor by the likes of Marcus Sasser, Tramon Mark and freshman sensation Jarace Walker ascended on Monday to the top spot in the venerable poll.

“I’ve never been ranked No. 1,” Sampson, now in his 34th season as a coach, told the AP. “We were ranked all 12 years at Oklahoma. I’m sure we were ranked at Indiana. Then we’ve been ranked five or six straight years. We’re used to having a high level of success.”

The state of Texas is represented well in the latest edition of the weekly poll. Chris Beard’s Texas Longhorns are No. 2. Scott Drew’s Baylor Bears are No. 6.

North Carolina, ranked No. 1 all season up until today, lost last week to Iowa State and in a four-overtime game to Alabama at the Phil Knight Invitational. In the wake of those developments, Houston moved up after beating Kent State in its only game last week.

Sampson’s Cougars were denied a trip to the Final Four last spring when they lost an Elite Eight matchup to Villanova in San Antonio at the AT&T Center.

This year, they are 6-0 with victories over Northern Colorado, St. Joseph’s, Oral Roberts, Texas Southern, Oregon and Kent State. The Coogs haven’t given up more than 56 points in any of their victories.

Houston plays next on Tuesday at home when it hosts Norfolk State. The Cougars will face tough tests against Alabama and Virginia before opening American Conference play in late December against Tulsa.

AP Top 25 poll
Men’s college basketball
November 28, 2022

1. Houston 6-0
2. Texas 5-0
3. Virginia 5-0
4. Arizona 6-0
5. Purdue 6-0
6. Baylor 5-1
7. Creighton 6-1
8. Connecticut 8-0
9. Kansas 6-1
10. Indiana 6-0
11. Arkansas 5-1
11. Alabama 6-1
13. Tennessee 5-1
14. Gonzaga 5-2
15. Auburn 7-0
16. Illinois 5-1
17. Duke 6-2
18. North Carolina 5-2
19. Kentucky 4-2
20. Michigan State 5-2
21. UCLA 5-2
22. Maryland 6-0
23. Iowa State 5-1
24. San Diego State 4-2
25. Ohio State 5-1

North Carolina ends Baylor’s reign; son of the ‘Rocket’ rises

After one of the most deliciously discombobulated and outrageously epic games in NCAA tournament history, one that bolstered the tradition of a blue-blooded program and sent the defending national champions home early, RJ Davis thanked his father.

“I mean, shout-out to my dad,” North Carolina’s precocious sophomore guard told reporters in Fort Worth. “He was a big-time scorer in college. They called him Rocket.”

The son of the Rocket proved to be something special, in his own right, on Saturday afternoon. RJ Davis scored a career-high 30 points and passed for six assists as the Tar Heels downed the Baylor Bears, 93-86, in overtime at Dickies Arena.

North Carolina advanced to the Sweet 16 of the East region in Philadelphia next week despite blowing a 25-point lead in a crazy 10-minute stretch that left the game tied at 80-80 after regulation.

In overtime, Davis sank an extremely difficult driving layup and converted a three-point play with 1:18 remaining. When he sank the free throw, the Tar Heels led by six. The Bears couldn’t get closer than five the rest of the way.

As such, Baylor became the first No. 1 seed in the tournament to fall this weekend, and eighth-seeded North Carolina, criticized earlier this season for being soft, found its tournament mojo. At just the right time.

Davis credited his father, Rob Davis, a former 2,100-point career scorer at Mercy College, for all the guidance, all the rides to the youth tournaments — everything. For helping him along on his journey to the NCAA Sweet 16.

“He just always stayed on me,” said Davis, from White Plains, N.Y. “Even when I had good games or bad games, it was just good criticism, just to get me to the position where I’m at now. Give credit to him just for everything he’s done for me, you know, from workouts to, you know, (AAU), him spazzing on me in car rides. So shout-out to Big Rob.”

In defeat, Baylor’s Drew lauds his players for their character

Coach Scott Drew lauded the character of his players after the top-seeded Baylor Bears’ reign as national champions came to an exhausting end on Saturday afternoon in Fort Worth.

East region No. 8 seed North Carolina downed No. 1 Baylor 93-86 in overtime, ousting the Bears in a wild, round-of-32 game at the NCAA tournament.

At this time last year, the Bears were rolling toward their first title in men’s basketball and the first by a team from the state since Texas Western (now UTEP) won it all in 1966.

