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VOL. 133 | NO. 39 | Thursday, February 22, 2018

No. 23 Houston Major Test for Tigers; Memphis WR Miller Creating a Buzz

By Don Wade

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Employing a zone defense, Tubby Smith’s Tigers have won two straight games to get the University of Memphis back to .500 (7-7) in the American Athletic Conference. But their defense will have to reach a new level if the Tigers are to stay with the No. 23 Houston Cougars at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 22, at FedExForum.

The Cougars are 21-5, 11-3 in the AAC, and on a five-game winning streak. They average 76.7 points per game, good for second in the ACC, and their 46.2 field goal percentage also ranks second.

Memphis guard Jeremiah Martin was still the league’s leading scorer through games of Feb. 18. (Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

Houston has made 220 threes and hits them at a 38.4 percent clip (third in league) while Memphis has made just 150 threes and shoots a league-worst 29.8 percent from behind the arc.

Cougars junior Corey Davis leads the AAC with 2.9 made threes per game and is third in the league with a 46.3 field goal percentage from deep. Teammate Armoni Brooks is sixth in the AAC with 42.4 shooting percentage from 3-point range. Combined, they have made 139 triples – or just 11 fewer than the entire Memphis team.

Meanwhile, Memphis guard Jeremiah Martin was still the league’s leading scorer through games of Sunday, Feb. 18, averaging 19.3 points per game. Houston’s Rob Gray was fourth at 17.1 points per game.

Martin also led the league in steals with 60 and was seventh in assists per game with 3.9. Memphis forward Mike Parks Jr. had the fourth-best field goal percentage (54.1) and Kyvon Davenport was ninth in rebounds with 6.2 per game.

Anthony Miller a top 10 WR?

Anthony Miller, the walk-on who became a record-setting receiver at Memphis, is listed as the seventh-best wideout available for the upcoming NFL Draft, according to walterfootball.com. 

The site projects Miller to go in the second or third round and also projects a 40-yard dash time of 4.52.

Tigers wide receiver Anthony Miller runs after a reception during a September 2017 game against UCLA. (Daily News File/Houston Cofield)

More from the site’s analysis: “Miller played really well for Memphis, showing good route-running, quickness, good hands and elusiveness after the catch … could be a weapon as a slot receiver in the NFL.”

At nfl.com, former NFL wideout Steve Smith mentioned Miller as one of the 10 WRs to have caught his attention, saying, “Miller’s track background shines through the minute he steps on the field. Miller runs fast, but plays faster … Miller is good at a lot of things, not great at one,” and has an “it” factor.

NBA to continue evaluating playoff format

While NBA commissioner Adam Silver won’t assure that the league will change its East/West playoff format in the near future, he made clear in his address to media at the recent NBA All-Star Game that he has an open mind about change.

Under the current format, the top eight teams from each conference make the playoffs and are seeded 1-8. The conference champions then meet in the NBA Finals. But the imbalance of power in recent years has tilted so much to the West that critics have renewed the call for altering the format to seeding 1-16 and even abolishing the conferences altogether.

Silver said the league will not be bound by history, saying the obstacle to radically changing the format would be increased travel burdens. The commissioner said the league would continue to give “serious attention” to the two-conference playoff format.

NCAA hits Louisville hard

The Louisville Cardinals became the first Division 1 college basketball team to have a national championship vacated as the NCAA upheld penalties against the program, then coached by Rick Pitino, related to a sex scandal that involved players, recruits and prostitutes.

Under the ruling, Louisville forfeits a total of 123 wins from the 2011-12 through 2014-15 seasons. This includes the Cardinals 2013 national title and also its 2012 trip to the Final Four.

More trouble could still be on the horizon. Several months ago Louisville was named as one of six programs in a federal investigation into bribery and corruption connected to recruiting. Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich were both forced out as a result of that probe, which is ongoing. 

MLB to limit mound visits in 2018

Baseball’s commissioner, Rob Manfred, has announced a limit on mound visits in an effort to speed up the game’s pace of play.

The average game in 2017 took three hours and eight minutes, or 22 minutes longer than the average game in 2005. 

Mound visits will be limited to six per team per nine innings. Anytime a manager, coach or player goes to the mound it will be counted as a mound visit. There are exceptions, but in general that’s the rule. Additionally, pitchers will no longer be guaranteed eight warmup pitches before starting each inning and commercial breaks are being shortened.

Major League Baseball Players Association chief Tony Clark said players are in favor of the game moving at a “crisp” pace, but added: “They remain concerned about rule changes that could alter the outcome of games and the fabric of the game itself.”

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