#87 Houston Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Houston Cougars

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #87
Conference Rank: #7 American

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Coach Kelvin Sampson’s debut season with Houston was not very memorable. The Cougars went 13-19 overall and won just four American Athletic Conference games. They did beat Connecticut in early February, but other than that the wins were not against the top half of the AAC. But Coach Sampson is growing the program and he boosted his talent and experience level with the addition of a couple Division I transfers and four junior college transfers.

2014-15 Record: 13-19, 4-14
2014-15 Postseason: none
Coach: Kelvin Sampson
Coach Record: 13-19 at Houston, 513-289 overall

Who’s Out:
Losing Jherrod Stiggers was a bit of a surprise though. The 6-5 guard opted to try his luck in the professional ranks after leading the Cougars with 14.2 points per game. Stiggers took a lot of shots, but knocking down 96 three-pointers is still impressive. Cavon Baker also left the program with eligibility remaining, spending just one season with the Cougars after a stint in the junior college ranks. Baker provided a pretty nice offensive spark off of the bench and averaged 6.5 points per game. J.C. Washington, who is also transferring, averaged 2.8 points and 3.1 rebounds as a freshman. Mikhail McLean and Egi Gjikondi are also gone after seeing very limited action in 2014-2015. Houston had to deal with a lot of unexpected losses last year and they will do the same this year. The difference is Coach Sampson has had the time to prepare for these losses by adding depth to the roster.

Who’s In:
The big addition is Damyean Dotson, a two-year starter at Oregon. Dotson comes with baggage, but he comes with talent too. Two years ago Dotson averaged 9.4 points per game with the Ducks. He is the type of talent that can get Houston moving in the right direction. But that is as long as he stays out of trouble. If there is any trouble, the risk will tarnish the public image of the program and could set the Cougars back even further. Ronnie Johnson brings just as much experience to Houston. The two-year starter at Purdue averaged 10.8 points and 3.2 assists for the Boilermakers back in 2013-2014 before transferring. He will certainly find a spot in the regular rotation. Junior college transfers Xavier Dupree, Rob Gray, Kyle Meyer and Bertrand Nkali add even more experience to the roster. At the least, a couple of those guys will add some much needed depth. Chris Harris and Galen Robinson are the only incoming freshmen. Harris, a 6-10 center, and Robinson, a 6-0 point guard, will have time to develop, but both are promising players for the future.

Who to Watch:
The new depth will push L.J. Rose, LeRon Barnes, Danrad Knowles and Devonta Pollard. Those four averaged at least 27.4 minutes per game and Rose and Barnes seemed to never leave the floor when healthy. Now there are players who can give them a much needed rest. Rose missed quite a few games with an injury and that forced others to take care of the ball. Rose ended his junior year averaging 9.8 points and 5.3 assists per game in 19 games. He is the guy who makes the team tick and seems to find open teammates with ease. Rose has enough of an outside shot to keep the opposition honest too. Barnes had a breakout junior campaign, averaging 7.4 points and 6.4 rebounds. That is a lot of rebounds for a 6-5 guard. He is tough, but he can knock down shots too. Knowles, a lanky 6-10 forward, is a tough matchup. He will use his length to finish above the rim, and help out on the glass, but he is a decent shooter too. Devonta Pollard is the traditional big man who can bang in the paint. He was a pleasant surprise last season coming out of the junior college ranks and averaged 11.4 points and 6.4 rebounds. His ability to score in the paint will give the shooters on the wing plenty of open looks, but they still need to knock down those open looks after shooting just 32.0 percent as a team from beyond the arc in 2014-2015.

Final Projection:
Even without Stiggers, this team should be much better than they were last year. Coach Sampson is a very good coach and now he has some depth to work with. The regular starters were asked to do so much and eventually that caught up to them. Players like Eric Weary, who is back for his senior season, did their best to provide some depth, but it wasn’t enough and Coach Sampson had little choice but to leave the starters out there as much as possible. This year should be different and the wins will start to come. Maybe it is not enough to catch the teams in the top half of the league, but it is enough to close the gap and to reach a postseason tournament of some sort.

Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT

Projected Starting Five:
L.J. Rose, Senior, Guard, 9.8 points per game
Damyean Dotson, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
LeRon Barnes, Senior, Guard, 7.4 points per game
Danrad Knowles, Junior, Forward, 9.9 points per game
Devonta Pollard, Senior, Forward, 11.4 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 64.4 (250th in nation, 5th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 65.5 (141, 8)
Field-Goal Percentage: 39.3 (325, 10)
Field-Goal Defense: 43.5 (199, 8)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 8.1 (31, 1)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 32.0 (269, 9)
Free-Throw Percentage: 68.0 (223, 5)
Rebound Margin: -1.0 (234, 8)
Assists Per Game: 11.8 (238, 7)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.3 (244, 9)


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