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Thursday, December 1, 2022

Men's Basketball

UH’s goal in AAC Tournament is simple: ‘We want to cut the nets’


UH junior guard Quentin Grimes goes up for a layup during last Sunday's game against Memphis at Fertitta Center. | Andy Yanez/The Cougar

UH junior guard Quentin Grimes goes up for a layup during last Sunday’s game against Memphis at Fertitta Center. | Andy Yanez/The Cougar

No. 7 Houston is days away from Selection Sunday, and while the Cougars will not be playing for their NCAA Tournament lives during the American Athletic Conference Tournament, the team is still heading into the event with motivation to win it all.

“I feel like right now, we’ve got something to prove,” UH junior guard Quentin Grimes told reporters on Wednesday morning. “People may not think we’re as good as we really are, so I feel like right now, we really have something to prove heading into the conference tournament.”

The UH men’s basketball team finished the regular season 21-3, which included a 14-3 mark against the AAC, and yet the team finds itself in between a potential No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, according to several bracketologists.

By winning the AAC Championship, the Cougars likely solidify their spot for a two-seed in the big dance. 

While UH only lost three games the entire season, its loss to East Carolina in February still stings and is what potentially has held the team out of conversations for a No. 1 seed. 

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has the Cougars holding on to the final two-seed in his bracketology prediction as of Thursday.

Game by game

For the team itself, however, the talk of brackets and seeds isn’t even on its radar when it comes to mindset. Both players and coaches just want to win out to build as much momentum as possible.

“We’re all just keeping our heads straight,” freshman guard Tramon Mark said. “This really is our last chance to get better as a team and just keep improving each and every day. We got to take it game by game.”

While UH finished with three more wins than the other two closest teams in the conference, Wichita State edged out the Cougars for the AAC regular-season championship due to finishing with a higher win percentage. The Shockers prevented UH from winning its third straight regular-season title. 

In a way, UH’s weekend in Fort Worth is a tune-up for the NCAA Tournament that starts a week from Friday.

The biggest threats for the Cougars heading into the tournament are the Shockers, who UH split the season series with in the regular season, and Memphis, who the Cougars beat at the buzzer on Sunday off a near half-court shot from Mark.

The Cougars are set to play against Tulane in the conference tournament’s quarterfinals. When the team takes the court on Friday evening, they will do so with the knowledge that nothing is locked in.

“A game is not guaranteed anymore,” senior forward Justin Gorham said. “You have to win to advance, that is our mindset.”

UH has only one goal in mind throughout the weekend: win.

“We elected to go because we want the championship,” said UH head coach Kelvin Sampson on his radio show on Monday. “We want to cut the nets.”

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