Duke is too good to pick against in the NCAA Tournament

Well, here it is. The NCAA Tournament bracket that you’ve all been waiting for. No. 1 seeds are Duke, Gonzaga, Virginia and North Carolina. The No. 2s include Michigan State, Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky.

Texas teams

(3) Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. (14) Northern Kentucky Norse — Midwest Regional, at Tulsa, Okla., Friday, 12:30 p.m., TNT.

(3) Houston Cougars vs. (14) Georgia State Panthers — West Regional, at Tulsa, Okla., Friday, 6:20 p.m., TBS

(9) Baylor Bears vs. (8) Syracuse Orange — Thursday, at Salt Lake City, Thursday, 8:57 p.m., truTV

(15) Abilene Christian Wildcats vs. (2) Kentucky Wildcats — Thursday, at Jacksonville, Fla., 7:10 p.m., CBS

(16) Prairie View A&M Panthers vs. (16) Fairleigh Dickinson (round of 68) — Tuesday, at Dayton, Ohio, 7:40 p.m., truTV.

Bracket buster

Keep an eye on the Ja Morant-led Murray State Racers, seeded 12th in the West, who are good enough to spring an upset against No. 5 Marquette in the first round. I also like the West’s third-seeded Texas Tech Red Raiders’ chances to go deep in the bracket.

Final Four projection

Duke in the East, Texas Tech in the West, Virginia in the South and North Carolina in the Midwest. I really like the Houston Cougars, but they’d need to get through Kentucky in the Sweet 16, and I don’t think that will happen. Kentucky has a chance against North Carolina in the Elite Eight, but the Tar Heels have too much firepower.

Who will win?

Duke over Texas Tech in one semifinal. North Carolina over Virginia in the other. Duke over North Carolina for the title.

Local athletes

Duke forward Justin Robinson (San Antonio Christian), Gonzaga guard Jeremy Jones (East Central), Minnesota forward Jordan Murphy (Brennan) and Colgate guard Jordan Burns (Marshall). Baylor forward Tristan Clark (Wagner) is injured.

Texas Tech’s Kevin McCullar (Wagner) is a redshirt. Prairie View A&M guard Tyler Singleton played previously at the University of the Incarnate Word.

Area colleges

Texas State (24-9) hosts Florida International (19-13) Saturday at 6 p.m. in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.

UTSA (17-15) and UIW (6-25) will not play in the postseason.

As many as seven teams from Texas could land NCAA bids

The 11th-ranked University of Houston Cougars and the UT Arlington Mavericks on Sunday will try to join two other programs in the state of Texas as automatic qualifiers in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Prairie View A&M and Abilene Christian qualified Saturday with victories in their respective conference tournament finals.

For Prairie View, it will be the school’s first NCAA appearance in 21 years. Abilene Christian has never made the Division I national tournament.

When the bracket is revealed later today, three Texas-based Big 12 squads likely will make the field.

Texas Tech and Baylor are considered locks, while TCU is probably in, as well, according to bracket projection analysts.

UT Arlington, under first-year coach Chris Ogden, plays Georgia State today in New Orleans for the Sun Belt Conference’s automatic bid.

The Mavericks will not make the NCAA field unless they win, meaning that they have much more riding on their game today than the Cougars.

The Cougars, regular-season champions in the American Athletic Conference, are expected to make the Big Dance as an at-large entry even if they lose today.

Houston is playing in Memphis against 24th-ranked Cincinnati.

Saturday’s highlights

Prairie View rallied from a 13-point, first-half deficit to stun the Texas Southern Tigers, 92-86, in the Southwestern Athletic Conference title game at Birmingham, Ala. Both the Panthers and Tigers shot 55 percent in the second half. Guard Gary Blackston had 17 points and six steals for Prairie View. The Panthers secured the school’s second NCAA bid and its first since 1998.

Abilene Christian routed New Orleans 77-60 at Katy for the Southland Conference crown behind Jaren Lewis, who had 20 points, six rebounds and three steals. The Wildcats moved from NCAA Division II to Division I six years ago. Under terms of the transition, they were ineligible to play in the SLC tournament for the first four years.

Conference USA

Regular-season champion Old Dominion earned the NCAA automatic bid with a 62-56 victory over former San Antonio prep standout Charles Bassey and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

Houston rises to No. 9 in Associated Press poll

The Houston Cougars on Monday moved up to No. 9 in the weekly Associated Press Top 25 college basketball poll.

