UH Basketball Slinking Toward Oblivion

Just how bad has it gotten?
The Shasta mascot showed up for Tuesday's Houston Cougar basketball game against the visiting USF Bulls. It roamed the sidelines, did a half-assed imitation of mascots for other schools, but really didn't do much of anything. And then there's one other minor detail: the mascot showed up for the basketball game wearing a football uniform.

That, if anything, is the epitome of all that is wrong with the University of Houston basketball experience. The mascot can't even be bothered to wear the right uniform to the game. But then again, at least the mascot is at most of the home games, which is more than you can say about the cheerleaders and drill team. And let's not even get started on the band, a group who think shouting "air ball" at shots that clink off the rim is the height of taunting.

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Zapruder Analysis: WAC College Basketball Post-Game Fight

From movieclip.com on Youtube
WAC gets in their jabs like Cruise.
There's a scene in the Tom Cruise movie Far and Away (Yes, I know, I know...on the list of Cruise movies, this one is a tad obscure. It's like talking about the 2009 NBA Draft and bringing up Eric Maynor instead of James Harden or Blake Griffin) when the home of the wealthy Irish landlord is burned to the ground, and, as the landlord's wife is going through the charred remains of her home, she mutters despondently, "This is not the Ireland of my birth..."

That's kind of how I feel about the Western Athletic Conference (which is still and always will be the WAC to you and me).

What was once a trendy Mountain time zone football pinball machine has through realignment morphed into this unrecognizable mishmosh of orphaned state schools, brought together by a common mediocrity in all things athletic.

To wit, something called a "Utah Valley" is currently atop the WAC standings at 11-3 in conference play.

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Cougars Stun Memphis, Quiet Doubters for a Bit

The Cougars pulled off a huge upset last night
The Houston Cougars had no business being on the same court with the Memphis Tigers. The Cougars had no business leading at the half. The Cougars shouldn't have been leading at the midway point of the second half.

But most of all, the Cougars really should not have been the one's protecting a lead at the end of the game. The ones watching the 21st ranked Tigers go into panic mode, making wild shots and stupid shots and watching a coach's meltdown on the sidelines.

Yet at the end it was the Houston Cougars on top of the world when the buzzer sounded, pulling off the 77-68 upset of the Tigers. The Cougars (14-14, 6-9) were the one's who celebrated. The Tigers (21-7, 10-5) the ones in shock, wondering what in the hell just happened.

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The Marcus Smart Outrage: Taking Up for the Player

Sometimes, fans are losers too.
"There is such a thing as manners. A way of treating people. These fish have manners! They have manners." -- Jerry Maguire

It's times like Saturday when Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart probably wishes he had just cashed in his chips and been a top five pick in last year's NBA Draft.

In case you missed it (good luck), in the waning moments of Texas Tech's 65-61 upset of Oklahoma State in Lubbock on Saturday night, Smart fell down near the bottom of the baseline stands in United Spirit Arena after a hard foul on a Texas Tech player.

What happened next dominated Twitter, television, and casual conversation for the next 12 hours (which is about the normal shelf life for outrage in today's microwave popcorn society):

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University of Houston Welcomes Back Guy V. Lewis

University of Houston Athletic Department
UH is honoring Guy V. Lewis on Wednesday. Will you be there?
I was at the last game Guy V. Lewis coached inside Hofheinz Pavilion. A Cougar victory in overtime of 15th-ranked TCU. It was my sophomore year at UH, March 1, 1986. I don't remember much about the game, not much more than shouting "Guy V., Guy V." a lot and banging on the seats. I attended the game with a group of friends, all UH students, and we sat in the sparsely attended student section.

Hofheinz was sparsely attended that season, attendance averaging 4,928 for that season despite UH hosting multiple big name and highly ranked schools. But the Cougars struggled mightily that season, just two years removed from the championship loss to Georgetown, and the UH faithful were as UH faithful always are, caring only for teams that win, not teams that finish a season at 14-14. Attendance had been moderately better the season before, the Cougars drawing an average of 5,698 fans despite the team coming off it's third straight Final Four appearance.

This season's Cougars are struggling mightily. The team's highpoint this season has been a New Year's Eve upset over the ranked UConn Huskies in a game attended by almost nobody. UH has lost its last four road games by an average of 24.5 points, including a 93-70 loss at Rutgers on Saturday and a 80-43 loss at UConn last Thursday. The team's not good. The play on the court looks uninspired.

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Wait, What, SMU Breaking the Rules?

Is it time for ESPN to do another 30 For 30 on SMU sports?
Are you the Sports Information Director for a major college athletic program? Do the sports programs at that school have a reputation for bending NCAA rules? Do you like your job, like traveling the country and being involved with sports? Then here's a little hint: don't let your Hall of Fame basketball coach be blindsided at a press conference with questions about players tampering with grades.

