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Friday, April 23, 2021

Men's Basketball

Things to keep an eye on as Houston moves toward No. 2 seed

Senior guard Corey Davis Jr. has been called one of the best guards in the country by his coach and other coaches across the country. He will need to keep performing at a high level if the Cougars are to finish the season without a loss. | Ahmed Gul/The Cougar

It is that time of year again, and March Madness is less than a month away.

With the clock slowly ticking toward the NCAA Tournament, the No. 9/8 Cougars are hoping to earn a top seed with just four games left to play in the regular season.

Houston, who is in the Top 10 for the first time since the days of the legendary Phi Slama Jama teams from almost four decades ago, has already been predicted to be a No. 3 seed by notable bracketology experts.

If UH expects to receive a higher seed and an easier path in the tournament when Selection Sunday rolls around, a number of things will have to happen for the Cougars.

Houston has had almost no problems in the American Athletic Conference, but because the AAC sits just outside of the Top Five, its wins are just not worth as much as some teams with two or more losses.

Fortunately for the Cougars, the selection committee is doing something different this season that might just catapult it to a more appealing seed.

The selectors will be factoring in the new NET rankings, in which UH is currently No. 4. NET rankings rely heavily on quality wins. Given Houston’s victories against then-Top 25 teams like Oregon, LSU and Cincinnati, it should fare better when seeded.

The Cougars must also hope that a couple teams ranked above it lose in the coming weeks if it wishes for a higher spot.

One of the biggest teams Houston must look out for is Kentucky, which lost last week to then-No. 19 LSU at home while ranked No. 5 in the AP Poll and NET rankings.

Kentucky still has its two toughest games of the season ahead of it, both against the No. 5 team in the country — Tennessee.

Although UK only dropped to No. 5 in the NET, it lost to a team UH beat, strengthening the Cougars’ case for a better seed.

Houston should also keep its eye on the rivalry up north: No. 7 Michigan and No. 10/11 Michigan State.

The Wolverines and the Spartans are meeting twice in the next three weeks in games that have major implications for the Cougars’ fate.

Michigan, which just lost to unranked Penn State last week and which some have placed as the No. 2 seed above Houston, must split the games with its archnemesis and lose somewhere else for UH to move above them.

Both teams currently sit just a few spots behind Houston in the NET rankings. If one were to win twice, then the wins would ultimately boost it ahead, but splitting games gives UH a chance to stay above.

The No. 2 seed at the NCAA Tournament would undoubtedly help the Cougars.

Bracket Matrix, a site that averages the most accurate bracketology predictors over previous seasons, has Houston facing off against UC-Irvine, No. 102 in the NET, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Having the No. 2 seed could place the Cougars in Jacksonville, Florida against Radford, No. 133 in the NET.

How the Cougars will be seeded isn’t set in stone until March 17, nor who or where they’re playing, but the right combination of skill and luck will decide their future.

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