This team has come a long way since July

I don’t think Houston fans celebrate this season’s improbability. If you go back to last summer and game this out, there’s no way it happens like this.

the daily #227 | 3/18/2024 | Archives

I started this ride on July 26. That was the day Kelvin Sampson hosted the media after practice at Fertitta Center in anticipation of the trip to Australia.

About 1,000 others started their journey a few days later at the pre-Aussie basketball scrimmage.

Going into this year, the unknowns were quite high. Marcus Sasser and Jarace Walker had gone in the first round, and Tramon Mark had transferred. The 14-man roster had seven guys who had never played for the Cougars: Mylik Wilson, L.J. Cryer, Damian Dunn, Ced Lath, JoJo Tugler, Jacob McFarland, and Kordel Jefferson. Five rotation players returned: Jamal Shead, J’Wan Roberts, Ja’Vier Francis, Emanuel Sharp, and Terrance Arceneaux. There was also Ramon Walker, who redshirted last season.

Only two starters returned and other than Shead and Roberts, only two starts were coming back (one for Francis, one for Arceneaux). Emanuel Sharp seems like a veteran today, but he came into this season with zero starts and as many turnovers as assists and steals combined. About 35 points a game returned.

Objectively, at that point, what would have been a good season? Once the Big 12 matrix came out, I thought 11-7 due to road games at Kansas, Iowa State, Baylor, Texas, Oklahoma, and BYU. When you add that three rotation guys had season-ending injuries, and your most experienced player dealt with a lingering knee issue for the last 100 days, it could have gotten pretty ugly.

With two starters returning and about nine question marks about how the rest of the rotation would look, these 2023-24 Cougars won 30 games, cut the nets after winning the Big 12 by two games, won two more conference road games than anyone else, went 17-0 at home, finished the year at #1 in the NET, and ended the year with three more Quad 1 wins than any of the other 361 teams in the country.

Comparing #1 Seeds

NETRecordQ1 RecordRoad RecordNeutral Record

Stats by Starns: UH had as many Q1 wins as the bottom 240 teams in the country.

All of that makes it remarkable that in the 233 days since that first practice we attended, this team is the #2 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament with a solid path through Dallas to the Final Four.

This team and this staff have come a long way. They patched together a team and turned it into a conference champion and a one-seed. It may be time to take a minute before the NCAA Tournament starts and appreciate just how wild a ride this team has taken you on.




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Stewart J. Guss, Injury Accident Lawyers, is proud to be a corporate sponsor as the Official Personal Injury Law Firm for the University of Houston Athletics.

“As a University of Houston alum, I am honored that the University of Houston Athletics chose our firm to be their official and exclusive personal injury law firm,” says Stewart J. Guss, the firm’s founder.