After losing eight of ten American Athletic Conference games, dropping their record to 4-9, the University of Houston men’s basketball coaching staff set a goal for it’s team: finish .500 in league play. To do so, they’d have to win their final five games.
They started by beating Central Florida, and then upset 21st ranked Memphis. After that the Cougars won at Temple and then knocked off South Florida to get to 8-9. A rematch against last place Central Florida was the only thing standing between them and a .500 conference record, but the Cougars were drubbed 104-83.
“We weren’t ready to play,” Houston head coach James Dickey told SportsRadio 610 after Monday’s practice in preparation for his team’s American Athletic Conference quarterfinal game against SMU.
“It was disappointing because we wanted to finish .500 in the league, so that was a disappointment, but now we have to get ready for SMU.”
Houston enters the inaugural AAC Tournament as the sixth seed. Thursday at noon they’ll face third seeded SMU for the third time this season. Dickey’s team lost both meetings with the Mustangs during the regular season, but led at halftime at Hofheinz Pavilion in January in a game they’d lose by seven. Less than four weeks ago, SMU won the rematch in Dallas by four points.
“We have to rebound the ball better (against SMU),” Dickey said. “In the two games they outrebounded us by 16, four (at home) and 12 at their place.”
Under hall of fame coach Larry Brown, SMU will make it’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1993. They’ll be one of five AAC teams that will advance to the Big Dance along with Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis and Connecticut. If the Cougars can win three games in Memphis this week, they’ll give the first-year conference six entrants.
“We’re gonna pack for the week, but we gotta make sure we concentrate on one thing, and that’s the first game on Thursday, and we gotta be ready for that.”
The road through Memphis won’t be easy. If the Cougars can get past Memphis they’ll likely take on Louisville in the semifinals. The other half of the bracket is loaded with three other NCAA tournament teams.
In Dickey’s fourth season, Houston is just 16-15, but along with the close losses to SMU, they played conference champion Cincinnati tough in both meetings and have a win against Connecticut to go along with the Memphis victory.
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