A year after reaching the final fourth in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, Houston takes another run. This time, it does so with five new starters and a modified list.
The Cooks, ranked 5th, advanced to the 16th round with the third match in a row. Won 68-53 Fifth Level Illinois in Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon. Houston lost to national champion Baylor in the final of last year’s national semifinals. South Region advanced to meet the winner of Sunday night’s match between No. 1 Arizona and No. 9 Texas Christian.
“I think they’re standing on the shoulders of all the players who came before them,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson, who advanced to round 16 for the sixth time in his career, said in a television interview. “They believe in our culture. We are talking about watering the trees. We do not water the leaves; We are the roots of water, and the roots of this project are our culture, and each of these children buys it. That is why we have succeeded.
Houston (31-5), the champion of the American Athletics Conference, did not even win a single digit seed in the tournament after the 1984 final four, when Hakeem Olajouvon and Clyde Trexler were the stars of the Cooks. Illinois (23-10) lost in the second round from first place for the second year in a row. In 2021, it was mourned by Loyola Chicago as the No. 1 seed.
Three of the final four teams last year advanced to the round of 16, with Gonzalez and UCLA winning on Saturday. Baylor lost to North Carolina on Saturday, the defending champion before losing to the 16th round for five consecutive years.
Sampson lost all five of his starting players last year when they moved or were injured. Quentin Grimes, a key player on the team last year, now plays for the Knicks. Junior guard Marcus Saucer, who scored 20 points in the national semifinals last year, went down with a season-end injury, just as second-year guard Dramon Mark did.
However, Houston has maintained its trademark defensive intensity, and it looks like it has seven defenders on the ground instead of five. Cougars limited Illinois to 34 percent shooting from the field. Houston advanced to 65-49 with an 11-0 lead and did not reach the game.
In action, senior defender Das Moore was unbeaten in the open, finishing with 21 points and 7 rebounds. Kyler Edwards, a member of the Jamal Sheet 18 and Texas Tech 2019 final four team, received 15 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
Kofi Cockburn, the 7-foot, 285-pound all-American big man from Illinois, finished his final college game with 19 points and 8 rebounds.
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