Houston had the Final Four to look forward to last year and NRG Stadium hosted possibly the most exciting national championship game in college basketball history. This year the road will lead to Glendale, Arizona when the tournament begins in less than a week.
Just two Texas teams, Baylor and SMU, appear to be locks to make the field of 68 teams. However all four Houston schools, legitimately have a chance to make a deep run in, or win their respective conference tournaments, providing a dose of madness for the next few days in March.
Texas Southern will be looking for its’ third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. Mike Davis’ Tigers won the SWAC regular season crown, guaranteeing at worst, a trip to the N.I.T. TSU (21-11) will need two more wins to claim the conference tournament. Grambling State will be the opponent Friday at Toyota Center (2:30 p.m.). A win would advance the Tigers into the championship game Saturday afternoon at 5:30 p.m.
The Houston Cougars have some work to do. Despite finishing the regular season 21-9 with a 12-6 mark in the American Conference, it is assumed the Coogs with an RPI of 52, will have to win the American Conference tournament in Hartford. Houston will play the winner of UConn and USF Friday night. If the Cougars draw the Huskies and defeat them in their backyard for a third time this season, they could meet Cincinnati, a team that drubbed the U of H 65-47 on March 2nd.
Houston would be a shoe in for the N.I.T. if they fall short of the Big Dance, however with Hofheinz Pavillion ready for renovation, even a home game is unlikely.
Rice has finished strong, winning nine of its’ last 11 games including a first round Conference USA Tournament victory over Southern Miss Wednesday. The Owls (22-10, 11-7) will meet fourth seeded UTEP Thursday afternoon in Birmingham. A win over the Miners would keep the dream alive for one of the more explosive teams in C-USA and also provide more resume building material for a post-season tournament. Win or lose Thursday, 2016-’17 has been a tremendous step forward for the program under head coach Mike Rhoades.
Even HBU has a shot at winning the Southland Conference Tournament in Katy. The fourth-seed Huskies went 12-6 in league action, showing the ability to knock off some of the top teams in the conference while winning nine straight games. The Huskies will play Thursday afternoon at the Merrell Center in the quarterfinal round. HBU was the only team in the Southland with three players on the All-Conference team so they have the firepower to make a Cinderella type run towards the NCAA Tournament.
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