2. Houston (15-2, 2-2)
Even if they were in the AAC, there’s no question that Houston has been one of the nation’s best programs in recent years. Kelvin Sampson’s program has advanced to at least the Sweet Sixteen of the last four NCAA Tournament’s, most notably advancing to the Final Four in 2021. Houston has won nearly 30 games a year these last five seasons, though things are different as they adjusted to their first season in the Big 12.
Yet things aren’t really that different at all, as Houston has boasted an elite defense and marched unbeaten through nonconference play, notably beating Utah, Dayton, and Xavier. Challenges came forth as Big 12 play began, with the Cougars losing close battles at Iowa State and TCU in recent weeks. On the flip side, their two conference wins have come by 34 and 23 points and this team has looked the part both on offense and defense.
The names are different, with LJ Cryer stepping in and players like Jamal Shead and J’Wan Roberts stepping into more prominent roles. Regardless, Houston is in phenomenal shape even as a newbie in the nation’s strongest conference. Expect this defense to continue to battle, with the Cougars still giving up less than 59 points per game against their new conference foes. They certainly have the coaching, talent, and drive; can they make it five straight years into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament?