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By Joe Kazmar
For the Record 

Kaz's Korner

Sweet 16 Whittles down number of Texas Teams to Two

 

Last updated 3/21/2023 at 5:30pm

When the bell rang early last week to start the 2023 Men’s March Madness Tournament, there were a record number of nine teams from the Lone Star State that had qualified for the event.

After two rounds of play in the single-elimination event, 16 teams remain, with only two—No. 1 seed University of Houston and second-seeded Texas—still alive and ready to compete for the national championship next week.

And several of the basketball writers covering the tourney and making their pre-tourney selections early last week picked the Houston Cougars or the Texas Longhorns as possible overall winners.

College basketball has made several changes that prohibited a clear-cut champion for this year, although the U of H dominated the weekly polls more than any other team this season.

Every professional sport strives for parity with drafts, trades and free agency and it has been working slowly over the years.

All college sports have is their national signing day where high school players have been carefully scrutinized to see if they can be just as successful on the college level before they are signed to a scholarship.

Over the last few years, players have opted to transfer to another school by obtaining a release from their current school and joining a transfer portal, which is similar to free agency for the pros.

The player might see another school that has a weakness at his position or may just like the coach at another school better than the one he currently plays for. This gives college basketball coaches an opportunity for a “quick fix” by signing some of these portal players.

Another reason their appears to be more parity today than in previous seasons is that the “big-time” basketball schools like Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA are having a harder time getting to the Final Four or even the Sweet 16 because they are able to recruit the bluest of blue-chip players, but then lose them to the NBA after only a year or two.

If you check out the 16 teams that will begin competition for the Final Four tomorrow, the list will be missing some very familiar names such as Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, UCLA and Arizona just to name a few.

In fact, this is the first Sweet 16 without Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky and Kansas—all in the Final Four last year—since the Sweet 16 was created in 1975.

The same appears to be true in the Women’s March Madness Tournament where Stanford became the first No. 1 seed to miss the Sweet 16 since 2009 after being upset Sunday night by Ole Miss 54-49.

So, college basketball fans from the state of Texas should be extremely proud of the Houston Cougars and the Texas Longhorns for making it to the Sweet 16.

The Cougars are only two of the four No. 1 seeds still playing—along with Alabama—after both Kansas and Purdue met early fates. The Jayhawks blew a 12-point lead and fell to the surging Arkansas Razorbacks 72-71 Saturday while the Boilermakers made March Madness history by being upset by No. 16 seed Princeton 59-55 in the first round.

Houston used a dominant second half by outscoring Auburn 50-23 and cruising to an impressive 81-64 victory. The Coogs will meet Miami Friday in the Midwest Regional in Kansas City, after the Hurricanes upset Indiana 85-69.This is the fourth consecutive season U of H has made it to the Sweet 16.

After failing for the last 15 years, the Texas Longhorns finally got that monkey off their backs and beat Penn State 71-66 and advanced to their first Sweet 16 since 2008 with a team full of relative newcomers and longtime assistant coach Rodney Terry, who inherited what should have been a disastrous situation after the former head coach was suspended and then fired in December.

The No. 2-ranked Longhorns will take on third-seeded Xavier Friday in the West Regional in Las Vegas.

KWICKIES…The Houston Astros received a stroke of bad luck last weekend when Superstar second baseman Jose Altuve suffered a fractured right thumb during Team Venezuela’s quarterfinal loss in the World Baseball Classic Saturday night and will undergo surgery in the next few days. The injury will sideline Altuve indefinitely. Altuve suffered the injury when he was hit by a 96-mph fastball during the fifth inning of Saturday night’s game against Team USA, who won the contest 9-7.

South Carolina rolled to its 40th straight victory, downing South Florida 76-45 and making the Women’s March Madness Tourney’s Sweet 16. The Gamecocks’ record improved to 34-0 for the season.

Taylor Moore finished Sunday’s Valspar Championship Tournament on the Pro Tour three holes ahead of third-round leader Adam Schenk, who was playing with Jordan Spieth in a three-way tie. Spieth plunked one in the water and Schenk bogeyed the final hole making Moore’s hour-long wait worth it as he collected $1.458 million in only his second year on the Pro Tour.

Kansas State used an inbounds play in the final minute they call “The Mahomes” where all four players stand on the out-of-bounds line and on a given count three of them sprint in a semi-circle leaving one player free to get the pass before getting fouled. Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes says he loves the play being named after him. K-State hung on to defeat Kentucky 75-69 and advance to the Sweet 16.

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who is representing himself in the NFL’s free agent marketplace, hasn’t gotten one offer from any team who may need a quarterback. The detrimental part of the deal is that the Ravens can match any offer Jackson receives. The Houston Texans now have enough cap space to swing a deal, but probably won’t.

JUST BETWEEN US…Last week the rumor mill had Houston Texans All-Pro offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil going to Kansas City for a couple of high draft picks. Before any names were even mentioned, Texans general manager Rick Caserio traded Houston’s No. 1 receiver Brandin Cooks to the Dallas Cowboys, which freed up enough salary cap money to sign Tunsil to a three-year contract extension worth $75 million with $60 million guaranteed, making it the largest contract yet signed by Caserio. The new deal makes Tunsil the highest-paid tackle in NFL history for the second time in his career. Houston will get the Dallas Cowboys’ fifth-round pick in the 2023 draft and a sixth-round pick in 2024.

 

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