The Owls Are Tired of Rebuilding, They Want to Win Now

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The Owls are tired of rebuilding and want to win now
There's a new attitude about Rice sports. It started with the baseball team several years ago. And it's spreading with the football team. It's no longer enough to be competitive. It's no longer enough to get the moral victory. No more of the perpetual rebuilding process. Rice sports teams are now expected to win games. Even the men's basketball team.

Mike Rhoades doesn't want to hear about rebuilding plans. The new basketball coach of the Owls expects his team to win, and he expects his team to win now. The team's undersized, and it's undermanned. The guys aren't as talented as many of the players on opposing teams, and they're not quite skilled enough to play the type of game that Rhoades eventually hopes the Owls can play -- an uptempo, pressing game -- but he's not willing to listen to excuses.

The Owls are 6-12 on the season (3-4 in conference play) and lost to Louisiana Tech by a 58-45 score on Saturday night. It was an ugly, sloppy game. Neither team shot better than 45-percent. The Owls hit only 32.6-percent of its shots for the night (an ugly 5-of-19 from behind the three point line). Toss in 18 Rice turnovers and seven missed free throws, and there was almost zero chance the Owls would the game. Louisiana Tech is 15-5 on the season (6-1 in conference) is one of the best teams in Conference USA, so Rice hanging in and staying close could be seen as a victory. But that's not how Rhoades looks at it. His team was sloppy and being close just isn't good enough.

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The Sports World Reacts To The Death Of ESPN's Stuart Scott (1965-2015)

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By Alan Rose (Stu and Alan) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
A few weeks ago on the Monday Night Football pregame show on ESPN, Suzy Kolber was sitting in for Stuart Scott hosting at the onsite desk. I can't recall which former players she was sitting with (likely some permutation of Steve Young, Trent Dilfer, and Ray Lewis), but at the end of the segment, just before kickoff, she had the crew come out to the desk to join them.

At that point, Kolber sent tearful wishes and prayers to Scott, then the whole lot of ESPNers joined hands and raised their arms to salute to the longtime personality, who had been battling cancer on and off for seven years.

It was at that point that you knew that Scott's health situation, the severity of which he did his best to shield from his viewing audience (save a very revealing speech at the ESPY's in accepting the Arthur Ashe Courage Award), was grave.

On Sunday morning, Stuart Scott passed away in a Hartford, CT area hospital at age 49.

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Some (More Than Likely Wrong) Sports Predictions for 2015

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The year 2015 brings some bad news for Craig Biggio fans.
Welcome to the second day of 2015. It's that time that I make my predictions for what's going to happen in the upcoming months. Most of these will be wildly wrong, but who knows. Every now and then I actually get something right. So...

10. Jadeveon Clowney tears his ACL on his first play back on NRG Stadium turf. The Texans still refuse to acknowledge any problems with the pallet system. The next game, J.J. Watt tears his ACL and must miss the entire season. At this point, the NRG Stadium turf is immediately ripped out and replaced by the rotting astroturf sitting inside the Astrodome.

9. The Rice Owls win Conference USA, the second time in three seasons the football team has pulled this off. The Houston Cougars, under new head coach Tom Herman, win eight games and look to be a vastly improved team with high-powered offense and an attacking defense.

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Looking Back at the Year in UH and Rice Sports

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The Cougars definitely want to get 2014 over with
With the Rice Owls having played in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve, and the Houston Cougars playing in the Armed Forces Bowl next Friday, maybe now's a good time to take a look back at the year that was in UH and Rice sports.

HOUSTON COUGARS

Beginnings: A new era dawned on Cougar sports with the opening of TDECU Stadium where Robertson Stadium used to stand. The minimalist facility, seating 40,000 people, offers up great sight lines and a tremendous view of downtown Houston. Finishing touches are still being applied, but it's a huge improvement for fans and players.

Embarrassments: The Cougars opened up TDECU Stadium by losing 27-7 to UTSA. This was just the first of several embarrassing losses for the football team. The Cougars also lost to Tulane on homecoming (Tulane had won just two games at that point), and the Cougars struggled to defeat a Tulsa team that had managed just two wins up to that point. And the basketball team was embarrassed on multiple occasions, losing by 39 and 15 points to Louisville, 23 points to Memphis, 37 points to UConn, 23 points to Rutgers, and 21 points to UCF.

