Kelvin Sampson Takes Over the Coogs (Just Don't Expect a Tourney Visit This Year)

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The Cougars try to rebuild once again.
The Houston Cougars come into this basketball season with a new coach. They have new players, and supposedly a new culture. But some things never change, and just as with last season, the Cougars are going to lose a lot of games.

Kelvin Sampson's the new guy in charge. The former assistant coach for the Houston Rockets, Sampson's had numerous NCAA stops, getting Oklahoma and Indiana into the NCAA tourney on multiple occasions. But he lost two of the team's best players shortly after he was hired when TaShawn Thomas transferred to Oklahoma and Danuel House transferred to Texas A&M. Another key player, L.J. Rose, has a broken foot and is out for the foreseeable future. And if the season started today, walk-on Wes VanBeck would be seeing major minutes at point guard.

"We're building this program," Sampson said Tuesday. "This year is what it is. We're establishing culture and getting these guys to play the way we want to play. When people see our style of play, they're going to be excited to watch us. This is going to be a fun team to watch. I'm excited about it."

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Just How Houston Are You? Sports Edition

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Just how Houston are you? Do you remember this team?
There was one of those stupid Twitter hashtags things about Houston this week, this one showing just how much of a Houstonian a person really is. I'm tired of writing about the depressing antics of the Houston Astros and CSN Houston, and I had to miss this week's CUSA Football Media Day in Dallas because of work issues. And frankly, I'm much too lazy to come up with something original to write about. So, with a sports theme, here's my version of #ImSoHouston...

1. ...that I remember when the Houston Rockets couldn't even sell out Hofheinz Pavilion.

2. ...that I remember Nolan Ryan pitching for the New York Mets.

3. ...that I remember what it was like to be awed by the best scoreboard spectacle in all sports.

4. ...that when I was a kid, the Houston Cougars played football in a major college football conference and went to major bowl games on a yearly basis.

5. ...that I recall Tal Smith when he was the beloved, recently deposed general manager of a playoff baseball team and not the guy who helped to destroy a winning franchise.

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Stuart Scott's ESPY Speech Receiving the Jimmy V Perseverance Award Brings Down the House (VIDEO)

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Not all that long ago, I was complaining to a buddy of mine with knowledge of the inner workings at ESPN about the "shtick" of some of the anchors/hosts.

Specifically, I told him that I was not a huge fan of Stuart Scott's work and that Chris Berman's gravelly barrage of jokes that were fresh in 1989 made me want to jam a crowbar through my brain. My friend proceeded to tell me that if anyone was going to have to change in my relationship with ESPN, it would be me because those two guys weren't going anywhere.

"Berman and Stu are the most powerful guys in the building," he said.

Let me just say that I'm still trying to reconcile my feelings with the two of them (both are, by all accounts, pretty nice guys, for what it's worth), but I struggle.

As it pertains to Scott, I respect his longevity, I respect his professionalism, I definitely respect his ability to build a brand. I'm just not wild about the brand.

I'm still not, but after last night's ESPY's, I am a huge fan of Stuart Scott the person and Stuart Scott the father.

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Game Show Follies: Jeopardy Contestants Have No Clue on the Big Ten

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YouTube.com
Ah, Jeopardy hijinks.
Of all the sports "things" that are set to debut this fall (a list that includes Jadeveon Clowney, the SEC Network, and A.J. McCarron trying to shoo his Bengal teammates away from his wife), perhaps the one I'm most excited about is Dan Patrick's new Sports Jeopardy show, which is set to debut on Crackle sometime this fall.

(Okay, that's a lie. I am definitely most excited to see Vontaze Burfict wind up with Katherine Webb, but Patrick's show should still be good.)

For those who don't know, Crackle is a Sony-owned digital service available on mobile devices and services such as PlayStation, Xbox, Apple TV and Roku. Until now, its best known programming is probably Jerry Seinfeld's short comedy series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.

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2014 Summer Preview: What Will Sustain Us as a Sports Nation?

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Photo by Jennifer Boyer
Summer months are harsh for a sports writer.
The dirty little semi-secret in sports talk radio is that there are many hosts out there who dread the months of June, July, and the first part of August.

Yes, the same time of year to which the rest of the free world counts down like a prisoner approaching their parole date, many in my business abhor, some even fear. For the very reason that you look forward to it (vacation!) is one very big reason that sports talk is a barren wasteland in those months.

