Toyota Center to host Lone Star Showcase doubleheader

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The Toyota Center in Houston, Texas will play host to a doubleheader on Dec. 21, one of which will serve as the final game of the inagural Big 12-SEC Challenge.

The doubleheader has been named the Lone Star Showcase with the first game of the day being a non-conference matchup between city rivals Rice and Houston. The nightcap will feature Oklahoma and Texas A&M, in their pairing of the Big 12-SEC Challenge.

“This is a very exciting day to have the coaches and schools here to announce a world-class basketball event at Toyota Center,” Houston Rockets CEO Tad Brown told CSN Houston on Tuesday. “We want the basketball fans here in Houston to see the great programs here in the area in action.”

Houston will be in its first season in the American Athletic Conference, after spending 17 seasons in Conference-USA. The Lone Star Showcase is a way to keep the rivalry with Rice — who remains in CUSA — intact.

“We are really excited about playing here at Toyota Center,” Rice head coach Ben Braun said. “Continuing our rivalry with Houston is important and regardless of conference realignment it’s important that we continue to play.

“We have had some great games with Houston and we want to continue this rivalry. It’s important to our program and our fans.”

The Rice-Houston game with tip at 3:30 p.m. followed by the Sooners and Aggies at 6 p.m.

Arsalan Kazemi to transfer from Rice

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Rice coach Ben Braun had problems with turnover before, but he might’ve just received this season’s finishing blow.

Owl’s senior-to-be Arsalan Kazemi has requested and received a release from his scholarship and is looking to transfer to a high-major school for his final season of eligibility, the school announced in a release.

The release also states that Kazemi may explore “professional career opportunities”.’s Jeff Goodman spoke to Kazemi about his decision to transfer.

“I’m trying to go to a high-major program for my final season,” Kazemi told Goodman. “Those are the schools I’m interested in, but I’ll also consider other schools.”

Those schools Kazemi listed were Kentucky, Texas, Florida, Ohio State, Cincinnati and Oregon.

The 6-7  Iran native averaged 12.1 points and 10.3 rebounds for Rice last season, helping them to a 19-16 record and an 8-8 record in Conference USA.

This is a worst-case scenario for Braun and the Owls. As Goodman points out in his story, they’ve already lost five players off last season’s team to transfer or to playing professionally, but at least they hadn’t lost a conference player of the year candidate in Kazemi. Now he’s gone too. Another of Rice’s top scorers, Connor Frizzelle, was part of those who left, being that he exhausted his eligibility.

In the end, Rice has now lost six of it’s top seven players and has only five returners. That’s turnover, homes.

Braun is going to have to rely heavily on a five-man recruiting class and hope someone else shows up. Tamir Jackson averaged 10.5 points per game, second behind Kazemi, last season. After him, Julian DeBose is the top returning player, averaging 3.7 points and 0.8 assists in 12.8 minutes per game.

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can find him on Twitter at @David_Harten.