Source: Mark Brown / Getty Images North America

Preview: SMU at Houston

No. 12 Houston must rebound from a loss for the first time since early January and avoid looking ahead to its regular-season finale when struggling SMU pays a visit on Thursday night for an American Athletic Conference contest. The Cougars saw their 12-game winning streak come to an end and lost for the first time in 34 home contests Saturday with a 69-64 setback against Central Florida.

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“I’m proud of my team,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson told reporters of the Cougars, who are tied with Cincinnati for first place in the American. “We’re 27-2 and 14-2 in the league. We’ll go back to work, regroup and get back at it.” Cincinnati visits red-hot UCF on Thursday and hosts Houston on Sunday in what could be a showdown for the regular-season crown in the American, but the Cougars must stay alert against an SMU team that started the league season 3-1 before dropping 10 of its last 12 contests. The Mustangs gave Cincinnati trouble last week in a 52-49 defeat before losing by 12 to Wichita State on Sunday, dropping into a tie for 10th in the league with Connecticut. SMU junior point guard Jimmy Whitt Jr., who had 20 points, six rebounds and six assists in the 69-58 loss to Houston on Jan. 16, missed the game against Wichita State with a shoulder injury and is considered day-to-day.

TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

ABOUT SMU (13-15, 5-11 American): Senior guard Jahmal McMurray, who recorded 27 points against Cincinnati on Feb. 27, leads the team in scoring (17.8 per game) while Whitt (12.0 points) tops the Mustangs in rebounds (6.6), assists (4.1) and steals (1.4). Versatile senior guard Jarrey Foster returned to the lineup Sunday after missing 10 games with a knee injury, scoring seven points on 1-of-6 shooting with a pair of rebounds in 20 minutes. Sophomore forward Ethan Chargois also averages 12 points and freshman big man Feron Hunt scored a season-high 14 against Wichita State.

ABOUT HOUSTON (27-2, 14-2): Senior guard Corey Davis Jr. led the way with 19 points in Saturday’s loss and is averaging 21.5 over the last four contests, including 20-of-36 shooting from 3-point range, to push his season mark to a team-high 16.1 points per game. Armoni Brooks, who was held to seven points by UCF, is the only other playing averaging in double figures scoring (13.5) for the well-balanced Cougars and the junior guard tops the team in rebounding (6.4). Sophomore guard DeJon Jarreau has stepped up his production level the last three games, averaging 13.7 points and 4.7 assists.

TIP-INS

1. SMU sophomore F Isiaha Mike averages 11.9 points, but is just 9-of-30 from the field over the last three contests.

2. Houston senior G Galen Robinson Jr. is set to tie Ken Ciolli and George Walker on Thursday for second in team history in games played (129).

3. The Mustangs, who have lost three in a row against the Cougars after winning five of the previous six, averaged 50.7 points over their last three games.

Posted in CBB, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: B.J. Taylor
Source: Jared Wickerham / Getty Image North America

Preview: Houston at Central Florida

It didn’t take long for Central Florida to get rid of the bad taste in its mouth from a 20-point loss to Memphis as the Knights went out and beat Connecticut 73-67 last Thursday for their 11th victory at home. But now the going gets tougher for the Knights as they welcome 12th-ranked Houston to Orlando on Thursday for a battle between two of the top three teams in the American Athletic Conference.

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“Our whole thing after the Memphis game was to get right,” UCF senior guard B.J. Taylor told reporters after the UConn victory. “We knew we had to come back and get back to being who we were and get back to winning.” The Knights came out on fire against the Huskies, surging out to a 15-point lead in the first half but they had to hang on for the win as their usually tough defense loosened up after the break, letting UConn hit 53 percent of its shots in the second half, including 6-of-12 from 3-point range. The Cougars, likewise, rely on their defense and it has carried them to six straight victories, including a 73-66 triumph over Temple Thursday night that avenged the team’s only loss of the season (73-69 to the Owls on Jan. 9) during which each opponent was held to 70 points or less during that streak. “We win with defense,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson told reporters. “The thing we hang our hat on — and good teams have something they can hang their hat on — is the way we defend and rebound.”

TV:
7 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network

ABOUT HOUSTON (21-1, 8-1 AAC): Junior guard Armoni Brooks entered the last outing as the Cougars’ leading scorer at 14.8 points per contest but he had an off night against Temple due to foul trouble and was held to a season-low three points, dropping him to second (14.3) on the team in scoring to senior guard Corey Davis Jr. (15.0), who had 24 points against the Owls. Brooks paces the team in rebounds (6.1) while senior point guard Galen Robinson Jr. sits second in the conference with 5.3 assists per game. The Cougars rank sixth in the nation in scoring defense (60.5) and they limited Temple to 34.3 percent shooting from the field to push them up to second nationally in field goal percentage defense (36.3).

