2. Houston Cougars
Original seed: No. 5
Elite Eight seed: No. 1
2022 tournament record: Defeated No. 12 UAB 82-68; defeated No. 4 Illinois 68-53; defeated No. 1 Arizona 72-60
Kelvin Sampson is still taking his shirt off and celebrating with his guys after leading Houston to the Elite Eight for the second consecutive season. But 2022’s run is even more impressive. After the Cougars bowed out of last year’s Final Four, they lost their No. 1 and 3 scorers, Quentin Grimes and DeJon Jarreau. Then, an injury in December ended the 2021-22 season for Marcus Sasser, who had taken over from Grimes as the No. 1 scorer for Houston. Tramon Mark, who averaged 7.8 PPG last season, also suffered a year-ending injury in December. And just like that, Sampson had a team that, it seemed, might struggle to win the American Athletic Conference title.
But this group has been tenacious. It is 12-1 in its last 13 games, 11 of which were won by 12 points or more. Since Feb. 17, the Cougars have made 55% of their shots inside the arc and grabbed 38% of their missed shots, per Barttorvik.com. They have won their three NCAA tournament games by 41 points combined. Fabian White Jr. and Josh Carlton have provided the toughness around the rim. And Kyler Edwards, who transferred from Texas Tech, has averaged 17.4 PPG and connected on 46% of his 3-point attempts in his last five games. Houston is not just a great story. Houston is a serious contender to win the national championship.
Up next: vs. Villanova (Saturday, 6:09 p.m. ET, TBS)