Last Friday, the Big 12 announced the additions of new conference members in BYU, Cincinnati, UCF and Houston. Why isn’t anyone talking about adding a great basketball program in Houston?
People have talked about the additions of adding BYU, Cincinnati and UCF for football, and then West Virginia fans have thought about the idea of ‘welcoming’ back Houston football head coach Dana Holgorsen. But why isn’t anyone talking about the addition of Houston basketball?
Houston basketball: the new Big 12’s most underrated addition.
In 2014, Houston was just a historic program of the past. The likes of Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Michael Young, etc. playing for the Cougars were behind them. Just 30 years ago, Houston was a consistent final four team during the Phi Slama Jama days.
Houston dug deep down and took a risk during their head coaching search. The University of Houston signed Kelvin Sampson on April 4, 2014. While Sampson made the transition from the NBA back to college, he was bringing his bad reputation to UH.
Boy did that quickly change.
Within his fourth season at Houston, Sampson coached the Cougars to an AAC Conference Tournament Championship appearance, earning the No. 6 seed in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. The Cougars lost in the round of 32 to the eventual runner-ups Michigan, off of a miracle shot at the buzzer by Jordan Poole.
Despite the heartbreaking loss, the Cougars used their momentum to take a leap the very next season, reaching the Sweet 16 as the No. 3 seed.
People started to pay attention to Houston as they continued to earn the respect of the college basketball world.
Most recently in the 2020-21 season, Sampson coached Houston to their first final four for the first time since 1984. Sampson’s rotation of tall guards consisted of Quentin Grimes, Marcus Sasser, Dejon Jarreau and Tramon Mark. The Cougars have built a culture of breaking you down throughout the game with their defense and lengthy guards that can rebound with the big guys.
Houston has averaged under 63 points per game on defense, as they have reached the NCAA Tournament three-straight years — when a tournament has been held.
Sampson and the Cougars will bring great basketball to the new Big 12. With the likes of Kansas, Baylor, West Virginia, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State; and now Cincinnati, BYU and Houston, the new Big 12 will be an even better basketball conference than it currently stands.
Be on the lookout in a couple of seasons for Houston basketball to enter the new Big 12.
(Top Photo: Click2Houston)