AP Top 25
1. Tennessee 22-1 SEC
2. Duke 21-2 ACC
3. Gonzaga 23-2 West Coast
4. Virginia 20-2 ACC
5. Kentucky 20-3 SEC
6. Michigan 22-2 Big Ten
7. Nevada 23-1 Mountain West
8. North Carolina 19-4 ACC
9. Houston 23-1 American
10. Marquette 20-4 Big East
11. Michigan State 19-5 Big Ten
12. Purdue 17-6 Big Ten
13. Villanova 19-5 Big East
14. Kansas 18-6 Big 12
15. Texas Tech 19-5 Big 12
16. Louisville 17-7 ACC
17. Florida State 18-5 ACC
18. Kansas State 18-5 Big 12
19. LSU 19-4 SEC
20. Wisconsin 17-7 Big Ten
21. Iowa 19-5 Big Ten
22. Virginia Tech 18-5 ACC
23. Iowa State 18-6 Big 12
24. Maryland 18-6 ACC
25. Buffalo 20-3 Mid-American

After win No. 20, Houston rises to 13th in Associated Press poll

The discussion around the Houston Cougars basketball program no longer involves whether the team will play in the NCAA Tournament.

Rather, the speculation about coach Kelvin Sampson’s Cougars mostly centers on the tournament seeding process and how high the seed might be.

It’s a reflection of how fast Sampson’s program has improved in the past few years.

On Sunday, the once-beaten Cougars became the first team in the nation to 20 victories with a 77-65 victory at Tulsa. On Monday, they moved up four spots in the AP Top 25 to 13th in the nation.

Houston continues to play elite-level basketball, winning five in a row since a 73-69 loss at Temple on Jan. 9.

When the Cougars play the Owls in the rematch Thursday in Houston, they’ll do so ranked sixth in the nation in scoring defense (60.2) and second in field goal percentage defense (36.4).

Such consistency bodes well for the Cougars in their quest to win the American Athletic Conference title and make another strong showing in the NCAAs.

Last year, the Cougars made the tournament for the first time under Sampson’s leadership.

They won a Round of 64 game and were stunned in the R32 when Jordan Poole drained a buzzer-beating three to lift the Michigan Wolverines to a 64-63 victory in Wichita.

This year, the Cougars look more potent than ever.

Not only is it difficult to score on Houston, it’s also a pain in the neck to guard them, with Armoni Brooks and Corey Davis both averaging 14 points.

A lot can happen between now and tournament selection day, but forecasters are projecting the Cougars to land an NCAA seed as high as third.

All of which means the Cougars could be riding high again in March.

AP Top 25

1. Tennessee 18-1 SEC
2. Duke 17-2 ACC
3. Virginia 18-1 ACC
4. Gonzaga 19-2 West Coast
5. Michigan 19-1 Big Ten
6. Michigan State 18-3 Big Ten
7. Kentucky 16-3 SEC
8. Nevada 19-1 Mountain West
9. North Carolina 15-4 ACC
10. Marquette 18-3 Big East
11. Kansas 16-4 Big 12
12. Virginia Tech 16-3 ACC
13. Houston 20-1 American
14. Villanova 16-4 Big East
15. Louisville 15-5 ACC
16. Texas Tech 16-4 Big 12
17. Purdue 14-6 Big Ten
18. Buffalo 18-2 Mid American
19. LSU 16-3 SEC
20. Iowa State 15-5 Big 12
21. Maryland 16-5 Big Ten
22. Mississippi State 15-4 SEC
23. North Carolina State 16-4 ACC
24. Wisconsin 14-6 Big Ten
25. Florida State 15-5 ACC

Houston beats Saint Louis, 68-64, to remain undefeated

Guard Corey Davis hit a go-ahead three pointer with 20 seconds remaining, lifting the 24th-ranked Houston Cougars to a 68-64 victory over Saint Louis Sunday afternoon.

Houston, one of nine undefeated teams in NCAA Division I, played before an announced home crowd of 6,131 at the Fertitta Center and improved to 10-0 on the season.

The Cougars trailed 63-60 with 1:37 remaining but rallied down the stretch for their 23rd straight victory at home.

Davis, a senior from Lafayette, Louisiana, finished with a team-high 17 points for Houston. Armoni Brooks and Galen Robinson, Jr., had 13 each.

The Cougars won the game on the defensive end as they limited the visitors to 36.7 percent shooting from the field.

Javon Bess led the Billikens with 17 points. Bess snared an offensive rebound in the final seconds but missed on a jumper that would have tied the game.

Davis hit two free throws at the end to seal it for Houston, dropping Saint Louis to 7-3 on the season.

Records

Houston 10-0
Saint Louis 7-3

Notable

Saint Louis was the preseason favorite to win the Atlantic 10. The Billikens had posted victories over Butler and Oregon State. Houston was picked third in the American Athletic Conference poll, behind UCF and Cincinnati.

Still undefeated

Kansas (9-0), Virginia (9-0), Michigan (11-0), Nevada (11-0), Texas Tech (10-0), Houston (10-0), Buffalo (10-0), Furman (12-0), St. John’s (10-0).

Houston rallies past LSU 82-76 to remain undefeated

Trailing by 15 points early in the second half Wednesday night, the 24th-ranked Houston Cougars rallied to stun the LSU Tigers 82-76 at the Fertitta Center.

