USA Today: American Athletic Conference college basketball season preview for 2016-17

3. Houston Cougars

► What to watch: All-AAC first-teamer Devonta Pollard is gone, but the Cougars return a number of key contributors from a team that won nine of 11 games in January and February to surge into NCAA tournament consideration. Damyean Dotson (13.9ppg), who has played at Oregon and Houston, will lead the postseason push, with backcourt help sure to arrive from returnees Rob Gray Jr. and Galen Robinson Jr.

► Bottom line: After the program had years of dormancy, Kelvin Sampson has breathed life into it. The recent history still sits very much at odds with the larger back story, however, as the Cougars program has five times as many Final Four appearances in its history as it does NCAA tournament bids in the last 23 years. But it feels like things are changing. Whether the Cougars break into the field of 68 in March will depend largely on whether they find necessary improvement on the defensive end.