Welcome to The Sports Bank’s fourth annual college basketball season preview series where we break 111 teams in the 111 days leading up to the opening tip-off of the 2013-2014 season. We will rank the 84 power conference teams (including the new Big East and American Athletic Conferences) and top 27 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order. We’ll break down rosters, transfers, incoming freshmen, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.
The transfer of leading scorer, Joseph Young will hurt the Houston Cougars in their transition to the American Athletic Conference. However, the Cougs still have enough talent to cause some problems in their new home.
Last Season: T-7th, 7-9 in C-USA, 20-13 overall
Predicted AAC Finish: 7th
Projected Depth Chart:
F/C: TaShawn Thomas (Jr)/Valentine Izundu (So)/Ahmed Hardy (Fr)
F: Danrad Knowles (Fr)/J.J. Richardson (Sr)/Mikhail McLean (Jr)
G/F: Danuel House (So)/LeRon Barnes (So)
SG: Jherrod Stiggers (So)
PG: L.J. Rose (So)/Tione Womack (Sr)/Brandon Morris (Sr)/Jaaron Simmons (Fr)/Jimmie Jones (Sr)
Gone: SG-Joseph Young (transfer-Oregon), PG-J.J. Thompson (transfer), C-Leon Gibson
Houston will once again use an athletic, versatile, high-octane offensive attack that finished tenth in the nation in scoring a year ago. Even though Young transferred amid a bizarre situation involving his father being demoted from his previous position as the Cougars Director of Basketball Operations, U of H still returns three of their top four scorers and welcomes in a key player who had to sit out last season.
TaShawn Thomas nearly averaged a double-double per game finishing with 16.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game while earning First Team All-CUSA honors. Though a bit undersized at 6-8, Thomas is really Houston’s starting center which will much more challenging in a new league with more physically imposing low post players. Still, expect Thomas to get his.
The addition of Danrad “Chicken” Knowles should provide a boost as well. He was forced to sit out last season since he didn’t qualify academically but is a very long and versatile forward. There will plenty of competition for reserve minutes up-front with Mikhail McLean, J.J. Richardson, and Valentine Izundu all back in the fold. Freshman Ahmed Hamdy brings some needed physicality down low and could earn some playing time due to his strength.
On the wing, Danuel House and Jherrod Stiggers look to build off productive freshman campaigns. Houston needs House to improve his outside shooting in order to take the next step in his game and help replace the scoring of Young. Stiggers is the team’s top three-point threat and should increased minutes due to Young’s departure.
J.J. Thompson’s transfer has the point guard position up for grabs. Tione Womack and Brandon Morris have the experience edge but don’t be surprised if freshman Jaaron Simmons steals some minutes.
The x-factor is Baylor transfer L.J. Rose who didn’t see a whole lot of playing time for the Bears last season but possesses more talent than the three aforementioned point guard candidates. Rose will reportedly earn an NCAA waiver and become immediately eligible rather than having to sit out a year per normal NCAA transfer rules. If Rose can suit up right away, he will likely be handed the keys from day one.
A lack of size inside and uncertainty at the point guard position will be two areas of concern for the Houston Cougars entering their inaugural year in the AAC. If those questions can be solved before conference play, James Dickey’s team could be a sleeper in the nation’s newest conference.
Player to Watch: Danrad Knowles
A top 50 recruit in the 2012 class, Knowles adds a ton of versatility to the Houston line-up. He has a unique skillset for a 6-9 player in that he can shoot the ball from the outside, handle the rock, and his length makes him a factor on the defensive end. His rail thin frame will be an issue as he transitions to a more physical level of basketball but should help the Cougars uptempo attack.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/17 vs. Lehigh
11/25 vs. Stanford (Legends Classic)
11/26 vs. Pitt/Texas Tech (Legends Classic)
OTHER 111 IN 111′S:
#84 Washington State
#86 Oregon State
#87 Louisiana Tech
#89 Wake Forest
#90 Central Florida
#95 Seton Hall
#97 George Mason
#99 Penn State
#101 West Virginia
#102 South Florida
#103 Mississippi State
#105 South Carolina
#106 Texas Tech
#108 Virginia Tech
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu to Milwaukee. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet , AND the second most accurate 2013 NBA Mock Draft. (Yup, nearly 3peat champ… #humblebrag.)
You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.Follow paulmbanks