ABOUT UCF (16-4, 6-2): The Knights have matched the 2003-04 squad for the program’s best 20-game start in the Division I era, and a victory over the Cougars would give them their best nine-game record in AAC play. UCF ranks second in the conference to Houston in field goal percentage defense (39.3) and third behind Houston and Cincinnati in scoring defense (63.9), but it’s a much-improved and efficient offense — the AAC’s best (46.8 percent) — that is the difference in the team this season. Taylor (16.9 ppg) came up big in carrying the Knights past UConn with his first 20-point game (21) since he totaled 24 in the AAC opener against Temple, but guard Aubrey Dawkins, the team’s second-leading scorer(15.1), was held below 10 points for the second straight game after he scored in double digits the first 18.

TIP-INS

1. Houston owns a 14-10 series lead and has won three straight and five of the last six meetings, including an 84-56 victory in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament a year ago.

2. The Knights are just 5-44 against ranked teams, but two of those victories (Alabama, Cincinnati) came in the last two seasons under head coach Johnny Dawkins.

3. The Knights have won 31 home games in a row, the nation’s longest active streak.

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Posted in CBB, Top Fantasy Picks

Pictured: Quinton Rose (in dark)
Source: Michael Reaves / Getty Image North America

Preview: Temple at Houston

No. 13 Houston would love to avenge the lone blemish on its record Thursday when it hosts Temple in American Athletic Conference action. The Cougars’ only defeat came earlier this month against the Owls, who now are trying to avoid losing for the third time in four games.

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In the first matchup on Jan. 9, Temple held Houston below 40 percent shooting and converted a crisp 25-of-28 foul shots to hold off the Cougars 73-69. Quinton Rose and Nate Pierre-Louis combined for 40 points, while Houston’s four starters, aside from Breaon Brady, shot a combined 9-of-33 from the field. Houston has since won five in a row – all by at least nine – allowing more than 65 points only once in that stretch. Temple, meanwhile, is 3-2 since its win over the Cougars and blew a 14-point second-half lead against Cincinnati in losing 72-68 its last time out.

TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2

ABOUT TEMPLE (15-5, 5-2 American): Leading scorer Shizz Alston Jr. (18.5) has really struggled with his shooting in January, and the first game against Houston was perhaps his worst of the month (3-of-15 for 12 points). Rose (17.1 points) has picked up the slack of late and is 7-of-13 from 3-point range in the last two games after opening the season 15-of-77 from beyond the arc. Pierre-Louis (14.0) is seeking his 10th straight game with double-digit points, although he shot a season-low 25 percent (3-of-12) in the defeat to Cincinnati.

ABOUT HOUSTON (20-1, 7-1): The Cougars have two double-digit scorers on the season – Armoni Brooks and Corey Davis Jr. – who combine to average nearly 30 points per game with 133 made 3-pointers between them. Brooks (14.8 points) was 2-of-12 from the field in the first Temple game and managed only five points in 33 minutes. Davis (14.6 points) has scored more than 12 only twice in the last seven outings, including an 11-point effort against Temple on 4-of-11 shooting and an even rougher line (five points on 2-of-14 shooting) in the team’s most recent game – a 77-65 win over Tulsa.

TIP-INS

1. Six of Houston’s top eight scorers shoot at least 72 percent from the foul line.

2. Alston has attempted at least five 3-pointers in every game since the season opener.

3. Pierre-Louis had one turnover versus Cincinnati after recording at least three in six straight games.

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Posted in CBB, Top Fantasy Picks

NCAA Fantasy Football Preview

The American Athletic Conference

The time has come for college football. With a little less than two month before kickoff in Sidney, FanPicks previews the NCAA 2016 campaign. First off is the American Athletic Conference holding twelve programs on their list. The Houston Cougars came out on top, winning fourteen out of their fifteen 2015 games including the Peach bowl. They’ve stunned Florida State, who came in as the heavy favorite, to win by a score of 38-24 and take home silver football.

The American Athletic Conference last claimed the national championship in 1982, when the SMU Mustangs won it for two consecutive years. The Cincinnati Bearcats barely missed a participation to the BCS championship after recording a 12-0 season in 2009. The American Athletic Conference may not be has strong of a conference as the Big 12 or SEC, but has what it takes to make some noise as one of the five power conferences in the BCS.

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Cincinnati Bearcats Cincinnati logo

One team that may be pretty surprising going into the 2016 season is the Cincinnati Bearcats as they could make some noise in the AAC. They have a good problem right now as any one of their three quarterbacks (Hayden Moore, Ross Trail and Gunner Kiel) could win the starting job.

Connecticut Huskies Connecticut logo

Running back Arkeel Newsome led the AAC with 1,686 all-purpose yards as a sophomore, including two 100-yard rushing performances in the Huskies’ final five games.

East Carolina Pirates East Carolina logo

One of the top returning receivers in the nation, Isaiah Jones hauled in 98 passes for 1,099 yards and five touchdowns last season.

