Houston basketball head coach Kelvin Sampson

Houston basketball looks for another successful season even after sending Quentin Grimes to the NBA.

Houston basketball had to lick its wounds after suffering a loss in the Final Four to eventual Champion Baylor basketball. In the Cougar’s most challenging game of the year, this team could not find a rhythm as the Bears won 78-59 on their way to beat Gonzaga. The Cougars had an excellent tournament run beating Cleveland, Rutgers, Syracuse, and Oregon State.

Coach Kelvin Sampson joined the Cougars in 2014 and had a rough start in the American Athletic Conference but has yet to have a season with less than 20 wins since then. Houston basketball would have had four straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament and was named regular-season champions twice in the last three years and last season when it wasn’t going on to win the conference tournament.

Kelvin Sampson has started a rebuild as the program will announce itself in the Big 12 in 2023 or latest 2024. Houston lost a star in Quentin Grimes, picked in the first round by the New York Knicks, lost senior Dejon Jarreau to the Indiana Pacers and Justin Gorham to Germany on a pro contract. The Cougars will also be without Caleb Mills, who chose Florida State in the middle of last season.

Sampson retained Fabian White as a graduate student that will help bring on these younger players. Houston basketball also retained a few stars in Marcus Sasser, Fabian White, and Reggie Chaney. The Cougars were able to land a few solid transfers in Taxe Moore from Cal State Bakersfield, Kyler Edwards from Texas Tech and Josh Carlton from UConn. These players will bring a lot of experience that could be a massive asset for the Cougars and add the depth that allows this team to be tough defensively. Edwards especially could be an unsung difference maker.

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Projected Rotation

PG: Kyler Edwards (6-4, 195, Sr.)

2021 stats: 10.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 41.8 3P% (Texas Tech)

Projected stats: 12.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.6 steals, 40.8 3P%

SG: Marcus Sasser (6-1, 190, Jr.)

2021 stats: 13.7 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.4 steals

Projected stats: 14.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.8 steals

SF: Tramon Mark (6-6, 210, So.)

2021 stats: 7.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.9 steals

Projected stats: 11.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.6 steals

PF: Fabian White (6-8, 225, Gr. Sr.)

2021 stats: 6.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.8 blocks

Projected stats: 8.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.2 blocks

C: Josh Carlton (6-11, 240, Gr. Sr.)

2021 stats: 3.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.4 blocks (UConn)

Projected stats: 7.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 1.5 blocks

6:Taze Moore (6-5, 180, Gr. Sr.)

2021 stats: 12.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.3 steals (Cal State Bakersfield)

Projected stats: 9.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.1 steals

7: Reggie Chaney (6-8, 225, Sr.)

2021 stats: 4.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.7 blocks

Projected stats: 5.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 1.1 steals

8: Jamal Shead (6-1, 190, So.)

2021 stats: 3.3 points, 1.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.8 steals

Projected stats: 4.5 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.0 steals

9: Kiyron Powell (6-8, 205, So.)

2020 stats: 3.3 points, 1.1 rebounds, 0.1 assists, 0.3 blocks

Projected stats: 4.6 points, 1.3 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.5 blocks

10: Robbie Armbrester (6-4, 220, Fr.)

247Sports 3-star rated recruit

Projected stats: 2.1 points, 1.1 rebounds, 0.8 assists

11: Ramon Walker (6-5, 195, Fr.)

247Sports 3-star rated recruit

Projected stats: 4.2 points, 1.2 rebounds, 0.9 assists

Team MVP: Marcus Sasser

Marcus Sasser is the top returning scorer for Houston basketball. The Cougars are going to need Sasser to fill in and be the prolific scorer that Grimes was. While Sasser had a lot of success last year, this year, he should take another step.

Sasser has an imposing list of accomplishments from last year. Houston basketball is lucky to have Sasser, who was second in the AAC in points behind Quentin Grimes (398). He was also ninth in points per game (13.7), third in steals (40), steals per game (1.4), third in 3-point field goal percentage (33.5%), and second in field goals (134). Sasser was second in field goal attempts (353), second in 3-point field goals (78), and second in 3-point field goal attempts (233).

