#51 Houston Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

Houston Cougars
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #51
Conference Rank: #4 American
Houston took another step in the right direction under Coach Kelvin Sampson. Following a 13-19 campaign in which the Cougars won just four conference games, last season the team boosted their win total to 22 and went 12-6 in American play. That resulted in a trip to the NIT where Houston lost at Georgia Tech in the First Round. Guards Rob Gray and Damyean Dotson will again do a bulk of the scoring. Gray can shoot, but he is best when attacking the basket and creating his own shot off of the dribble. After averaging 16.0 points per game as a sophomore, the expectations are even higher for Gray. Dotson is the team’s most prolific shooter. The senior guard averaged 13.9 points and a team high 6.8 rebounds.
2015-16 Record: 22-10, 12-6
2015-16 Postseason: NIT
Coach: Kelvin Sampson
Coach Record: 35-28 at Houston, 533-300 overall
Who’s Out:
Devonta Pollard is the biggest loss. For the second straight year, the 6-8 forward ranked second on the team in scoring and rebounding. He was a very good scorer inside the arc and always a threat to attack the basket. Ronnie Johnson began last season as the starting point guard, but soon lost that job. He still played 22.3 minutes per game and averaged 9.4 points though and will continue his career at Auburn. LeRon Barnes, a 6-5 guard, did not do much scoring, but he did a bit of everything else and was a very good glue guy. The other loss is little used Eric Weary.
Who’s In:
Coach Sampson hit the junior college ranks to help bolster his roster. Morris Dunnigan is a proven scorer who averaged 22.9 points per game at Blinn Junior College in Texas last year. He and incoming freshman Armoni Brooks, who could be the best shooter on the team from day one, will add very good depth behind Gray and Dotson. The frontcourt adds freshman Mateen Hirbod and junior college transfers Devin Davis and Valentine Sangoyomi. Davis spent one season at Indiana before hitting the junior college ranks. He career was slowed by a serious car accident, but Davis had a very good return at Odessa Junior College where he earned All-America honors. Sangoyomi should play a big role in the frontcourt too. The 6-9 junior will compete with more experienced players for a starting job.
Who to Watch:
For now Kyle Meyer figures to start at the center spot. However, he averaged just 2.4 points and 2.7 rebounds in 13.9 minutes per game, so there will certainly be competition from Sangoyomi and Bertrand Nkali. Nkali, a 6-9 senior, averaged less than ten minutes per game in 2015-2016, but he has experience. Between Meyer, Sangoyomi and Nkali, Houston has plenty of options at the five spot, but it would be nice if somebody was able to step up and become a consistent scoring threat. Danrad Knowles is a capable frontcourt scorer. However, the 6-10 senior had a very inconsistent junior campaign and saw his scoring drop to 6.0 points per game from 9.9 the previous year. His rebounding fell to 3.7 per game as well and the Cougars need him to have a big senior season. If things do not go well for Knowles, Xavier Dupree could eat into some of his minutes.
Final Projection:
The future of Houston is Galen Robinson. He took over the point guard duties as a freshman and averaged 7.9 points and 3.4 assists. He gets up and down the floor in a hurry and keeps the Cougars moving fast and efficient. There are enough offensive weapons for this team to compete for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The defense, which ranked ninth in the AAC in field-goal percentage, will need to improve though. If Robinson can take the next step and the newcomers can live up to their potential, this team may not need all that much defensive improvement to battle for the top spot in the conference and the team’s first NCAA Tournament berth since 2010.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Galen Robinson, Sophomore, Guard, 7.9 points per game
Rob Gray, Junior, Guard, 16.0 points per game
Damyean Dotson, Senior, Guard, 13.9 points per game
Danrad Knowles, Senior, Forward, 6.0 points per game
Kyle Meyer, Senior, Center, 2.4 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 77.4 (71st in nation, 1st in conference)
Scoring Defense: 69.3 (106, 5)
Field-Goal Percentage: 46.6 (50, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.1 (95, 9)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.7 (203, 7)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 34.8 (157, 3)
Free-Throw Percentage: 70.5 (143, 3)
Rebound Margin: 2.2 (107, 5)
Assists Per Game: 12.9 (200, 8)
Turnovers Per Game: 10.4 (21, 2)