‘Good luck’: Coaches sound off about facing Houston this season

  • Jeff Borzello, ESPN

    • Personnel WriterFeb 29, 2024, 09:00 AM ET Close Basketball recruiting expert.
    • Joined ESPN in 2014.
    • Graduate of University of Delaware.Last offseason

, Kelvin Sampson didn’t have much time to consider Houston’s relocation from the American to the Big 12. The Cougars’ head coach was more worried about replacing three starters off a group that had earned a 1-seed in the NCAA tournament.All-American guard Marcus

Sasser? Gone. Lottery game pick forward Jarace Walker? Gone. Double-figure scorer Tramon Mark and seasoned reserve Reggie Chaney? Both gone.Leaving one conference for another wasn’t precisely at the leading edge of Sampson’s preseason thinking.”It was simply a various schedule in some ways,”Sampson informed ESPN on Monday.

“We didn’t alter anything. Our company believe in what we’re doing here. I didn’t end up being a various coach. I didn’t go out and get some magical players or alter our culture. We do what we do and we attempt to do the very best we can every night. “Houston increased to No. 1 in the AP poll this week, the 2nd season in a row in which the Cougars have actually been atop the rankings. They’re also on track to get a 1-seed in the NCAA competition for the second successive season and are favorites to advance to a minimum of the Sweet 16 for the 5th straight NCAA tournament. Despite this being their very first season in the best conference in men’s college basketball, the Cougars are poised to win yet another league title.How excellent, actually, is this iteration of Houston? Wins over Iowa State and Baylor last week vaulted the Cougars along with UConn and Purdue as championship game favorites. We reached out to opposing coaches to examine their ceiling.”You can’t imitate it” play 0:36 Jamal Shead gets the steal and dishes to J’wan Roberts for a slam Jamal Shead gets the take from Cincinnati and passes behind to J’wan Roberts for a huge slam dunk.There are 2 nonnegotiables when it comes to Houston’s program: physical, aggressive defense and physical, aggressive offending rebounding. Those have actually been the tenets of the team’s success

under Sampson, ranking in the top 25 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency in 7 straight seasons(leading 10 in each of the previous 4 seasons )and in the leading 10 in offending rebounding percentage in each of the previous 5 seasons. “We don’t change a whole lot year to year,” Sampson stated on a call with reporters earlier today.” The toughness thing, you got to be developed on something. Every group’s going to be known for

something. … I select to be understood for what our identity is, how hard we play, our strength. That stuff matters.”This season’s defense is Houston’s finest under Sampson. The Cougars are ranked No. 1 in adjusted protective efficiency at KenPom and inside the top 5 in turnover portion, 2-point defense, block percentage and take percentage. They have actually allowed just 6 opponents all season to score more than one point per belongings, and just three have scored more than 70 points in a game.Editor’s Picks 2 Related “They play with a function. There’s a lot of effort, however they have a great deal of function to what they do,” one opposing Huge 12 coach stated.”You speak about it with your group. They’re going to send out two to the

ball, so try to throw the ball ahead on

ball screens. But they have active hands, they’re jumping in passing lanes. You can’t simulate it. It takes 10, 15 minutes to get adjusted, and you have actually got yourself in a bit of a hole. They’re physical with their bodies, they’re physical in the paint. Other groups attempt to do the very same thing, however the on-ball defense on the boundary takes you back a bit.”Another coach included,”They’re really linked. You can just tell it’s ingrained in them that defense matters. [Jamal] Shead and [J’Wan] Roberts are undoubtedly terrific, but [Emanuel] Sharp is a monster on the protective end. He’s physical, he’s into the ball, and he’s 6-5. He can protect your finest boundary player, and that’s on top of Shead, on top of Roberts.”The defense has equated from not just the AAC to the Big 12 but also in the NCAA tournament. After his group lost to Houston in the Sugary food 16 in 2022, Arizona head coach Tommy Lloyd said the short turnaround between games and the unfamiliarity with your opponent makes getting ready for the Cougars a practically impossible job.”You’re better served if you play them a couple times,” Lloyd said at the time.”They do the important things they’re proficient at, at such a high level. It’s tough to get comfortable the very first time around. You can attempt to tell your guys what’s coming, but they really have a lot

