Fred Faour: Cougars highlight surprisingly busy weekend in Houston

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Romeo Guzman/CSM/Shutterstock (13741742k) Houston Cougars forward J’Wan Roberts (13) goes for the dunk during 1st half NCAA basketball between the Houston Cougars and UCF Knights at Addition Financial Arena in Orlando, FL NCAA Basketball Houston vs Central Florida, Orlando, USA – 25 Jan 2023

Fred Faour: Cougars highlight surprisingly busy weekend in Houston

While this is generally a slow time in sports, this weekend was another exciting one for fans in Houston. The Cougars continue to roll toward March, the XFL has found a nice in the city, and the Astros are working through the early part of spring training. A look at the weekend:

No. 1 Cougars continue to roll: Houston beat up East Carolina 76-57 on Saturday to run its record to 27-2. Just two regular season games remain – Wichita State at home and Memphis on the road – before the conference tournament.

Despite the AAC announcers claiming, “we have a game!” when ECU cut the lead to 15 points, the Cougars dominated from start to finish led by Marcus Sasser (22 points) and Tramon Mark (20).

Has anyone else noticed the ESPN announcers sounding like they are the other team’s broadcast crew all year? I get you have to pump up what’s left of the AAC, but “we have a game?” And praising a 14-14 East Carolina team? It won’t matter come tournament time, but it has been an annoyance all year.

They should be concerned that this is looking more and more like a one-bid league unless Memphis can upset Houston and make a deep conference tournament run.

The only real issue for Houston is they have not really had anyone to play in conference. They have solid wins over Virginia, St. Mary’s, and Kent State (second in the MAC), but only Memphis has added to the resume in conference. The only thing that can derail this team in the NCAAs is the occasional rough shooting night. It happened against Kent and they won, but the Temple game was a recipe for an upset. Having said that, the Cougars get everyone’s best effort every game, and they have been up to the test. This team is a lot of fun, and Kelvin Sampson has been working magic all year. The best is yet to come.

Welcome to the Roughnecks! Wade’s Roughnecks! OK, that is a reach for a Starship Troopers reference, but Wade Phillips has his team off to a 2-0 start in the reboot of the XFL after a 23-14 win over Bob Stoops and Arlington. The score should not have been that close. Houston intercepted the first pass of the game and used a stout second-half defensive effort to clinch the win. Two special teams turnovers kept Arlington in the game. The Necks are looking like one of the best teams in the league.

Astros underway: The Astros began spring training play over the weekend. The takeaway is this is the first step for preparing to repeat as World Series champs. This is where you see a lot of Sugar Land Space Cowboys and pitchers working on new things. And that’s just fine. I still highly recommend a trip to spring training to see your heroes up close and personal!

Rockets make some news: Not for a good reason, however. They were beaten 131-114 by Portland over the weekend. The notable things? The Blazers Damian Lillard went off for 71 points. So the Rockets made SportsCenter, but that’s probably not how they want to do it. They are another high pick away from being competitive again, so brighter times are ahead.

The Dynamo are back! Houston’s soccer club has struggled in recent years, which is a shame, because there is a market in Houston. They opened the season with a loss in Cincinnati over the weekend. Hopefully, new ownership and management will get things turned around.

So yes, for a slow weekend in February, there was plenty to watch in Houston. Hopefully, the Cougars and XFL will continue to carry things until the Astros are back playing meaningful games.

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