With the win, the Cougars of the American Athletic Conference improved to 9-0 on the season.

Houston has beaten teams from the Pac-12 (Oregon), the Big 12 (Oklahoma State) and now the Southeastern Conference (LSU) since Dec. 1.

LSU tumbled to 7-3 on the season despite leading by 10 at halftime and by 50-35 with 19:04 remaining.

Houston’s backcourt play proved to be the difference, with senior guard Galen Robinson Jr. leading the way with 18 points, six assists and five rebounds.

Junior guard Armoni Brooks had 13 points and nine rebounds, with all of his scoring coming in the second half.

After LSU pulled to within two with 28 seconds left, Houston guard Corey Davis Jr. sank four straight free throws for the final points.

Ja’Vonte Smart paced the Tigers with 18 points. LSU, a 34-percent shooting team on three-pointers, finished 5 of 26 from beyond the arc.

Notable

Houston has won 22 games in a row at home, including a 2-0 record at the Fertitta Center, its new, refurbished, on-campus facility. For a little more than a year, the Cougars had been playing their home games at nearby Texas Southern University as a $60 million makeover was done on the former Hofheinz Pavilion. Crowds announced at a little more than 7,000 have packed the new building since it opened on Dec. 1 against Oregon.

Quotable

“This building is not winning the game for us, but what our winning is doing is putting people in an incredible arena. You could feel it. We didn’t have this before. We had to win games like this by manufacturing our own enthusiasm. We didn’t always get a little help. That crowd was incredible. That crowd was a big reason we won.” — Houston coach Kelvin Sampson, according to comments posted on the UH athletics’ website.

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.

UT’s NCAA Regional includes an old rival — Texas A&M

The possibility of a playoff game — or games — between the rival Texas Longhorns and Texas A&M Aggies loomed Monday as the NCAA baseball tournament’s 64-team bracket was unveiled.

Texas will host a regional starting Friday that will include A&M, Indiana and Texas Southern University.

On opening night in the double-elimination format, No. 2 seed Indiana will play third-seeded A&M at 4 p.m. and top-seeded Texas will play No. 4 Texas Southern at 8.

If the Longhorns and Aggies both win — or, if they both lose — they would play Saturday.

The tournament games will be held in Austin on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and, if necessary, also Monday, at the UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

Other teams from the state that made the tournament include Texas Tech, Baylor, Houston and Dallas Baptist.

Texas Tech is the only other program in the state that will host on opening weekend.

The TCU Horned Frogs, who have played in the past four College World Series, were left out of the 64-team field after they made it to the Big 12 tournament title game and lost to Baylor.

Sam Houston State and Rice were among other notable programs missing from the national bracket.

Last year, the Bearkats made a surprise run to the NCAA Lubbock Regional title and advanced to play Florida State in the Tallahassee Super Regional.

This year, they won the Southland Conference regular-season title but failed to win the SLC tournament.

Rice, under outgoing coach Wayne Graham, posted a losing record in the regular season and failed to win the Conference USA tournament title for the automatic bid.

Thus, Rice had its streak of 23 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances snapped. It was the third-longest streak in the nation.

In Austin, fans will get to see NCAA tournament baseball live for the first time since the Longhorns hosted a Super Regional in 2014.

It’s the first time Texas has hosted on the first weekend of the tournament since 2011.

Tournament time in Texas

Regional openers are set for Friday

Texas — No. 13 national seed, No. 1 regional seed, hosts in Austin and opens against Texas Southern

Texas Tech — No. 9 national seed, No. 1 regional seed, hosts in Lubbock and opens against New Mexico State

Baylor — No. 2 regional seed at Palo Alto, Calif., plays opening day against Cal State Fullerton

Texas A&M — No. 3 regional seed at Austin, opens with Indiana

Houston — No. 3 regional seed at Chapel Hill, N.C., opens with Purdue

Dallas Baptist — No. 3 regional seed at Fayetteville, Ark., opens with Southern Miss

Texas Southern — No. 4 regional seed at Austin, opens with Texas

Houston Cougars sweep, clinch share of title in the American

The Houston Cougars clinched at least a share of the regular-season title in the American Athletic Conference Friday by winning two games against 25th-ranked Connecticut at Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford.

After winning the first game, 6-5, Houston rolled to a 10-1 victory for the sweep and a second straight regular-season title.

The Cougars won the first game when Lael Lockhart homered and doubled in a 3-for-4 showing at the plate.

They hung on in the ninth inning when relief pitcher Joe Pulido choked off a Huskies rally, ending it with the potential tying run at third base and the winner at second.

In the second game, designated hitter Joe Davis hit two home runs, added two doubles and drove in four runs.

Note

The JB Replay uses Baseball America as the source for its national rankings.

Records

Houston — 31-19, 16-7
Connecticut — 29-16-1, 11-9