#86 Houston Men's Basketball 2014-2015 Preview

Houston Cougars

2014-2015 Overall Rank: #86
Conference Rank: #7 American

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#86 Houston Men's Basketball 2014-2015 PreviewBuy Houston Basketball Tickets

Houston finished the 2013-2014 campaign with a winning record, but overall it was a pretty disappointing season for the Cougars. But the program made a big splash when they hired Coach Kelvin Sampson to take over. Coach Sampson has plenty of experience at major schools, most notably Oklahoma and Indiana. For the last six years he was in the NBA with Milwaukee and Houston and it is a short trip from the Rockets to the Cougars. With an influx of hope, this is suddenly a program on the rise and Coach Sampson has wasted little time bringing in talent.

2013-14 Record: 17-16, 8-10
2013-14 Postseason: None
Coach: Kelvin Sampson
Coach Record: 0-0 at Houston, 496-271 overall

Who’s Out:
But Houston lost a lot of talent too. Most notable is TaShawn Thomas and Danuel House. Thomas was the superstar for the Cougars, easily leading the team with 15.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game. House was Thomas’ mate in the frontcourt and was right behind Thomas with 13.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per contest. Those two gave Houston a competitive frontcourt during their first year in the AAC. J.J. Richardson provided decent depth in the frontcourt. The backcourt will move on without Brandon Morris, Tione Womack and Jaaron Simmons. Morris and Womack played about 20 minutes per game last season and Simmons was supposed to be the star of the 2013-2014 recruiting class. He still might be, but it won’t be for the Cougars.

Who’s In:
Coach Sampson has six junior college transfers, a division I transfer and two freshmen eligible in 2014-2015. Shooting guard Torian Graham, who was committed to North Carolina State before ending up at Chipola Junior College, is a superb talent who just needs to put it all together. Perhaps under Coach Sampson he can do just that. Cavon Baker will add depth to the point guard spot, while wing Eric Weary will add some size and toughness to the backcourt. Of the three frontcourt junior college transfers, Devonta Pollard, Bertrand Nkali and Egi Gjikondi, it is Pollard who should make the biggest impact. The 6-8, 215 pound power forward averaged 3.9 points and 3.1 rebounds in limited playing time with Alabama back in 2012-2013. Incoming freshman guard Wes VanBeck will look for minutes on the perimeter, while J.C. Washington has the talent to make a big impact in the frontcourt. The local product can score in a variety of ways and is always tough on the glass. The DI transfer is Adam Drexler, a walk-on who spent one year at Loyola Marymount.

Who to Watch:
While Houston will have to rely pretty heavily on the newcomers, this team still returns five players who were part of the regular rotation a year ago. Point guard L.J. Rose averaged 8.9 points and 5.5 assists during his sophomore season. On a team that committed quite a few turnovers, a healthy chunk of those had little to do with Rose. He is capable of turning into a leader on a team that desperately needs a leader. Jherrod Stiggers can be a leader on the perimeter too. At 11.2 points per game he is the team’s top returning scorer. He can spend too much time hoisting up three-pointers instead of using his 6-5 frame to mix up his game by attacking the basket, but that is fine as long as he keeps making them. LeRon Barnes is not much of a scorer, yet at 6-6 he does add a rebounding presence to the backcourt. Danrad Knowles has had a lot of hype since his arrival at Houston. Injuries have slowed his progress, but the lanky 6-10 forward did average about 20 minutes per game as a freshman. He can shoot and drive to the basket, making him a very tough matchup with his size. The frontcourt is basically Knowles’ now and that means he should be looking to score more as a sophomore. Senior Mikhail McLean is a more traditional forward who can throw his weight around in the paint.

Final Projection:
For obvious reasons, this is a tough team to figure out heading into Coach Sampson’s first year at Houston. Losing Thomas and House is huge, but there is talent and a bit of experience to work with. With five returners who started at least ten games last year and six transfers who spent two years at a junior college and/or a DI program, Coach Sampson has options. Now he just has to get all of those pieces to play together as a team.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT

Projected Starting Five:
L.J. Rose, Junior, Guard, 8.9 points per game
Jherrod Stiggers, Junior, Guard, 11.2 points per game
Torian Graham, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Danrad Knowles, Sophomore, Forward, 7.1 points per game
Devonta Pollard, Junior, Forward, DNP last season

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 71.1 (174th in nation, 7th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 73.0 (253, 7)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.4 (109, 4)
Field-Goal Defense: 44.7 (227, 7)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.4 (142, 5)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.7 (73, 3)
Free-Throw Percentage: 66.7 (271, 6)
Rebound Margin: -1.2 (231, 9)
Assists Per Game: 14.7 (48, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.8 (222, 6)


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