Today, Baylor’s season is over after finishing 27-7, which included a tie for first in the Big 12 regular season with Kansas.

The Bears won their first 15 games this season, before injuries and adversity caught up with them.

They forged a 14-4 record in Big 12 play, and then knocked off Norfolk State (Va.) in the NCAA’s first round.

In the Round of 32, they fell behind early against the Tar Heels, who were led by guard RJ Davis and forward Brady Manek

Ten minutes into the second half, the Bears’ deficit expanded to 25 points. With a pressing defense, they rallied furiously into an 80-80 tie at the end of regulation, only to see the Tar Heels escape in the five-minute extra period.

Davis had 30 points and Manek, who was ejected on a flagrant foul in the second half, finished with 26.

“Really proud of (our players’) effort and just how they carried themselves all year long,” Drew said in the post-game press conference at Dickies Arena. “15 and zero, (we) face a bunch of injuries, adversity. We could have gone away, end up (winning) conference.

“Same with today, you get down 25, it’s easy to fold. These guys don’t.

“It’s a joy to coach them every single day. We might be losers on the scoreboard today … Give North Carolina a lot of credit.

“Coach (Hubert) Davis is a great coach, does a lot of great things. They got a lot of great players and a great program. But I’m proud of these guys (with the Bears) and how they represent Baylor University.”

In the Bears’ season finale, guard Adam Flagler led with 27 points. James Akinjo produced 20 points, five assists and three steals. Jeremy Sochan produced 15 points off the bench, and Matthew Mayer scored 10.

Drew called his players “great young men” who had good attitudes about how to practice and play. “They really represented the school the right way,” he said.

The coach touched on the spiritual, as well, spelling out the theme of the team.

“What is impossible with man is possible with God,” Drew said. “I mean, to win back-to-back conference (championships) with three season-ending injuries, that’s phenomenal, along with all the other injuries these guys have overcome.

“And I know Adam will be excited to finally rest his body and get 100 percent healthy. He hadn’t been 100 percent healthy in six weeks or so. But it just shows you the toughness the guys have.”

Baylor played in the tournament without injured Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, and LJ Cryer.

Freshman Langston Love, from San Antonio-area Steele High School and Montverde (Fla.) Academy, was lost to the team for the season in October, before the first game. Love is rehabilitating a knee injury.

North Carolina will challenge top-seeded Baylor in Fort Worth

The top-seeded Baylor Bears and the No. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels will open the Round of 32 in the NCAA tournament on Saturday at 11:10 a.m. when they meet in an East Region game in Fort Worth at Dickies Arena.

On Thursday, Baylor, the defending national champions, advanced with an easy 85-49 victory over Norfolk State (Va.), while North Carolina also dominated, taking out ninth-seeded Marquette, 95-63.

First-year Tar Heels coach Hubert Davis suggested on Friday that just because the Bears have lost center Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua to an injury, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are vulnerable on the inside, an area where North Carolina excels with big man Armondo Bacot.

“Baylor is the defending national champions and the No. 1 seed because they have more than one guy,” Davis told reporters in Fort Worth. “They’re an outstanding team. And one of the areas that they are terrific at is rebounding the basketball on both ends of the floor.

“It’s something that we have talked about, you know, yesterday, today, in terms of trying to limit Baylor to one shot every possession. Because we know that a huge part of their offense is getting second-chance opportunities,” Davis said.

Davis said the same is true for the Tar Heels in terms of how they stress the need to hit the offensive boards.

“I always say, ‘Let’s get shots, let’s get good shots,’ ” he said. “But if we get good shots, we’re either going to make them. And if we miss, because of our pursuit of the offensive glass, we’re going to get second-chance opportunities.

“So it’s a great matchup of two teams that — talented teams that like to get out in transition, they like to get second-chance opportunities, that get after it on the defensive end.”

Baylor coach Scott Drew told reporters that injured guard LJ Cryer, who also sat out the opener, will not play against North Carolina.

“I wish I could tell you otherwise, but I can’t,” he said.

Notable

The NCAA posts transcripts of all press conferences for credentialed media. The JB Replay gained access to the transcripts Friday afternoon.

Charting the top seeds

After Friday’s games, the top four seeds in each region produced a 15-1 record against lower seeds in the Round of 64. The only one to lose was East Region No. 2 seed Kentucky, which lost to Saint Peter’s Thursday night.

