The Houston Cougars are 23-4 overall and 12-2 in American Athletic Conference play and have a full-game lead on SMU. A win would put UH up two games with three to play (SMU will play just two home games after traveling to Houston).
With a win Sunday and a win Tuesday against Cincinnati, the Coogs would clinch the regular-season conference championship for the third time in four seasons. UH did not win the regular-season title last year despite winning 3 more games than the “champion.”
Four In Eight
UH will play four games in eight days beginning on Sunday. Sounds a little bit crazy, right?
Sure, that can happen in regular-season or conference tournaments: in 2019, UH played four games in seven days (UTEP and 3 games at the Diamond Head Classic), winning all four. And UH won four games in four days when they won the 2010 C-USA Tournament (played 5 games in 8 days, actually).
But in everyday regular-season games? In February and March? When does that ever happen?
The last time UH played four regular-season games in eight days after February 1st: 2001, in Ray McCallum’s first season. UH went 2-2 in games @USF, Saint Louis at Hofheinz, @Tulane, @Cincinnati.
SMU is hard to figure out – they seem better than their numbers suggest. They rank in the top-25 nationally in only two statistical categories: defensive rebounding and FG% defense.
In contrast, UH is in the top-25 in 11 categories (including #1 in FG% defense).
Last year’s SMU game at Fertitta Center was the last time TV Teddy Valentine was in Houston.
Valentine worked the UH/Wichita State game in Wichita three weeks later (the game UH lost). Since that day, he has not refereed an AAC game.
Earlier this month in their first meeting, SMU outscored UH by 12 points behind the arc and by 10 at the FT line. That seems almost impossible. SMU’s Kendrick Davis is excellent at creating contact and getting to the line. Meanwhile, the Coogs are 329th nationally in FT%.
Can’t have the game decided on free throws.
Lessons In Diplomacy
Kelvin Sampson gave a very detailed response when KRIV’s Mark Berman asked about what they’ll change in this meeting.
Berman has been doing this for 30+ years and we’d never attempt to give him tips on how to do the job. But for everyone else, our media advice: never ask a yes/no question and always aim for brevity in your questions. It throws off the responder and they typically give you more information.