Houston Cougars Houston logo

The Cougars are coming off a breakthrough 13-1 season and Peach Bowl upset of Florida State. Dynamic dual-threat QB Greg Ward Jr. (2,828 yards and 17 TDs) should continue to develop under guru Tom Herman. He’ll have help from RB Duke Catalon and WRs Chance Allen and Isaiah Johnson.

Memphis Tigers Memphis logo

Doroland Dorceus was Memphis’ top all-around back last season, rushing for 661 yards and eight TDs while adding 217 receiving yards and three TD catches.

Navy MidshipmenNavy logo

The Navy Midshipmen had one of their best seasons in program history last year, going 11-2 and winning the Military Bowl. It was a relief for Navy’s fan to see coach Ken Niumatalolo decide to stay rather then take the offer to coach BYU this winter. Senior QB Tago Smith will have to follow in the footsteps of four-year starter Keenan Reynolds.

SMU Mustangs SMU logo

The 6-foot-4 sophomore, Courtland Sutton, is ranked fifth nationally among freshmen receivers with 862 yards and tied for the conference lead with nine TD receptions.

South Florida Bulls South Florida logo

Tailback Marlon Mack ran for a school-record 1,381 yards last year and led the conference in rushing, averaging 6.6 yards a carry with 13 runs of more than 20 yards.

Temple Owls Temple logo

QB P.J. Walker, a senior with 33 starts, holds school records for TD passes (52) and total offense (8,237 yards), and with 7,374 passing yards, he’s 121 short of the school record.

Tulane Green Wave Tulane

Former Tulane starting QB Tanner Lee has transfered to Nebraska. This means, Sherman Badie and Dontrell Hilliard, whom have both rushed for more than 600 yards in a season, should see more carries in an offense designed to run the football with multiple backs.

Tulsa Golden Hurricanes Tulsa logo

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior, Dane Evans threw 25 TDs and completed 63 percent of his passes with just eight picks. He threw for 427 yards and four TDs with no interceptions at Oklahoma.

UCF Knights UCF logo

New University of Central Florida head coach Scott Frost introduced new uniform for the team, in hopes that they can shine from the few bright spots that they’ve offered last year. Wide receiver Tre’quan Smith led the Knights in receptions (52), receiving yards (724) and receiving TDs (four) and was one of the team’s few bright spots.

Posted in CFB

Fanpicks.com College Football Bowl Game Preview

Chick-Fil-A Peach BOWL

Florida State vs. Houston

 

Fanpicks.com is proud to bring you the Peach Bowl game preview featuring Florida State against Houston.  This bowl game will be another close nail bitter with Florida State topping Houston 24-20.  Play the best fantasy college football contests at Fanpicks.com

 

Houston is looking for its second 13-win season in school history and some national respect when it faces Florida State in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl on Dec. 31 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The Seminoles’ senior class is trying to become the first in FBS history to win 50 games in a four-year span. The Cougars own a 12-2-2 record against Florida State, but the teams haven’t met since 1978.

Florida State became the first team since Alabama in 2011 to hold each regular-season opponent to fewer than 25 points and is ranked fifth in scoring defense (15.8). The Seminoles is tough against the run, allowing 141.8 rushing yards and seven total touchdowns on the ground. Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (1,041 rushing yards, 19 TDs) and running backs Kenneth Farrow (949 yards, 12 TDs) and Ryan Jackson (353 yards, three TDs) powered the Cougars’ ground attack.

Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook led the ACC in rushing yards (1,658) and touchdowns (18) and finished the season with four straight 100-yard games. Houston was also solid defensively – ranked 19th in scoring defense (20.5 points) and 12th in rushing defense (116 yards) – but hasn’t faced a back as explosive at Cook. The Cougars were also second nationally with a plus-17 turnover margin after recording 30 takeaways.

 

HOUSTON Season Overview(12-1, 7-1 American Athletic Conference): Ward, who completed 68.1 percent of his passes for 2,590 yards, 16 TDs and five interceptions, leads FBS quarterbacks with 16 runs of at least 20 yards. Cornerback Brandon Wilson rushed for 181 yards and two scores in two starts in place of the injured Farrow (missed past two games with ankle injury) and Jackson (past four games, collarbone), but the duo returned to practice and should be available New Year’s Eve. Demarcus Ayers led the Cougars – who averaged 40.6 points – with 89 catches for 1,140 yards and six touchdowns.

FLORIDA STATE Season Overview (10-2, 6-2 ACC): Sean Maguire (90-of-145 for 1,128 yards, nine touchdowns, two interceptions) prepares to start his first bowl game after replacing Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson – who did not make the trip to Atlanta because of personal reasons – for the second half of the season. Cook has the most rushes of at least 20 yards among FBS running backs (22) while Kermit Whitfield (53 catches for 742 yards, six TDs) and Travis Rudolph (52, 715 yards, six) lead the receivers. Defensive end DeMarcus Walker was tied for second in the ACC with 10.5 sacks while the cornerback duo of Jalen Ramsey and Marquez White provide a solid secondary.

 

Posted in CFB