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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Men's Basketball

Roundtable: Basketball’s toughest remaining opponent


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With about a month and a half left in the regular season, redshirt senior forward Devin Davis and the basketball team will face some of their toughest opponents of the year. | Thomas Dwyer/The Cougar

The men’s basketball team is in the final stretch of its season. With only 13 games left, every game increases in weight as the Cougars hope to finally return to the NCAA Tournament.

It will not be an easy task, as these upcoming games will take them through the thicket of the American Athletic Conference. Three of our sports writers made their picks for the Cougars’ toughest remaining opponent.

Senior staff writer Tristan Shannon

Their hardest matchup will be when the Cougars go on the road to face the Cincinnati Bearcats, who possess the longest current home court-winning streak in the nation, winning their last 35 home games.

Cincinnati will be tough due to its defensive efficiency. The Bearcats are second in the nation in points allowed per game, only giving up 58.7 on average to opponents. Their history also does not bode well for the Cougars, who have lost six of their last seven games to the Bearcats dating back to the 2013-14 season.

The Bearcats are led by their junior guard/forward Jacob Evans, the team’s leading scorer (13.5 per game) and their leader in assists (3.4 per game). He was named to the Preseason Watchlist for both the John R. Wooden Award, given to the most outstanding player in college basketball, and the Julius Erving Award, given out to the best small forward in college basketball.

Defeating Evans and the rest of the Bearcats on the road will be a tough task for Houston. The Cougars will need to put together their best performance of the 2017-18 season if they wish to defeat Cincinnati away from home.

Staff writer Christopher McGehee

When looking to find Houston’s toughest remaining opponent, look no further than the team they played less than two weeks ago: the Wichita State Shockers. The Cougars will host the Shockers this Saturday. The Shockers won the first meeting by 18 points and, in addition to holding several statistical advantages over the Cougars, they now have confidence going into the second matchup.

As a team Wichita State boasts a more efficient offense than UH, averaging 5 more points per game than the Cougars (85 to 80 respectively), while also holding a 42 to 40 edge in the rebounding category and dishing out more assists, 19 to 15, during each contest.

Once you drill down, the disparity between the two teams grows larger. Wichita State can claim four players who are averaging double digits in the points column, while Houston can only counter with three. Of their top four scorers, the Shockers have three of them shooting at least 39 percent from deep while junior guard Corey Davis Jr. can say the same for the Cougars.

During the first meeting, three Shockers players scored 14 or more points. All three shot 62.5 percent or better from the field. In stark contrast, only one player made it to 13 points, and that came while shooting at a relatively horrendous 42.5 percent clip.

If the trends established in the first matchup carry over into the second showdown, the Wichita State Shockers hold a decisive advantage from the top of the roster to the bottom.

Staff writer Andrew Tuan

On Feb. 8, the Cougars will be up against arguably their toughest matchup: the SMU Mustangs.

Led by third year head coach Tim Jankovich, the Mustangs have beaten the Cougars in five out of their last six meetings. They have a fast paced offense starring junior point guard Shake Milton, who is averaging a team-high 17 points per game and leading the team with 4.5 assists per game.

At 6’5″, Milton’s length allows him to create shots for himself and his teammates. He has given trouble to the Cougars in the past, exploding for a season-high 27 points and collecting five assists in the first matchup last season.

The Mustangs are a frustrating defense to face. Their length allows them to contest shots and makes them the eighth best defense in the nation in terms of points allowed. Combine that with their lethal shooting from beyond the arc, where they are eighth in the nation in 3-point percentage, and the Mustangs are going to be a true test for the Cougars.

However, the Cougars will be at home at H&PE Arena, where they have yet to lose a game this season. This will be the first of two meetings this season with the Mustangs. They will see each other again on Feb. 28.

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