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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Winners and losers: Shakeup in the Top 5

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Photo by Ishika Samant
Houston F Ja’Vier Francis (5) pops up for the ball during Texas A&M’s game against Houston on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.

Winner: Houston takes the top spot

The stars aligned this week for Houston to grab the coveted No. 1 position in the Top 25 poll, with UConn and Purdue dropping games. In the meantime, the Cougars casually took down No. 6 Iowa State and No. 11 Baylor in overtime on the road.

Houston remains a perfect 15-0 at the Fertitta Center, with all three of its losses coming outside of H-Town. The Cougars previously fell to the Cyclones by four and TCU by a point before a 13-point pounding at Kansas.

When the Cougars are humming along, though, they’re arguably the best team in the country. They’ve introduced themselves to the Big 12 with a suffocating defense that ranks first in the nation along with sharpshooters in senior guards L.J. Cryer and Jamal Shead and redshirt sophomore G Emanuel Sharp.

Houston has won five games in a row entering the final two weeks of the season, and if it can continue at this pace, it can make some noise in March.

Loser: Ole Miss’ tournament hopes

Ole Miss may not have gotten the memo that it was on the NCAA Tournament bubble when it dropped both games this week. The Rebels dropped a rivalry game to Mississippi State 83-71 before a home loss to No. 20 South Carolina, 72-59.

Chris Beard made a case for SEC Coach of the Year when Ole Miss entered conference play with a 13-0 mark, but it’s gone 6-8 since then. The Rebels found themselves as ESPN’s Joe Lunardi’s second team out of his projected NCAA Tournament, but now have more ground to make up.

With a 3-6 record in Quad 1 matchups, Ole Miss will take on Alabama, Missouri, Georgia and Texas A&M to close out the regular season. Given that the Rebels sit at No. 75 in the NET rankings, they will likely have to win each game to have a shot at making the Big Dance.

The future on the hardwood is much brighter in Oxford, Mississippi than it was during last season’s 12-21 campaign, but it will take some time to play in the postseason.

Winner: Stormin’ the court (but with a solution)

Now, now, I know that Duke sophomore center Kyle Filipowski got hurt during Wake Forest’s upset win over the No. 10 Blue Devils and that court storming and its dangerous side effects came into play.

We’ve seen so many incidents with fans storming the court or field, like that one Texas Tech fan shoving a Texas football player two years ago and even more recently with Iowa star Caitlin Clark colliding with an Ohio State fan.

As fun as storming the court is (I wished I was able to do that in last year’s game against No. 2 Alabama), the risk of a player or staff getting hurt is enormous. However, court storming is something that should be done and I have a win-win solution.

Wait until the opposing team is off the floor and wait until after the handshakes are done.

Security and arena staff can have students wait until the court is cleared of the opposing team to celebrate with their home team. In an era where storming the court has almost become a regular, this solution would help protect players and staff whilst having fans and the winning team enjoy themselves.

Bada-bing, bada-boom. Hire me as commissioner ASAP.

Loser: Arizona’s home loss

For a long time, Arizona has been one of the best basketball programs in the country, with a multitude of NBA talent stemming from the Wildcats, including Aaron Gordon, Stanley Johnson, Lauri Markkanen and Deandre Ayton.

However, their March Madness history has been horrendous. They lost to underdogs in the first round, like Princeton in 2023, Buffalo in 2018 and Wichita State in 2016.

In the two games played on Feb. 22, Arizona looked like its tournament play had started.

Ranked No. 4 and at home against No. 21 Washington State, the betting books already had Washington State at -5.5.

And the Cougars won the catfight unscathed.

The Wildcats shot 63% from the charity stripe and though they had more steals and blocks, it didn’t matter.

Though Arizona won on Saturday, Feb. 24 against Washington, the AP Poll dropped it to No. 6 and, if there was any indication of another early Arizona tourney collapse, the home loss against Washington State is a good one.

Winner: Big 12 expansion (for non-football reasons)

When the Big 12 announced the addition of BYU, UCF, Houston and Cincinnati in 2022, all eyes immediately turned to the gridiron. Undeservingly, none of the four schools were particularly remarkable in football this last season.

The real attention needed to be turned to the hardwood, where two schools have made a major impact this season.

Let’s start with the surprise of the conference this year, the BYU Cougars. BYU is currently sitting at 19-8, 7-7 in conference with wins over Baylor, Texas and Iowa State. The Cougars have managed to stay competitive in a cannibalistic Big 12.

Of course, the shining star is Houston, the newest No. 1 team after beating Baylor in overtime this past week. Some questioned if the Cougars could compete in the Big 12, but now they stand alone at the top.

The football-minded individuals overlooked the additions the Big 12 made, but for basketball, the four schools have been A+ additions.

Loser: Chris Holtmann

Ohio State parted ways with Holtmann less than two weeks ago after nearly seven seasons with the Buckeyes. At the time of his firing, Ohio State was 14-11 overall with just a 4-10 showing in Big Ten action.

So, how did the team react to Holtmann’s departure? Did things slide downhill as the Buckeyes began their crawl to the end of the regular season?

Quite the opposite. In its first game without Holtmann, Ohio State casually beat No. 2 Purdue in front of its home crowd. A week later, the magic continued as fifth year G Dale Bonner hit a go-ahead three-pointer with 0.2 seconds remaining at Michigan State. It marked the Buckeyes’ first road win of the year in nine tries.

The Scarlet and Gray aren’t in the NCAA Tournament conversation and more than likely won’t find themselves playing in any sort of postseason tournament. Nonetheless, the wins look great on paper, albeit not for Holtmann, as teams typically don’t improve after firing their coach.

Things aren’t all bad for him, though. Holtmann is set to receive a $12.8 million buyout from the school. Not Jimbo numbers, but still pretty good.

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About the Contributors
Luke White
Luke White, Sports Editor
Luke White is a junior telecommunication media studies major and sport management minor from Round Rock, Texas. He has served as head sports editor since May 2023.
Justin Chen
Justin Chen, Sports Writer
Justin Chen is a journalism senior minoring in sport management and communication. Justin has covered football, men's basketball, volleyball, baseball and swim & dive. Justin also writes feature NBA pieces and covered the Miami Heat for Sir Charles In Charge. When not writing, he likes to frequent the gym, support Arsenal and watch anime.
Hunter Mitchell, Associate Sports Editor
Hunter Mitchell is a sport management senior minoring in journalism. Hunter has covered football, men's and women's basketball, baseball, volleyball, softball, hockey, cross country, track and field, along with swim and dive. Hunter's favorite sport is college basketball, and he is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writer's Association. Hunter also hosts weekly episodes of the Home Turf sports podcast.
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