Since January 1, 2021, UH basketball has, basically, can be divided into three parts: after Caleb Mills left the program, after losing three starters on the Final Four team, and after losing Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark. With most teams, losing key players is an excuse for falling performance.
But not this Houston program.
After Mills left following the game at Tulsa on 12/29/20, the Coogs went 8-0 in January, then won four in a row to win the AAC, another three to win the AAC Tournament, then four more to reach the Final Four. The program proved it was bigger than any player.
After losing Grimes, Gorham, Jarreau, and Gresham going into this season, the Cougars picked right back up, winning 11 of 13. The two losses were a two-point neutral court loss and a one-point road loss – both to NCAA NET top-25 teams. UH could have won both games at the buzzer.
Then, the injuries to Sasser and Mark spelled doom for the 21-22 team, or so we thought. After a brief COVID pause, the ‘new team,’ as Kelvin Sampson calls it, has run off nine-straight in the conference. They, too, had a perfect January (7-0).
Last four Januarys:
The two losses were on the road by a total of six points.
No matter what happens – star player transfers, starters graduate, or star players get hurt, the program continues. The expectations, and the results, don’t change.
Lagniappe: In the 47 years since beginning conference play in the SWC (January 1976), Houston has just three perfect Januarys: 1983, 2021, 2022.
No, you don’t get a ring for the first month of the calendar year. But the two times UH has gone undefeated that month while in a conference? The Cougars won the conference, won the conference tournament, and went to the Final Four.
Correction: UH did not win the AAC regular season last year. Wichita State’s 11 wins won the league over UH’s 14 wins.