Sampson knows the American will be a gauntlet this season
Houston begins the American competition portion of the schedule on Friday when they host UCF at Fertitta Center, and head coach Kelvin Sampson is aware of the tough task that the conference will provide this season.
“I don’t have to look at (how good the American is), I know how good it is,” Sampson said. “I know how good Memphis is, I saw the kids they recruited.”
Sampson is most impressed with how deep the Tigers have proved that they are as they have not been drastically affected by the situation with freshman center James Wiseman in terms of wins to this point.
“If you have good players, you can withstand a loss if you have good depth,” Sampson said. “When you lose a guy like Wiseman you’d think you’d take a step back, but they haven’t. That’s a credit to Penny (Hardaway) and his staff and those kids they’ve recruited. They’re really, really good.”
The Tigers are not the only team in the AAC that has excelled during non-conference play.
“Wichita State was us last year this time, they had a bunch of new guys,” Sampson said. “They’ve lost a lot… Wichita State lost a lot last year. They struggled in November. They struggled in December. Then they got it going in January and February and made the NIT.”
Sampson also had praise for Houston’s opponent on Friday.
“Another coach that I think is not getting enough credit for what he’s done is Johnny (Dawkins) in Central Florida,” Sampson said. “Look at what they lost. They lost Tacko (Fall), they lost Aubrey Dawkins, and they lost B.J. Taylor. Those are three All-Conference players, and here they are 9-3.”
As of now, Sampson gives the nod to both the Shockers and the Tigers when he sees who could be toward the top of the conference when it is all said and done.
“If anybody can go 16-2 this year it would be Memphis or Wichita State,” Sampson said. “I don’t think nobody else can.”
Sampson believes the conference games this year will be difficult as the talent within it is through the roof.
“Temple, Cincinnati, UConn… this league has good coaches, good programs, SMU won at Evansville after they won in Kentucky,” Sampson said. “You’re going to lose games in the league, that’s just the way it’s going to be. You just have to win your games at home and find a way to win a road game here and there.”