Today’s Topic: How Has Houston Lost Just Three Games This Year?
The Houston Cougars are ranked 11th and 9th in the country, depending on the poll you subscribe to. They enter Sunday’s game with the Buckeyes as a 3-seed, and they are sporting a ridiculous 32-3 record.
A number of reasons, really.
For one, the Cougars played just four ranked teams this season — and three of them were Cincinnati.
Ohio State, on the other hand, played nine ranked teams this year, and none of them were Cincinnati. The Buckeyes did, however, defeat UC on their brand new home court 64-56 to open the 2018-2019 season.
The Cougars have played some notable teams other than the Bearcats. They beat Oregon 65-61 early in the season (back when the Ducks were ranked 18th.) They defeated LSU by six, Saint Louis by four, and Utah State by 10 in a 3-game stretch at home.
Their three losses this season have come to Temple on the road (73-69), UCF at home (69-64), and Cincinnati in the American Athletic Conference Tournament (69-57).
What they have done this season is nearly incredible, and it hasn’t just been because of their schedule.
Head coach Kelvin Sampson makes the calls for Houston and he has won everywhere he’s been. This year, they are winning thanks in large part to their defense.
The Cougars’ field goal percentage defense of .365 is the best in the nation (as is the .421 eFG%), and their three-point field goal percentage defense is second (.275). Any time you can keep an opponent from shooting .400/.300, you are going to have a great shot at a win, especially if you average 76 points per game like Houston does.
While they are stifling opponents defensively, they have a talented three-guard lineup that can score from anywhere.
And it’s not just the starting backcourt where Houston is dangerous. Seven different Cougars have scored at least 18 points in a game this season. While guards Corey Davis (16.9 ppg) and Armoni Brooks (13.3 ppg) are the only two players scoring in double figures, there are several others capable of going off on any given night.
Houston simply has had more options than opponents can handle, and because some of them come out of the woodwork randomly, it has apparently been difficult to adequately prepare for every possible option.
If Ohio State is going to win Sunday night, it will take spectacular defense against an offense that likes to run. More importantly, however, it will require the Buckeyes to have one of their best shooting nights of the year. The extra pass will be key, which is also where Kaleb Wesson comes in.
Like Iowa State, the Cougars don’t necessarily have somebody who can stop Wesson. If the Buckeyes can run the offense through him and get Houston’s talented defense scrambling, perhaps that will relieve some pressure and open up good looks for the OSU offense. Those shots, however, must fall if the Buckeyes are going to pull off their biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history.
[Photo courtesy UHCougars.com.]