- Head Coach: Kelvin Sampson (eighth season)
Notable Wins: vs. TTU, vs. Wichita State, vs. Syracuse
The Houston Cougars college basketball team had one of their most successful seasons in school history, as they reached the Final Four for the first time since the Phi Slama Jama days in 1984.
They started the season winning 15 of their first 16 games, with that one blunder being a one-point road loss to Tulsa. After dropping a road game to Wichita State, the Cougars would go onto to win their last seven contests en route to winning their first American Conference Tournament championship.
Houston’s dominant stretches of play landed them a number two-seed in the Midwest region. The Cougars handled Cleveland State before tackling Rutgers and Syracuse to advance to the Elite Eight.
Houston would end Oregon State’s surprising run, and set up a Final Four clash with in-state Baylor. The Bears would overpower the Cougars, ending their magical season in the process.
- Check out our 2021 Texas Tech College Basketball Preview
Houston Cougars College Basketball Roster Changes
- Key Returners: G Marcus Sasser, G Tramon Mark
- Key Losses: G Quentin Grimes, G DeJon Jarreau, F Justin Gorham
- Key Newcomers: G Kyler Edwards, G Taze Moore
Kelvin Sampson will be missing three big pieces from their Final Four run. The departure of guards Quentin Grimes and DeJon Jarreau will sting. The Cougars will miss forward Justin Gorham’s interiors presence. At 6’7, Gorham was no slouch in the paint, leading the team in rebounding (8.6) while chipping in 8.4 ppg.
Houston will replace some of this production after making solid use of the transfer portal. Sampson cashed in Chris Beard’s exit from in-state rival Texas Tech, and reeled in guard Kyler Edwards. The 6’4 slasher fits the rugged prototype for Sampson’s Houston guards, and should right into the starting lineup after averaging 10.1 ppg and 4.8 rpg for the Red Raiders.
Houston will also welcome guard Taze Moore over from CSU Bakersfield. The graduate senior-led Bakersfield in scoring at 12.3 ppg, and he’s averaged over a steal per game in each of the past three seasons.
While the Cougars a lot scoring with Grimes departure, second-leading scorer Marcus Sasser will return for his junior season. The 6’1 guard averaged 13.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg, and he was one of four Houston guards to average a steal per game last season. 6’5 guard Tramon Mark is primed to have a bigger role in his second season.
Mark started a bit last season when Sampson opted to go with four guards, and he averaged 7.8 ppg and 3.1 rpg. Veterans Fabian White Jr. and Reggie Chaney should take a step forward with Gorham’s departure, while newcomers Josh Carlton and Ja’Vier Francis figure to factor in as well.
Projected Lineup: G Marcus Sasser, G Kyler Edwards, G Taze Moore, G Tramon Mark F Fabian White Jr.
After breaking through with a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2019, Houston took even further strides with last season’s Final Four appearance. Duplicating that success will be tough for Kelvin Sampson’s squad this year, but if this group can gel and maintain the same defensive tenacity they’ve carried over the years, they will be able to compete with anyone.
Losing Quentin Grimes was huge, but Marcus Sasser looks primed to take that next step and lead the Cougars this season. Houston wasn’t the only team in the conference to lose a substantial chunk of production, so they could very well repeat and win another AAC championship.
Projected Finish: 1st in the American, NCAA Tournament Bid