UH Basketball: Cougars Team Preview and Season Prediction 2019-2020

Kelvin Sampson has Cougars ready to compete for Championships

By Da'Yon Dunlap, Contributor
KPRC2

HOUSTON - Kelvin Sampson signed his contract extension in April 2019, keeping him at Houston through the 2024-25 season.

Last season Houston reached the Sweet 16, making the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive year. Naturally, critics thought Sampson would take an NBA, or Power 5 coaching job. Instead, he decided to build on the momentum he has going in H-Town.

"I am excited to be at the University of Houston. We built this program to a point where we can compete for championships now,” Sampson said, after signing his new contract. 

Sampson definitely has established the Houston Cougars basketball program as a powerhouse nationally. 

Sampson’s ability to recruit players that fit well into his system in addition to helping them develop has turned the Cougars into one of the favorites to repeat as American Athletic Conference champions (AAC). When he was asked what has him most excited about this year's 2019-2020 team “potential,” Sampson said. 

At a Glance

Head coach: Kelvin Sampson

2018-19 record (AAC): 33-4 (16-2)

2018-2019 postseason: NCAA Tournament: Sweet 16 Lost to Kentucky 62-58

Key losses: 

G Galen Robinson Jr. (8.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg)

G Corey Davis Jr. (17.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg)

G Armoni Brooks (13.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg)

Backcourt

Houston’s backcourt will have one-and-done talent this season, with Kansas transfer Quentin Grimes receiving his waiver to be eligible to play this year. To go along with the reigning AAC sixth man of the year Dejon Jarreau, Nate Hinton, plus both freshman Caleb Mills and Marcus Sasser.

“The strength of our team is our five guards,” said Sampson during Houston’s media day. 

Dejon Jarreau, a long 6-foot 5-inch tall point guard will replace Galen Robinson, he was named to the preseason AAC All-American first team. Jerreau scored double-digit points in twelve games last season, may very well average a double-double in points and assist. He flourishes well in Sampson’s NBA pick and roll style offense, and in transition.

Without what Sampson refers to as “snipers” from three-point range this year, he expects teams to try to pack the paint. Sophomore guard Nate Hinton, also 6 feet 5 inches tall, will assume a much bigger role for Houston this season. Hinton showed his ability to knock down threes, create his own shot, and finish at the rim with contact, will have to prove to he can be consistent. Quentin Grimes another 6-foot 5-inch tall guard, has plenty to improve on after deciding to remove his name from the 2019 NBA draft.

Grimes a natural scorer and will have plenty of opportunities to do so. Freshman Marcus Sasser, and Caleb Mills will be the first two guards off the bench. 

Frontcourt 

Houston returns both of their top shot blockers from last season, Chris Harris Jr., and Brison Gresham. When asked about a post presence coach Sampson said he does not care about a post presents. Both Fabian White Jr., and Cedrick Alley return at the power forward spot. White who came into last season dealing with some injuries will play some center this year. With his jump shot-making ability he will add to spacing the floor. Coach Sampson said “Fabian is 6 feet 8 inches tall and 230 pounds. When he got here he was 6 feet 6 inches tall and 196 pounds… He has developed a game. When he got here he was just a good player. Don’t be surprised if White and Alley Jr. played together at times, which they did not do much last year.

Depth will be added with Justin Gorham.

Gorham will be the surprise player for Houston. Gorham adds more versatility in the frontcourt with his shot-making ability, in addition to his ability to switch on the parameter and guard some guards. 

Final Analysis

Lack of talent will not be the reason for Houston not to succeed. Houston's starting lineup will be taller, more athletic, and feature three guards who all have NBA talent. Lacking only experience, Houston will rely on Sampson, who has just about seen it all throughout his coaching career. Sampson has established an outstanding winning, tough, blue-collar culture at Houston. This season Houston will fully establish themselves with such highly successful programs like Kentucky, Duke, Virginia, with another deep run in the NCAA tournament. 

AAC Prediction: First

Postseason Prediction: Final Four

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