much better feel for it having actually experienced it.” play 0:17 Emanuel Sharp makes the hard layup Houston’s Emanuel Sharp drives previous Iowa State protectors for a layup.At the other end, the physicality and aggressiveness that enable Houston

to be

so elite defensively likewise make it dominant on the offensive glass. It’s been a staple under Sampson, with the Cougars rebounding more

than one-third of their misses out on in 9 of his 10 seasons. This season, they’re ninth nationally in offensive rebounding portion according to KenPom, ninth amongst power-conference programs in second-chance points per game and 3rd in second-chance points per 100 possessions, according to CBB Analytics.”Their stuff is elite,”one opposing coach stated.”It’s typically four guys. It’s generally simply [L.J.] Cryer not going. Shead is in there, Sharp is going, [Ja’Vier] Francis and Roberts. All of a sudden, it’s 4 professional athletes and all

they’re attempting to do is get a hand on it, make extra belongings. I make sure there’s strategy to it, however it’s truly just a multiple-effort deal. “All of Houston’s frontcourt players are great offensive rebounders. Roberts led the AAC in offensive rebounding percentage last season and ranks in the leading 10 in the Huge 12 this season; Francis is ideal behind Roberts in the Big 12 chain of command; and freshman Joseph Tugler has been better than both

this season in minimal minutes.One coach said you can harp on Houston’s strengths as often as you can, but the Cougars are merely much better at both than a lot of teams. “It’s not a pretty brand name of basketball,”he stated.”They throw it up there and get the offending rebound and after that they stop you.””He’s the very best player in the league ” play 2:08 Kelvin Sampson credits durability for Houston’s win over Iowa State Houston coach Kelvin Sampson explains why Houston’s durability sustained the group to a win over Iowa State.After Shead had 26 points and 6 assists to lead Houston to a 73-65

win over Iowa State last week– avenging the Cougars ‘first loss of the season– Sampson went on”SportsCenter”with Scott Van Pelt to sing his applauds.”I

hear a great deal of people discuss who the very best point guard is, I never hear

them mention Jamal Shead,”Sampson said.”I wouldn’t trade Jamal Shead for any point guard in America.

I think we have the best point guard. He’s a winner, he’s remained in this program for four years, he’s what we represent. “Top stories of the week from Get exclusive access to thousands of premium articles a year from top writers. – Bubble Watch: Big 12’s role up until now”- A totally free agent signing deadline for MLB? “- NFL complimentary agency tiers: RBs and Pounds”More ESPN+material”Shead has actually steadily made strides during his four-year Houston career and, as a senior, is

averaging career highs in points(13.1 PPG), rebounds(3.8 RPG ), assists (6.1 APG)and takes(2.3 SPG), while likewise shooting a career-best 33.7 %from 3-point range. He’s the Cougars’catalyst on the protective end of the floor and is their closer offensively, the player his

teammates seek to for a huge basket late in games.”He’s the best player in the league, “a Big 12 coach said. “Whatever he does is about winning. How he safeguards, the shots he takes, how he interacts with guys on the floor. To me, that’s what we desire our point guard to appear like. He can take control of a game. See the Iowa State game, they cut the lead to 5 three times, he scored a basket whenever. He determines the game, then simply goes and makes a play.” Shead is also playing himself onto NBA draft radars, as ESPN’s Jonathan Givony detailed previously today.”They’re going to go through a lull eventually “ play 0:24 L.J. Cryer flushes trey for Houston L.J. Cryer flushes a 3-point jumper vs. Cincinnati.While Houston will go into the NCAA competition as one of the favorites to reduce the nets, it’s not a best team. The majority of the Cougars’weak points begin the offending end, despite the fact that they’ve had the most effective attack in the Huge 12 in conference play.They look after the ball remarkably well– and their offensive rebounding prowess has currently been gone over above– but they seldom get to the free toss line and can struggle to make shots from the boundary. Houston ranks 12th out of 14 Huge 12 groups in effective field goal percentage, 2-point portion and free toss rate, while sitting in the middle of the pack in 3-point percentage.In the Cougars’ 3 losses this season, they shot a combined 20-for-73(27.4%)from 3-point range.Men’s Tournament Obstacle Total your bracket by selecting the winner for each game of the 2024 males’s NCAA competition. Play Men’s Competition Difficulty”You understand they’re going to go through a lull at some time, “one coach said.”I don’t know if they have like, 85 points in them.”The essential offensively might be Cryer.