This was going to be a story on the rebirth of the SMU basketball team. About a legendary coach taking on one last job, one last challenge. This was going to be about Larry Brown, the only man to coach NCAA and NBA teams to titles. It was going to be about the SMU Mustangs defeating the Houston Cougars yesterday 75-68 to move to 16-4 on the season.

But then came the post-game press conference and WFAA's Brett Shipp asking Brown his attitude about players who don't come to class, don't turn in work assignments, who get grades changed and transfer to SMU. That lead to Brown's stock answer, that answer every coach gives, about the importance of education and everything the school does to make sure the players do their school work. The questioning continues with generalities until Brown's asked if he has a zero tolerance policy towards players who change grades which is when Brown finally ask Shipp's what he's getting at.

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UH Basketball Versus the Apathetic Fan Base

Phi Slama Jama.jpg
Will UH fans ever again care about UH basketball?
It's easy to jump on the UH fan base and once again belittle the lack of attendance at Hofheinz Pavilion for UH basketball. Yesterday's UH/Rutgers game was a noon tip-off, and the excuses range from church, the marathon, the great weather, and NFL playoffs. But none of that really matters because it just appears that it's getting to the point where UH basketball is forever doomed to be nothing more than an afterthought.

It's been three decades since UH basketball was a national power. Two decades since the program could be counted on to make a postseason appearance. There's been a lot of bad decisions made (Clyde Drexler, Ray McCallum, the installation of the bunker-like suites at the top of the Hofheinz concourses and many, many others). And those bad decisions have led to a point where it just appears that, but for a few hundred diehards who come out every night, nobody really gives a damn about Houston Cougars basketball.

UH's 77-55 win over Rutgers yesterday wasn't the most eagerly anticipated of games. UH had just been blown out by Louisville three nights earlier. Rutgers is a no-name, mediocre program that won't even be in the conference next season. The early tip time was dictated by the needs of television. But this game could've been played in prime time on a Saturday night and the attendance would've still been the same.

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Cougars Stun UConn While Nobody's Watching

John Royal
An empty Hofheinz Pavilion half-an-hour before Tuesday's UH v. UConn contest
In days of yore, Hofheinz Pavilion would've been filled to overflowing for a game pitting UH against nationally ranked UConn. In days past, students would've been camped out overnight for the chance to spend a New Year's Eve cheering on the Cougars as a national audience watched on ESPN 2.

That was before lackluster basketball season after lackluster season. Before Guy V. Lewis gave way to Pat Foster to Alvin Brooks to Clyde Drexler to Ray McCallum to Tom Penders to James Dickey. Back to the days when Houston itself was a national power going to three straight Final Fours. But that was a long time ago, and now the Coogs are in a new conference with some national basketball powers and ESPN is televising the conference games, all of the conference games, and nobody's coming to Hofheinz to watch a UH basketball team that's struggled to defeat Texas State and Howard and Rice face off against the 17th-ranked UConn Huskies on New Year's Eve.

Hofheinz Pavilion was a ghost town on Tuesday night, and that's a shame because those lucky few who were in attendance (and those not watching the Aggies versus Duke on ESPN) saw the Cougars play their best basketball game of the James Dickey era, upsetting UConn by a 75-71 score. It's a game no one saw coming. Certainly not the fans. Certainly not those watching on ESPN 2. Certainly not the coach and players of UConn, and if they were to answer candidly, it's definitely not even something the Cougars saw coming.

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Countdown to 2013 King of Content: The One-Hit Wonders

He has a whole "collection"?
When it comes to crowning the King of Content for the year 2013, quantity is the basis on which the kingdom is built, and rightfully so. Maintaining a consistent flow of excellence/criminal behavior/bizarre work/belligerence is what gets you the ultimate reward.

But the extravaganza that is an overall calendar year requires a little bit of everything -- enduring, lasting personalities as well as brief flashes of pseudo-celebrity brilliance. I mean, sure, Live Aid was great because of The Who and U2, but Billy Ocean and Spandau Ballet were awesome, too!

So yes, when we look back at 2013, our first thoughts will be of Johnny Football's social media exploits, Royce White's anxiety drama and Aaron Hernandez's addiction to (allegedly) killing people.

But we needed a few no-namers getting their 15 minutes of fame to fill in the gaps. Here are my seven favorite 2013 King of Content "one-hit wonders":

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Countdown to 2013 King of Content: 5. Royce White

I know right about now, after he assembled a roster that includes the acquisition of arguably the two best players in the league at their respective positions within nine months of each other, that to say, "Hey, not all of Daryl Morey's moves have been that great" sounds like blasphemy.

But, it's worth noting, Morey did use a first round draft pick on Royce White in 2012. Hey, nobody's perfect.

(NOTE: Admittedly, Morey has been damn near perfect, on the sliding scale of perfection you'd apply to sports GMs, over the past couple of years in assembling this roster, and truth be told, what you're about to read has head coach Kevin McHale's fingerprints on it as well.)

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