The #13 Houston Cougars (20-1) are currently riding the best home-winning streak in the country with 30 straight victories and the AP Poll ranked then in the Top 15 for the first time since the infamous Phi Slamma Jamma days in the early 1980s with Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.
James Harden and the Houston Rockets garner a ton of press in Houston, but the local college hoops team is one of the best in the country. The Houston Cougars are in first place in the American Athletic Conference (AAC). They were ranked #13 overall in the latest AP Poll and moved up four spots from the previous poll. With only one loss this season, the Cougars join #3 Virginia, #5 Michigan, and #8 Nevada as the sole single-loss teams in the Top 25.
Along with the Buffalo Bulls and other mid-major conference teams to watch, the Houston Cougars are also an under-the-radar team to keep tabs on with March Madness around the corner.
Houston became the first team in the Top 25 to secure 20 wins this season. The knock against Houston is that the American (AAC) is not strong as other premier conferences such as the ACC, Big Ten, and Big East. The Cougars are the sole representative from the AAC in the Top 25.
Houston’s only win against a ranked team happened earlier in the season with a 65-61 victory over Oregon, who were ranked #18 at the time. Their only loss was a conference road game against Temple. Overall, Houston is 7-1 in the AAC.
Head coach Kelvin Sampson opts for a three-guard lineup. Junior shooting guard Armoni Brooks leads the team in scoring with 14.8 points per game. Brooks also averages 6.4 rebounds and hits nearly 40 percent of his three-point attempts. Senior shooting guard Corey Davis is averaging 14.6 points per game with 6 20-point games this season. He’s also the team’s best free throw shooter at 92 percent from the charity stripe. Meanwhile, senior point guard Galen Robinson averages 5.4 assists per game and shooting 38 percent from beyond the arc.
Houston is sixth in the country with only 60.4 points allowed per game. They held opponents under 60 points in 11 games. Thirteen of Houston’s 20 wins have been a margin of ten points or more.
The Cougars boast two blowouts of 44-plus points with a 47-point shellacking against Alabama A&M during the opening game of the season 101-54. Most recently, the Cougars throttled Eastern Carolina 94-50.
“Our young guys are really coming on,” Sampson said. “When they play and practice that hard, you’ve got to reward them.”
Heading into the ECU game, Houston’s stifling defense was ranked second in the nation in field goal percentage allowed and third overall defending the three-point shot.
“We are a good defensive team,” added Sampson. “We are young. But I’m proud of how our young guys defend.”
Sampson 600 Club
Kelvin Sampson, 63, recently won his 600th game as a head coach. Sampson is one of the few coaches who was named Coach of the Year in multiple power conferences. He won Coach of the Year in the Pac-10 (now Pac-12) and the Big Eight (now Big 12). The AAC recognized him as the 2018 Coach of the Year. In 1995, the AP named Sampson the Coach of the Year for turning around Oklahoma.
Sampson is most known for his sensational decade coaching the Oklahoma Sooners between 1994 and 2006. He won nearly 72 percent of his games with an overall record of 279-109, including three appearances in the Sweet 16. He guided the 31-5 Sooners to a Final Four berth in 2002. After 12 seasons in Norman, Sampson headed north to the Big Ten.
The NCAA flagged Kelvin Sampson for violations during his time as the head coach of the Indiana Hoosiers, where he went 43-15 before stepping down. He spent five seasons coaching in the NBA during his probationary period with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Houston Rockets.
In 2014, Sampson returned to the collegiate coaching ranks and accepted the head coaching position at Houston. In five seasons with Houston, Sampson went 103-49. He struggled in his first season with a 13-19 record, but since then he posted four-consecutive 20-win seasons.
Last season, Houston went 27-8 and finished in a tie for second place in the AAC. Houston garnered a bid to the March Madness tournament and won their first game, but lost in the round of 32. The win in the Round of 64 marked the first time Houston won a March Madness game since 1984
This season, Sampson is looking to push the Cougars to the Sweet 16 and beyond. He has the best team since the glory days of Phi Slamma Jamma.
Phi Slamma Jamma
In the early 1980s, Guy V. Lewis coached the Houston Cougars with an up-tempo offense. The free-wheeling fast breaks often led to a bevy of monstrous slam dunks. The local press dubbed the Cougars as their own fraternity of dunking sensations. Thus, Phi Slamma Jamm was born.
Some of Phi Slamma Jamma’s most popular alumni featured NBA Hall of Fame players Clyde “The Clyde” Drexler and Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon. Other members included Benny Anders and Greg “Cadillac” Anderson, and former captain Dave Rose.
PHI SLAMMA JAMMA (1982-84)
Sean “Stretch” MacRitchie
Greg “Cadillac” Anderson
Between 1982 and 1984, Houston advanced to the Final Four in three consecutive years. Led by center Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston played in the championship game twice in 1983 and 1984. The Cougars failed to win both instances and were the runner up in back-to-back seasons. In 1983, the Houston Cougars were upset by Jim Valvano’s scrappy North Carolina State team. The next year, Olajuwon lost heads-up against future Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing and the Georgetown Hoyas.
Home-Court Cougar Advantage
Houston is 15-0 at home this season. Dating back to last season, they’ve won 30 consecutive games at home, which is currently the best home-winning streak in the country.
The Cougars have a revenge game upcoming against Temple (15-5). Their sole loss of the season occurred three weeks earlier. Houston was 15-0 heading into the game in Philadelphia, but the Owls beat them 73-69. The Owls will be facing a hostile crowd in Houston during a nationally televised game on Thursday evening.
After the Temple rematch, Houston has almost a full week off before the resuming AAC action at Central Florida (15-4). They also have a huge game against the Cincinnati Bearcats (18-3) next weekend.