Add in the fact that the Astros are working on their fourth consecutive 100-loss season and you can see why some might be fearful of (GASP) having to get creative and maybe even (DOUBLE GASP) talk about something other than sports.

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If Google Elected Athletes to Office, the President Would Be...

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Photo by Keith Allison
Bro hugs, it's what sports is all about.
Before computers ruled our lives, before the Internet connected everyone to everything, relevance was a far more subjective attainment. Stardom was a feel, degrees of which were debatable.

Nowadays, with our ability to measure the relative joy in/admiration for/tolerance of almost anything thanks to Internet analytics, we have measures for relevance. Things like web hits, Twitter trending topics, Facebook "Likes." Self-esteem used to have no statistical measurement. Now it has Twitter followers.

These measurements have become incredibly handy in sports (especially in the content-driven part like radio and blogs), as we can truly see in numerical form which athletes/personalities are moving the needle.

To that end, how about this latest bit of data?

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Four Keys to the NCAA March Madness Finals Monday Night

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Photo by Aaron Friedman
Buffet can smell success, and knew the odds against getting a perfect NCAA bracket.
Prior to the beginning of this year's NCAA Men's Basketball tournament (affectionately referred to as "March Madness"), billionaire Warren Buffett was offering a billion dollars to anyone who could complete a perfect bracket.

The immediate reaction to anything that pays a billion dollars is "WOW," because, well, a billion is a lot. Never mind that the odds are like 9.2 quintillion to one to attain a perfect bracket, and Buffett's billion was safe by Saturday of the first weekend.

I mean, it's a BILLION!

Truth be told, if Buffett really wanted to put his money where his mouth was, he'd find a few million between his seat cushions to duke anybody who had Connecticut and Kentucky in their bracket finals!

Because that's what we have tonight.

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Cougars Go All In on Rocket's Kelvin Sampson Despite NCAA Issue

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Is Kelvin Sampson the long sought-after answer?
The University of Houston announced last night that Houston Rockets assistant coach Kelvin Sampson has been named as the ninth head coach in the history of the men's basketball team. Sampson's the former head coach at Washington State, Oklahoma, and Indiana. He got all of those schools into the NCAA tournament. He also left the last two schools facing NCAA sanctions.

Sampson's well-regarded as a coach -- he's the actual Xs-and-Os guy on the Rockets staff. He was known as a good recruiter in college, and he won at a school, Washington State, where nobody but him has been able to win. But the hiring's not without controversy. The NCAA hit him with a five-year show cause letter in 2008, meaning that any school hiring him essentially had to go to the NCAA and get permission. And the reason he was hit with the sanction, and the reason that Oklahoma and Indiana were put on probation, was because of improper cell phone and text message contacts with recruits, an issue that the NCAA now allows.

But the folks doing the hiring at UH aren't too concerned about the shadier aspects of Sampson's past as a head coach.

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Tucson Riot Police Spray Bro With Pellets, Use Excessive Violence on Coed

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CBS Denver
Wild and rioting.
Man, what a weekend of college basketball, huh?! It had a little bit of everything.

The good -- anything having to do with the Kentucky-Michigan game, the emergence of Julius Randle as a viable number one pick in the NBA Draft, the emergence of Shabazz Napier as a sneaky back end of the lottery guy, the storyline of Kentucky's "one and done" philosophy staying alive in the face of an upperclassman laden gauntlet, Kevin Ollie, Scottie Wilbekin, the Harrison twins, Bill Raftery, Madison Square Garden, a Wisconsin team that is actually fun to watch...

The bad -- the elimination of Archie Miller which means the elimination of Morgan Miller, every excruciating replay review in the last two minutes of a game, Adreian Payne's inexplicably deciding to become the biggest two guard on the planet, Reggie Miller's saying anything...

The ugly -- Tucson after the West Regional finals....

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March Madness: Ranking The Sweet 16 Matchups

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The first couple rounds of the NCAA Tournament is almost bulletproof. With so many games, and now the ability to actually see all of them, rarely do we come away disappointed with the first weekend of games.

We get upsets, we get buzzer beaters, we get Greg Gumbel butchering interviews. With so many games, all of those are virtual certainties.

The Sweet 16 is trickier, though. Do the first weekend upsets leave us with a slew of ho hum match ups? Did the committee's poor job in seeding teams catch up with them?

Well, I would say that in 2014, the basketball gods have smiled on us, for the Sweet 16 this season is the perfect mix of upstarts, dark horses, blue bloods, and geography.

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