The former Baylor Bears transfer was lights-out during the very first half of the season, averaging 17.1 points and shooting 40.7%from 3-point variety over the very first 14 games. Ever since, his numbers have actually dipped to 13.4 points and 35.2%from 3. He had five points in each of

Houston’s first 2 losses, shooting 2-for-9 against Iowa State and 2-for-14 against TCU in the back-to-back games.But Cryer can also be a difference-maker on

the offending end for Houston, someone with NCAA tournament experience who scored 30 points in Baylor’s second-round loss to Creighton

last season.”He’s got to be the guy that’s consistently making shots,”a Big 12 coach said.”Shead and Sharp are beautiful constant and can do numerous things, whereas Cryer requires to make threes. That’s a big X element for them. … I believe they have the possible to be a Last 4 group and nationwide title competitor, but it has to begin the offending end.””You have to get on them early” play 0:29 Iowa State hits absurd fadeaway late to hand Houston its first loss Milan Momcilovic strikes a tough jumper with two protectors on him to give Iowa State the late lead vs. Houston.Sampson stated earlier today that the greatest hurdle when it concerns competition success is going to be the team’s health, which is a familiar style for the Cougars. 2 seasons ago, they lost star Marcus Sasser after 12 games. Last season, Sasser suffered a groin injury in the AAC tournament semifinal, requiring him to miss out on the title-game loss to Memphis and restricting him in the first round of the NCAA tournament.This season, sophomore wing Terrance Arceneaux tore his right Achilles in December and was lost for the

season, while junior reserve Ramon Walker Jr. tore his meniscus recently and is out for

the season.”Ramon was the culture guy on that white team, which is our second unit,” Sampson informed press reporters this week.

“Energy guy. He held guys responsible that he was safeguarding. You didn’t get a break if Ramon’s guarding you.”Champ Week 2024 Get basketball competition action, consisting of 425-plus games across 26 conferences streaming on ESPN+, consisting of the AAC, Big 12, West Coast Conference and more. Men’s|Women’s – Watch: ESPN+offer for hoops fans – Bracketology: Women’s|Male’s – Bubble Watch|Competition Challenge Without the flexible 6-foot-4 forward, who helped supply interior depth regardless of his size, Sampson will have to lean more heavily on Temple transfer Damian Dunn and senior Mylik Wilson, who has seen an uptick in minutes recently.”Walker was a physical presence, he was a guy that could can be found in and play the 3 and the 4,”

an opposing coach said

.”Wilson’s trajectory seems to be going upward. He was taking minutes from Dunn, we moved him up the scouting report.”One last essential discussed by numerous Huge 12 coaches was weathering the early runs from Houston and attempting to get a lead at the start of the game. In their two wins recently over Iowa State and Baylor, the Cougars leapt out to 19-6 and 27-10 leads, respectively. Conversely, in 2

of their losses this season, they started out down 14-0 to Iowa State and 23-11 to Kansas.According to EvanMiya.com, which tracks how many 10-0 runs a team has scored and yielded, Houston leads the nation in” eliminate shots,” balancing 1.07 per game and amounting to 30 this season

.”It’s so tough to return into the game if you come down,”one coach said.” They’re elite defensively, they make it so hard to score in the paint, they’re so physical. I think you need to get on them early. They’re so utilized to winning and being ahead. You need to be able to score early, put a bit of doubt in their mind. Whatever we talked about was getting off to a good start, since that’s your opportunity.”If you come down, all the best out there.”

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