In the South Region, with the games cycling though San Antonio next week, top-seeded Arizona, No. 2 Villanova and No. 3 Tennessee all won in blowouts. Fourth-seeded Illinois was taken to the wire before downing Chattanooga, 54-53, Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh.

Five from Texas stay alive

Five of the seven teams from the state of Texas that made the 68-team tournament field are still alive going into the Round of 32. After Baylor won easily on Thursday, while Texas Tech, Houston, Texas and TCU all won on Friday to advance.

Texas Tech, Houston and Texas all hit double-digits in 3-pointers made on Friday. The Red Raiders had 12 and the Cougars and the Longhorns both made 10. Texas Tech hit 12 of 20 from beyond the arc in a 97-62 victory over Montana State in the West Region.

In the South Region, fifth-seeded Houston opened the tournament in Pittsburgh and nailed nine from long distance in the first half alone. The Cougars held off the UAB Blazers, 82-68, on Friday night to set up a Sunday game against Illinois.

Also in the South, the ninth-seeded TCU Horned Frogs blew out the Seton Hall Pirates, 69-42. With the victory, TCU earned a Round of 32 game Sunday in San Diego against Arizona.

Sixth-seeded Texas won its first tournament game since 2014 with an 81-73 East Region victory over the Virginia Tech Hokies. The Longhorns will also play next on Sunday, drawing the third-seeded Purdue Boilermakers.

Meanwhile, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi was eliminated from the tournament on Tuesday. The Islanders lost to the Texas Southern Tigers.

The Tigers advanced to play Kansas on Thursday. The Jayhawks won, 83-56.

Seven teams from Texas make the NCAA tournament

A few nights ago, it appeared that the state of Texas might have a chance to get as many as 10 teams in the NCAA tournament. By the time the field of 68 was unveiled on Sunday night, the state had seven representatives in the Big Dance.

Here’s a quick glance:

Baylor — The Scott Drew-coached Bears (26-6) enter March Madness as the top seed in the East Regional, trying to win back-to-back national championships. Baylor will play Virginia-based Norfolk State (24-6) on Thursday at Dickie’s Arena in Fort Worth. Baylor, playing without injured big man Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, who is out for the season, finished 14-4 and shared the Big 12 regular-season title with Kansas. The Bears lost to Oklahoma in the Big 12 quarterfinals.

Texas Tech — The Red Raiders (25-9) will play as the No. 3 seed in the West. Tech will take on Montana State (27-7) on Friday in San Diego at Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl. Tech will face its initial NCAA test under first-year coach Mark Adams, an assistant under the Red Raiders’ previous coach, Chris Beard. The Red Raiders finished 12-6 and finished third in the Big 12 regular season. They lost to Kansas in the tournament title game.

Houston — The Cougars (29-5) will compete as the No. 5 seed in the South and will meet the UAB Blazers (27-7) on Friday inside PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. Houston’s coach is Kelvin Sampson, a veteran who has worked previously at Washington State, Oklahoma and Indiana. Sampson led the Cougars to the Final Four last year. Houston lost stars Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark to injury earlier in December but rebounded to win the AAC regular season (at 15-3) and tournament crowns.

Texas — The Longhorns (21-11) will move into NCAA play under first-year coach Chris Beard as the sixth seed in the East. They’ll play in Milwaukee on Friday against the No 11 seed Virginia Tech Hokies (23-12). Texas finished fourth in the Big 12 regular season at 10-8 and lost to TCU 65-60 in the quarterfinals of the tournament. Virginia Tech won the ACC tournament title as the seventh seed, routing Duke 82-67 in the championship game.

TCU — The Jamie Dixon-coached Horned Frogs (20-12) will take on the Seton Hall Pirates (21-10) on Friday in San Diego. The Pirates are the eighth seed and the Horned Frogs are ninth in the South Region. TCU beat Texas Tech and Kansas late in the regular season and the knocked off Texas in the Big 12 tournament. Seton Hall won seven straight before falling to Connecticut in the Big East quarterfinals.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi — The Steve Lutz-coached Islanders (23-12) will take on the Texas Southern Tigers (18-12) on Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio. Both teams are seeded 16th in the Midwest Region, with the winner getting a chance to take on the No. 1 seeded Kansas Jayhawks. Lutz, a San Antonio native, is in his first season as a Division I head coach. The Islanders swept three games to win the Southland Tournament, including back-to-back victories over No. 1 seed Nicholls State and No. 2 Southeastern Louisiana.

