As Houston prepares to host 2023 Final Four, Cougars ready to make run at national title

The Houston Cougars are regular season conference champions. But there’s a whole lot more they want to accomplish during the next month.


East Carolina’s Jaden Walker (21) dives for the ball held by Houston’s Jamal Shead (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Greenville, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023.

As March begins, so does the madness. With the NCAA Men's Final Four being held this year in Houston, all eyes are on the top-ranked University of Houston Cougars.

Throughout the season, Houston has been in the top five of the Associated Press basketball poll and has been number one four times.

With a 27-2 record the pressure has built, as the championship will be hosted just a few miles from campus at NRG Stadium in early April.

With last week’s win against East Carolina, Houston clinched the regular season American Athletic Conference title for the fourth time in five years.

Head coach Kelvin Sampson has turned the program around over the past few years, but keeps his focus on what's ahead, not letting the wins go to his head.

"I don’t really think about that," Sampson said. "We’ve been winning for a long, long time. I just don’t ever get carried away with it. There will be a time to reflect on things, but now is not the time."

Sampson only wants his team to get better by observing basketball on the professional level.

"All my coaches, we sit down and we meet, and we're constantly looking at what other people are doing, especially NBA guys, in terms of player development. We're just trying to get better," Sampson said.

The focus runs deep, as both Sampson and his players get ready to finish off the regular season Sunday on the road against Memphis.

"You know, just our efforts are getting better," Junior guard Jamal Shead said. "A lot of people are playing a lot harder, for a longer amount of time, so that’s one thing that we have been harping on, that's one thing we've been pleased with."

Senior guard Marcus Sasser agrees.

"Coming together as a team, that’s always a positive hand into March. We’re going to be playing our best basketball in March," Sasser said.

Both players know there is much work to do after the season ends as they transition into tournament play.

"Really everything," Sasser said.

The American Athletic Conference tournament in Fort Worth, where Houston will be the No. 1 seed, is March 9 – 12. The Cougars are the favorites to win the conference tournament title.

Then the basketball madness kicks-off starting with Selection Sunday on March 12. The tournament starts on March 16 and the Final Four will be held April 1-3 at NRG Stadium.

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