Cougar basketball was dominant in wins. Sasser was a significant contributor here and can be seen in advanced stats, including offensive and defensive win shares and box plus/minus and offensive rating.

Another reason Houston basketball is happy to have Marcus Sasser back was due to his ball-handling being top three in lowest turnover percentage (8.2) and points produced. He was named to the second team, and coach Sampson hopes to continue developing him as a player. With the loss of significant contributors in shot creation, assist, and tempo, Sasser will have to lead a team like Dejon Jarreau and be able to take the intensity and importance of a moment and power through it.

Make or Break Player: Josh Carlton

Houston will need a dominant big man to come in with the loss of Justin Gorham to fill a significant role. Returning to the AAC, Carlton struggled in the Big East, and he should dominate in the paint. Carlton has some strength and has a role he can fit into.

Coach Sampson brought him in to be that dominant rebounder on both ends of the floor, and he should also have a lot of solid looks in the paint and be available to play. Gorham was one of the highest play with fouls, and that is part of the Cougar gameplay is a very aggressive but intelligent play. Carlton’s 6-foot-11 and 240-pound frame is going to be able to clear a lot of space for shooters, take up a lot of space on the defensive end and cause some severe issues in the AAC.

Carlton has familiarity with the conference and was dominant when he was there two years ago. Gaining the experience of the Big East, he should be able to be a significant factor in Houston basketball. Going back just two years ago with UConn, he was third in offensive rebounds behind Precious Achiuwa and Jayden Gardner (87), eighth in blocks (33), and ninth in blocks per game (1.1). Coach Kelvin Sampson knows the talent and ability for Carlton. There are high expectations, but Houston basketball has depth and should be tough likely after a slow start with the team meshing.

Bench Rating: 9/10

The Cougars have depth all up and down the bench, with Moore, Chaney and Shead as the top guys as far as minutes and production will be concerned. Sampson needs a deep lineup to play such aggressive defense, and the Cougars have exactly that, which is especially more impressive in a conference that’s not in the same realm as a Big Ten or SEC.

In total, Houston basketball has eight guards, with four being returners. These guards are made up of two seniors, one junior, three sophomores, and two freshmen. The Cougars have four forwards that include two seniors, a sophomore, and a freshman.

This team is also rounded out by four centers: two seniors, a sophomore, and a freshman. This team is balanced with players that can play multiple positions and multiple styles. Coach Sampson will instill the importance of pace, ball control, and defensive ability into his players as he wants a shot at the NCAA Championship.

Analytic to Know: FGAR

Last season Houston basketball was the only team in the country to average 90+ field goals per 100 trips upcourt. The exact number was 90.25 – the Cougars were nothing short of perfect in terms style of play and taking care of the ball.

This season, the additions of Edwards and Carlton could keep Houston in the same type of category. They still have a starting five that can run the court with pieces off the bench who can come in and keep the flow going. It might not ever be as good as last season, but Sampson will get his guys playing up to his standard.

Team Outlook

Houston basketball needs to start strong and has some tough matchups this year and early season, with some big names landing on its schedule. The Cougars begin against Montana Tech, Hofstra, Rice, Virginia, and Butler before heading to the Maui Invitational in Las Vegas.

Coach Sampson and crew return to face off against Northwestern State, Bryant, Alcorn State, Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma State, and wrap up its non-conference schedule against Texas State. Houston basketball takes on Texas A&M or Wisconsin before shooting against Oregon, Chaminade, St. Mary’s, or Notre Dame.

Houston will have quite the resume and has some solid conference opponents to allow for a solid shot at the NCAA tournament with or without being named the regular-season champions or winning the AAC tournament. This team is expected to finish in the top three but is hoping for an outright title again this year after having it snatched out of their grasp last year. The battle between Wichita State, Memphis, and Houston is going to be a wild one to watch, but the Cougars are in good position to take it home.

Projected Finish: 2nd in AAC

Projected Postseason Finish: NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Exit

Ceiling: NCAA Tournament Elite Eight Exit

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