Texas Southern — The Johnny Jones-coached Tigers (18-12) scheduled their first 11 games of the season on the road. They lost the first seven before steadying the ship to finish in second place at 13-5 in the SWAC regular season. In the SWAC tournament, the Tigers beat Jackson State, Grambling and then toppled No. 1 seed Alcorn State for the conference title and their second straight trip to the NCAAs. The Tigers rely on defense and a big and talented front court to control the game.

Baylor firms up NCAA standing after victory at Iowa State

After losing three of their last four games, the Baylor Bears started to look like a team that might be slipping below eight line in the NCAA Tournament projections.

No more.

Baylor showed some toughness and resilience on the road Tuesday night, taking down 19th-ranked Iowa State, 73-69.

The Bears were bolstered by freshman Jared Butler’s 17 points. Also, Division III transfer Freddie Gillespie came through with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Coming into the game, Baylor had been projected as a No. 8 seed and Iowa State a No. 5 in various bracket projections.

Now, such thinking could be up to debate after the Bears handed the Cyclones their second straight home loss.

“They came in here and kicked our butts,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said in an Associated Press story. “We’ve got to find a way to be tougher. That’s the bottom line.”

Butler, a 6-3 guard from Reserve, Louisiana, produced a layup and a three-point shot down the stretch.

Gillespie, a transfer from Carleton College in Minnesota, provided an inside presence that allowed the Bears to outrebound the Cyclones, 44-28.

“I’m just really proud of the way our guys responded in a tough place to play down the stretch,” Baylor coach Scott Drew told the AP.

Records

Baylor 17-9, 8-5
Iowa State 19-7, 8-5

Baylor routs Oklahoma, surges into tie for first in Big 12

The Baylor Bears on Monday night continued their surprising ascent in the Big 12 standings with an easy 77-47 road victory at Oklahoma.

Baylor is 5-1 and has won five straight in the wake of a season-ending knee injury to starting center Tristan Clark, a sophomore from Wagner.

With the victory over Oklahoma, Baylor moved into a tie for first in the conference with Kansas and Kansas State.

The Bears used a 30-8 run in the first half to break the game open, taking a 37-16 lead on a jumper by Freddie Gillespie with 2:42 left in the half.

Trailing by 18 at intermission, the Sooners never got closer than 16 in the second half.

Eleven players scored for the Bears, who shot 54.4 percent and were led by Makai Mason’s 12 points.

Baylor limited Oklahoma to 27.3 percent from the field.

Records

Baylor 14-6, 5-2
Oklahoma 15-6, 3-5

Mason scores 25 as Baylor upsets 20th-ranked Iowa State

Makai Mason scored a season high 25 points Tuesday night in Waco, leading the Baylor Bears to a 73-70 victory over 20th-ranked Iowa State.

After the Cyclones took a two-point lead, Mason knocked down a jumper and hit five free throws in the final two minutes to pace the Bears to their first Big 12 win of the season.

Center Tristan Clark, a Baylor sophomore from Wagner, finished with 16 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Baylor coach Scott Drew said Clark, at 6-9 and 240 pounds, served as something of a quarterback on the basketball court at the Ferrell Center.

“Tristan, I tell you, we ran offense through Tristan Clark,” Drew said on the team’s radio broadcast.

Drew pointed out that Clark had three assists and zero turnovers on a night when he touched the ball frequently.

“Do you know how hard that is to run offense through somebody and for him to have zero turnovers for the game?” the coach asked. “I mean, he did an unbelievable job quarterbacking our team and really helping with things.”

Records

Iowa State 12-3, 2-1
Baylor 9-5, 1-1

Notable

Iowa State came into Waco with the early lead in the Big 12. The Cyclones had opened with victories over Oklahoma State on the road and Kansas at home. Baylor started conference with an 85-81 road loss at TCU. Losing to the Horned Frogs was the Bears’ third loss of the season by four points or less.

Quotable

“We’ve had some close losses,” Drew said. “It was good to see ’em win this one.”

Tristan Clark, by the numbers

Clark’s nation-leading field goal percentage of 75 percent dropped to 73.7 percent after he hit 6 of 10 from the field against the Cyclones. He’s averaging 14.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.4 blocks.

USC wins team title; Baylor finishes eighth in 4×400 relay

The Southern Cal women knew they had to win the 4×400 relay to win the NCAA team title on Saturday, and that’s exactly what they did in a stirring finish at Hayward Field.

