#75 Houston Men's Basketball 2013-2014 Preview

Houston Cougars

2013-2014 Overall Rank: #75
Conference Rank: #7 American

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It has been a very busy offseason for Houston. There are big transfers coming in and out, but the bigger news is Houston’s move from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference. The Cougars made a pretty big jump last season, reaching 20 wins and earning a trip to the CBI, where they beat Texas before falling to George Mason. Coach James Dickey has a pretty young squad, so the future is looking very promising, but this season is full of promise as well thanks to TaShawn Thomas and Danuel House. Thomas has two very productive seasons under his belt and the 6-8 junior is not done improving. As a sophomore he tallied 16.9 points per game and led the Cougars with 9.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. House lived up to his hype as a freshman despite inconsistent outside shooter. The 6-7 wing is a great athlete who can use his length and athleticism to play solid defense and finish above the rim.

2012-13 Record: 20-13, 7-9
2012-13 Postseason: CBI
Coach: James Dickey
Coach Record: 47-46 at Houston, 200-180 overall

Who’s Out:
Joseph Young transferred to Oregon after leading Houston with 18.0 points per contest. The high powered offense will miss his scoring versatility, but there are others who are capable of picking up the slack. It is a big loss, yet this team will still be among the highest scoring teams in the country. J.J. Thompson also transferred. The point guard did start 21 games and dished out a team high 2.9 assists. However, like with Young, there are options to replace him and, in this case, it will likely be a step up in talent. Leon Gibson was the only senior on the roster in 2012-2013. He did provide the Cougars with some experience and interior toughness and toughness could be a huge concern in the more difficult AAC.

Who’s In:
The eligibility of L.J. Rose, who played with Baylor as a freshman last season, is why losing Thompson will not be a big problem for Coach Dickey. Rose did not see much action for Baylor, yet he is the most talented point guard on this roster. At 6-4, Rose has great vision and he will have little trouble slicing through the opposing defense and finishing or finding an open teammate. Incoming freshman Jaaron Simmons will battle it out for minutes backing up Rose. Ahmed Hamdy, the other incoming freshman, has some of that toughness that this team needs. He can do the dirty work in the paint, yet he will need to be able to get up and down the floor and play solid defense in order to see too many minutes as a freshman. Danrad Knowles is expected to finally make his Cougar debut. The 6-10 forward was a huge pickup for Houston last year, but was ruled ineligible. Knowles is a perfect fit for a team that likes to get up and down the floor. He is long and lean and can step out and knock down the mid-range jumper with consistency.

Who to Watch:
With Thomas, House and Knowles in the frontcourt and Rose running the show, all this team needs is a shooting guard to replace Young to fill out their starting five. Jherrod Stiggers will do just fine. As a freshman the 6-5 guard shot 37.9 percent from beyond the arc and made almost as many long balls as Young. Stiggers does need to start using his size to mix up his offensive game and get to the rim. Tione Womack and Brandon Morris are both experienced senior point guards. They will lose some minutes to Rose and Simmons, although do not be surprised if Coach Dickey runs multiple point guards on occasion. With Rose standing 6-4 and Stiggers at 6-5, it is hardly playing small at all with those two on the wing. Sophomore LeRon Barnes will be in the mix as well. He averaged fewer than ten minutes per game in 2012-2013 and there is a lot of talent around, yet he is a very good rebounder for a wing.

Final Projection:
The talent keeps coming with the depth in the frontcourt. J.J. Richardson is still loaded with potential after spending a couple relatively unproductive seasons at Pittsburgh and averaging just 9.4 minutes per game with Houston last season. He is a skilled 6-8 forward who could put up pretty good numbers if given the opportunity. Mikhail McLean has a handful of starts under his belt and Valentine Izundu, at 6-10, is the tallest player on the roster and still growing into a productive basketball player. This is a Houston squad that is not going to be intimidated playing anybody in the AAC. They may be pushed around against some of the tougher frontcourts in the conference, yet that does not mean they will lose. Houston can outscore anybody.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT

Projected Starting Five:
L.J. Rose, Sophomore, Guard, DNP last season
Jherrod Stiggers, Sophomore, Guard, 8.1 points per game
Danuel House, Sophomore, Guard, 12.4 points per game
Danrad Knowles, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
TaShawn Thomas, Junior, Forward, 16.9 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 78.1 (7th in nation, 1st in conference)
Scoring Defense: 73.3 (317, 12)
Field-Goal Percentage: 46.4 (37, 3)
Field-Goal Defense: 43.1 (188, 8)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.0 (175, 10)  
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.1 (72, 3)
Free-Throw Percentage: 71.0 (114, 6)
Rebound Margin: 3.2 (81, 4)
Assists Per Game: 15.2 (29, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.1 (163, 5)


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