The Houston Cougars men’s basketball team has a long and storied history. The team has been playing since 1946, when they were known as the Houston Junior College Cougars. Since then, they have gone through many changes, including conference affiliations and coaches.
Houston has had some great teams over the years and some great players as well. The team nearly won the NCAA Tournament in 1983, led by future NBA hall-of-famer Hakeem Olajuwon. North Carolina State defeated Houston 74-52 in the 1983 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship Game, held at The Pit in Albuquerque, New Mexico. North Carolina State was led by MVP Dereck Whittenburg and coached by Jim Valvano.
Houston was led by future Hall of Fame coach Guy Lewis and were the 7.5-point favorites. North Carolina State jumped out to a quick lead and never looked back, going on to secure the National Championship.
Houston was led by Phi Slamma Jamma, a group of high-flying, dunking players that included future NBA stars Clyde Drexler and Michael Young in addition to Olajuwon. The Cougars also made it to the Final Four in 1984 and again in 1985, and these teams are still remembered as some of the greatest in the Southwest Conference history.
This year, they started by gearing up for a promising 2022-23 season. After a tumultuous 2020-21 campaign, they looked to rebound and make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. With a talented roster and a new head coach, Kelvin Sampson, the Cougars were set to make some noise in the upcoming season.
The Cougars return several key players from the previous season, including guard Quentin Grimes and forward Tramon Mark. Grimes, a former McDonald’s All-American, was the team’s leading scorer last season, averaging 16.8 points.
The three schools, Houston, Cincinnati, and UCF, will join the Big 12 Conference in September 2021. The separation agreement allows them to break their contractual requirements to remain with The American Conference through 2024. The addition of these three schools will bring the total number of Big 12 Conference members to 12.
Houston was expected to have a talented and experienced roster, with four returning starters and several impact recruits, competing for the American Athletic Conference title and make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. The team is led by senior guard Quentin Grimes, who was named to the preseason All-AAC first team, as well as sophomore guard Dejon Jarreau, who was named the AAC’s most improved player last season. Head coach Kelvin Sampson is entering his 11th season at the helm of the Cougars squad.
The significance of Houston reaching the number one ranking in the AP Poll is twofold. First, it marks the first time in nearly 40 years that the team has been ranked first in the AP Poll, a remarkable feat which shows the strength of the program and its ability to compete at a high level. Secondly, it speaks to the dedication and hard work of the players, coaches, and staff who have made it possible. It is a testament to their resilience and commitment to success that they have achieved such a high ranking.
Although the Houston team experienced two losses in the season, both of which were at home to Alabama and then Temple, they’ve since bounced back and appear to be on track for a successful end to the conference. Their 27 wins stand testament to this.
They will finish their regular season with senior night against Wichita State and then a road game at Memphis. The Memphis Tigers in particular may have a change to give the Cougars an early March surprise.