USC’s Kendall Ellis came from behind in the last 50 meters to edge Purdue for first place in the relay and the accompanying 10 points necessary for the team championship.

A protest that could have scuttled the USC relay title and altered the team point standings was denied.

The drama unfolded in the final event of the NCAA Track and Field Championship in Eugene, Oregon. Rain fell for most of the last day of the meet.

Horton earns All-American honors

Baylor, with former Judson star Kiana Horton running the anchor leg, came in eighth place in the 4×400. Horton, a Baylor junior, claimed her first All-American designation outdoors.

Devin Clark finishes 11th

Devin Clark, an Arkansas sophomore from Smithson Valley, placed 11th in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. She crossed the line in 10 minutes and 3.7 seconds.

A&M’s Watson wins 800

Texas A&M freshman Sammy Watson patiently stalked the leaders in a driving rain and then came from behind to win the title in the 800 meters.

UT Arlington’s Henry claims high jump title

UT Arlington junior Alexus Henry won the championship in the high jump with a clearance of 5 feet, 11 and 1/2 inches.

Texas to host in 2019, 2020

The NCAA outdoor track meet will be staged in Austin for the next two years. The meet will be held at Myers Stadium on the University of Texas campus in 2019 and 2020.

Hayward Field will undergo a major re-construction for the next two years in anticipation of the 2021 IAAF World Outdoor Championships.

Women’s team scoring

1, Southern Cal, 53
2, Georgia, 52
3, Stanford, 51
4, Kentucky, 46
5, Florida, 42
6, LSU, 41
7, Oregon, 39
8, Purdue, 34
9, Arizona State, 22
10, Virginia Tech, 21.5

Six teams in the state alive in NCAA baseball playoffs

Six of the seven Texas-based teams in the NCAA baseball tournament remain alive through three days of regional play. Texas and Texas Tech are 2-0 in their regions. Here’s the breakdown leading into Sunday afternoon competition:

Texas — In the drivers’ seat in the Austin Regional. The No. 13 overall seed in the NCAA tournament is 2-0 and will play at home tonight against either Indiana or Texas A&M. This is a hot team. Might be tough to beat them two straight in Austin. So far, Texas has hammered Texas Southern 10-0 and beat up A&M 8-3.

Texas A&M — The Aggies are 1-1 in the Austin Regional and will play this afternoon to stay alive against the Indiana Hoosiers. A&M needs a quality start to steady the team. Will it be freshman lefthander Asa Lacy from Kerrville Tivy?

Texas Southern — The Tigers were swept out of the tournament in Austin, losing 10-0 to Texas 6-0 to Indiana. Texas Southern is a program on the rise, having played in NCAA regionals at College Station in 2015, at Baton Rouge in 2017 and now in Austin, all under coach Michael Robertson.

Texas Tech — The Red Raiders are 2-0 and playing for the regional title tonight in their own Lubbock Regional. Kent State and Louisville will meet this afternoon to determine Tech’s opponent. Either way, the No. 9 national seeded Red Raiders appear to be in good shape after beating New Mexico State 9-2 on Friday and Louisville 10-4 on Saturday.

Baylor — The Big 12 tournament champions are 1-1 and facing long odds in the losers’ bracket at the Stanford Regional. They’ll play the host and No. 2 overall seed Cardinal this afternoon in an effort to stay alive. Baylor needs to beat Stanford and Cal State Fullerton twice to win the regional. The Bears lost to surprising Fullerton 6-2 on Friday and then bounced back to defeat Wright State, 11-5, on Saturday.

Houston — The Cougars are 1-1 and facing elimination Sunday afternoon against Purdue in the Chapel Hill Regional. Houston must win three straight to advance. It must beat the Boilermakers and the host North Carolina Tar Heels twice. Houston started fast in the regional, knocking off Purdue 9-2 on Friday. The Cougars hit two home runs in their second game but fell to the Tar Heels 4-3 on Saturday.

Dallas Baptist –The hard-hitting Patriots slammed Oral Roberts 18-9 on Saturday to even their record to 1-1 in the Fayetteville Regional. They’ll take on Southern Miss, the Conference USA champions, on Sunday afternoon. If Dallas Baptist can win, it would move into the championship round against host Arkansas Sunday night. One of the hidden gems in NCAA sports in Texas, Dallas Baptist has played in four NCAA regionals since 2011.