Houston defeated Illinois on Sunday, 68-53, to advance to the Sweet 16 for the third-straight NCAA Tournament. The Cougars will face #1 seed Arizona late Thursday night in San Antonio.
What more can you say about this team? They were left for dead on December 23rd. After the two-game losing streak in early February, they ran through the AAC, won the regular-season conference title, avenged two losses by beating Memphis in the AAC Tournament, beat UAB, and then 4-seed Illinois to reach the Sweet 16.
Here are 16 notes, numbers, and nuggets on the Coogs and Arizona heading into the Sweet 16:
1. One-seed Arizona is the toughest second-weekend test in UH history. UH has never faced a #1 seed before the Final Four. Houston’s best win in the second weekend was when the Coogs beat two-seed Missouri in 1982 on Guy V. Lewis’ birthday.
2. If the Coogs were to slip past the Wildcats, either #2 Villanova or Michigan would be waiting. What a sweet rematch with Michigan would be…
3. Illinois was UH’s first win over a single-digit seed since beating 7-seed Virginia in 1984. The Cougars took down six-seed Memphis and four-seed Wake Forest a week before the UVA game.
4. Arizona gave up 20 offensive rebounds to TCU on Sunday night – a wild number considering Zona is #2 nationally in defensive rebounding.
5. Since seeding began in 1979, UH has played a #1 seed four times: UNC in 1982, a thrilling win over Louisville and the Doctors of Dunk in 1983, Georgetown in the national title game in 1984, and Baylor last year.
6. UH has very little history against current Pac-12 teams in the Tournament. Last year’s Oregon State win was the first game against the conference since playing UCLA back-to-back in 1967-68. Arizona will be the fourth time it’s happened.
7. Arizona is quite impressive on the offensive side. The Wildcats are #1 in the country in assists and total rebounds, 3rd in scoring offense, scoring margin, free throws, and free-throw attempts.
8. UH has played five games in the NCAA Tournament in Texas in five different arenas:
1961 at Delmar Fieldhouse (77-61 win over Marquette) – 1st Round
1965 at Lubbock Coliseum (99-98 win over Notre Dame) – 1st Round
1970 at Daniel Meyer Coliseum (71-64 win over Dayton) – 1st Round
1971 at Hofheinz Pavilion (72-69 win over NMSU) – 1st Round
1983 at The Summit (60-50 win over Maryland) – 2nd Round*
In those games, the Coogs are 5-0 and will make it six arenas (and six wins?) at AT&T Center in San Antonio on Thursday.
9. This is the fourth time in school history that the program has made four-straight NCAA Tournaments. It previously happened in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. If the Tournament were played in 2020, this appearance would be the fifth straight, a school record.
10. Competing in the paint is vital for UH. UH will be using the monster double-post against the giant Christian Koloko. Arizona takes over 42% of their shots at the rim (UH takes just 32.5% of shots at the rim, which is still the highest percentage in Kelvin’s tenure).
11. Arizona outscored TCU 52-34 in the paint Sunday night, and in their last eight games, they have outscored opponents by 12 ppg in the paint. Zona’s most recent loss was at Colorado in late February, where the Buffs outscored UA 54-26 in the paint. Koloko was limited to 8 minutes in the second half due to foul trouble.
12. In eight of UH’s 14 Sweet 16 seasons, the Cougars were not in a conference or were didn’t have a conference tournament (MVC, 1956).
In the other six Sweet 16 appearances, UH won the regular-season and postseason tournament titles three times (1983, 1984, 2022).
13. UH has 81 wins in the last three seasons, tied for fourth-most in a three-year stretch despite losing the conference and NCAA tournaments in 2020 and several games in the 20-21 season.
14. Arizona is susceptible to tough, aggressive teams like UH. They are one of the worst in the country in turnovers and turnover margin, while UH is in the top-25 in both categories. The Cougars need to create 9-10 turnovers each half. Arizona has 35 turnovers in two games in the Tournament (UH has 16).
15. Kelvin Sampson is 9-3 at UH in Tournament games. Houston is now 35-27 in the Tournament.
16. In Arizona’s three losses, Pac-12 Player of the Year Bennedict Mathurin has struggled, shooting 16/49 (32.7%). In their 33 wins, he shoots 47.0%.