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Trying to Turn Around the Historical Disaster That Is Rice Basketball

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John Royal
Rice basketball doesn't really have a lot to brag about.
It's a dreary Saturday evening in early December. The 1-6 Rice Owls are hosting the St. Edwards Hilltoppers, a Division II college from Austin. The Hilltoppers are supposed to be a patsy, one of those obscure schools that fill out a schedule so the big school can get the easy win.

The game's a struggle for the Owls, though, as have been all the games this season. The team's undersized, the roster's small and the players aren't quite talented enough to play the full-court fast-break offense preferred by new head coach Mike Rhoades. So he's slowed the game up a bit, with lots of passing and running a slower half-court offense. The Owls get tons of great shots with open looks that players die for. It's just that they miss these shots time and time again, allowing the Hilltoppers to stay in the game.

The Owls eventually pull out the 54-49 win. Sophomore big man Andrew Drone leads the team with 14 points and nine rebounds, and the Owls, heading into the finals break, have their second win of the season. It's not pretty, but it's not about being pretty this season. The Owls will take the win, any win, this season, beauty be damned. Especially after so many of their losses this season have been close and somewhat down to the wire.


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Kelvin Sampson Begins the Biggest Challenge of His Career

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John Royal
Kelvin Sampson watches his team in action last week against Morgan State
An SI.com writer was at Hofheinz Pavilion Saturday night working on a story on new Cougar head coach Kelvin Sampson. He stood in one of the bunkers ringing the top of the arena, looking out over the mostly empty stands. He asked when the crowd was going to show up. Those of us in the local media standing next to him just shook our heads and said he was looking at the crowd, that this was the best it was going to get.

The Cougars won the game, defeating a winless Morgan State program by a 72-57 score. It was only the second game of the season for Houston, and it looked it. The Cougars only shot 32.9 percent from the floor (going only eight for 32 in the second half). When the players were missing badly with shots, they were turning it over with an ease not seen since Matt Schaub suited up for the Texans (23 turnovers for the game). And the free-throw shooting brought back memories of Phi Slama Jama, an era back when the inability to hit free throws probably cost the team a NCAA title.

It was an ugly game to watch. It was an ugly win. But the team pushed the ball up the court at a quick pace and pulled down 60 rebounds, a rebounding figure not seen from a UH basketball team since 1995.

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Rockets Fans, Meet Your New Best Friend: Root Sports Southwest

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Tonight I will leave work after my show is over, I will settle in, fix myself a plate of whatever tasty treats my girlfriend Amy has prepared for dinner, sit down on the couch and do something that I've been unable to do since the end of the 2011-2012 NBA season:

I will watch a local Houston Rockets broadcast from the comfort of my own home!

It almost sounds weird to say it, it's been so long since I've been able to do this, and I feel like Red in Shawshank Redemption. I mean... Bill, Clyde, and Bull, complemented by the dulcet tones of Kevin Eschenfelder and Calvin Murphy on the pre and post game shows.... I mean.... This is the excitement only a free man can feel!

And damn if it isn't a great game on tap tonight as well, a battle between the teams with the two best records in the league, the Rockets and the Memphis Grizzlies!

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Rice Baskeball's Rejuvenated and Ready to Start Anew

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The Rice Owls want you to embrace the uncomfortable.
Mike Rhoades wants his players to embrace the unexpected. He wants them to rise to the challenge. That's how things worked at his former stop, Virginia Commonwealth, where he was assistant coach to Shaka Smart. And now that Rhoades is the man in charge of Rice Owls basketball, he's demanding the same thing.

The practices are faster. The style of play uptempo. The workouts are intense (including Navy Seal training at the start of the school year). The players are working to the point of endurance and past it. The Owls of the past several years have been a team that wilted under player defections and controversy. The atmosphere was poisoned, the morale was low. But Rhoades is seeking to change that attitude, to sweep it away with a new approach to the game.

"I just wanted to 'up' everything," he said on Tuesday. "Their approach, their time, their effort. We want to get to a point where we make our guys very quickly uncomfortable, that they understand that that's where you're going to be a lot, so you might as well get comfortable being uncomfortable."

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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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