Countdown to College Basketball: #17 Houston Cougars

Kelvin Sampson and Houston are coming off the program’s most successful season since the Phi Slama Jama days, as they made it to the Final Four. While losing the duo of Quentin Grimes and Dejon Jarreau will be tough to overcome, this Cougars team still has a good enough core to win the American and make it back to the Final Four. While players move on, a strong program identity in which the team will crash the offensive glass at will, play tough team defense, and have just enough shot creation will be enough for Houston to avoid falling out of the Top-25. The question that remains is whether or not this roster is good enough for them to make it to New Orleans?

Marcus Sasser looks to be the catalyst for this year’s team, as he now will be expected to be the leading scorer and primary option offensively. Sasser is a 6’2 guard who primarily plays off the ball, although he can run some point if needed, he’s a good shooter, scorer, and a very good defender. While Sasser has struggled at maintaining a high efficiency on his shooting, that looks to be an area he addresses as he hopes to lead this Houston team in scoring. 

With Jarreau gone, Kelvin Sampson looks to turn the point guard role over to Texas Tech transfer Kyler Edwards. While Edwards isn’t a natural point, he’s played that role very well at Texas Tech and that should translate to Houston. Edwards is a good shooter, solid scorer, and tough defender, while he’s not necessarily someone that will take games over, but he fills his role. Tramon Mark will move into the starting lineup, as he is a 6’5 guard who is a good defender, solid scorer, although he will need to improve as a shooter this season. Mark is a bigger guard, who could play some minutes at the 4, although probably will just start at the 3. It should be noted that Mark has an ability to step up in the big moments as he had the two biggest shots of Houston’s season with his game-winning baskets against Memphis and Rutgers. 

The philosophy of Houston could not be completed without their front line. Reggie Chaney returns and will play a pretty big role as he will be asked to attack the offensive glass at will, and play tough, physical defense. Fabian White missed much of last season but returns and will play the 4 for this team. White is a good rebounder and tough defender but acts as a legitimate threat on the offensive end in the post, something Houston missed much of last season. The Cougars also added Uconn transfer Josh Carlton who is a good interior defender, rebounder, and his 6’11 frame is a major advantage. Carlton can’t really create offense on his own but could be someone that improves upon his role-playing in this Houston system. 

The Cougars have a collection of question marks coming off the bench, although only one or two of these just need to pan out for the high-end version of this team to pan out. Jamal Shead is a true point guard, although he’s not a good scorer, he could initiate offense off the bench, while he’s a tough defender as well. Ramon Walker seems like a player who could surprise people as a freshman, Walker is a good shooter, who is noted as a physical defender, and rebounder. Freshman Ja’Vier Francis could play a role off the bench as he will try to learn how to play in this Houston system. The Cougars also add in Taze Moore, who was a good scorer at Cal State Bakersfield and he will look to continue to be a contributor this season. 

For this Houston team, the floor is still for this team to be a Top-25 team, although I do have concerns about what they lost. Quentin Grimes and Dejon Jarreau created a lot of the offense that Houston had a season ago and while Edwards and Sasser are good, they aren’t quite at that level. Add into that they lost their best rebounder in Justin Gorham who was by far their best rebounder last season. Yes, Houston is still going to dominate the offensive glass, yes the team defense and offense will still run as usual but I’m not sure it will be at the same level as a season ago. 

Look for Houston to maybe lose an extra game or two this season just because they won’t quite score on as many possessions as they did a season ago, but a major drop-off definitely won’t be the case as this program is one of the best in the sport. Look for Houston to still contend and maybe win the American, while a trip back to the Final Four is certainly within the realm of possibilities for this team. 

Projected Rotation 

PG: Kyler Edwards

SG: Marcus Sasser

SF: Tramon Mark

PF: Fabian White

C: Reggie Chaney

B1: Josh Carlton

B2: Jamal Shead

B3: Ramon Walker

B4: Ja’Vier Francis

B5: Taze Moore

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