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A coach's view on the Cougars

Houston brought in eight new players this season, which is one reason why one Conference USA coach believes it took the Cougars until the very end of the season to round into form. After winning four straight games to claim the Conference USA tournament crown, Houston advanced to the NCAA tournament where it will face Maryland in the first round on Friday night in Spokane, Wash.

The coach said Houston has not changed much in terms of its approach on either end of the court since the beginning of the season, which makes the jump the Cougars made from going 7-9 in conference play to becoming the conference tournament champions all the more perplexing.

"They're a very, very talented team that had a lot of turnover after last season," said the coach, who was granted anonymity in return for his candor about a conference opponent. "Perhaps it's just taken them this long to figure it out."

Houston's centerpiece, senior guard Aubrey Coleman, tallied just 13 points (roughly 12 points below his season average) on 4 for 20 shooting in the C-USA tournament title game against Texas-El Paso. Coleman did register nine rebounds, six assists and four steals. The coach said Coleman's relatively low point total against UTEP was an aberration.

"He'll find a way to get his 25-30 points a night," the coach said. "It's just an issue of how many possessions it will take to get that. But the ball is in his hands just as much" as it was earlier in the season.

The coach said Houston prefers to spread the floor and that its players like to create off the dribble. He said the Cougars do not run many set plays, but they do employ a fair number of ball screens. Aside from Coleman, Houston will run a few "special things" designed for senior guard Kelvin Lewis, but that's about it.

"Everybody else picks up the scraps after Aubrey gets done," the coach said.

Coleman might only stand 6-foot-4, but the coach described him as a strong guard with great hands. Coleman is the team's leading defensive rebounder, which enables him to ignite transition scoring opportunities, and ranks second on the squad in offensive rebounds, which provides him chances for put-backs.

"He's explosive and strong," the coach said. "When he puts it on the deck, you can put your forearm on him, but it's not going to derail him."

In terms of defending Coleman, the coach said the best plan is to be persistent, try to stick with him and not lose track of him, and attempt to limit his second chance opportunities.

"The bottom line is he's going to score his points," the coach said. "It's all about the other guys."

Those other guys include Lewis, who the coach said has a quick release and "deep, deep" range. Lewis is shooting 39.8 percent from three-point range.

They also include senior forward Sean Coleman, junior guard Adam Brown and freshman foward Kirk Van Slyke, all of whom, the coach said, "can go off on a given night."

Defensively, the coach essentially threw up his hands. Or, at least, I imagined him throwing up his hands as he spoke to me on the other end of the line. He said Houston is a "rambling, gambling group on defense. You don't know what you're going to see from night to night."

The coach said he's seen the Cougars run a variety of defensive schemes this season, ranging anywhere from a triangle-and-2 to a box-and-1 to different zones to man-to-man looks. They might switch defenders off of every screen, he said, or they might not switch off of any screen.

"Gary is just going to have to take a wild guess as far as what they're going to do defensively," the coach said. "Penders is liable to come up with something they haven't run all season. You just have to worry about what you do on offense."

By Steve Yanda  |  March 15, 2010; 2:21 PM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Next: Vasquez on final Wooden Award ballot


Be patient, make the extra passes, take good shots, work it inside to JW, and get back quickly on D. Box out. Just win baby.

Regards -


Posted by: HughGRection | March 15, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

I saw a couple of threads earlier how MD-Kansas was the de facto NC in 2002. True to a point; both teams must have been happy to see Indiana upset Oklahoma. I don't think either team wanted any part of Oklahoma in the NC game. Barno has pointed out that they thrashed us that year in Norman in likely the worst game the team played during that season.

Now I agree that Kansas fans might want some revenge; the details of the other side of the bracket fade when a team with Hinrich, gooden, Collisen, Miles, Boschee and Simien loses to anyone. Beat Houston, worry about all else afterwards.

Regards -


Posted by: HughGRection | March 15, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

HGR, I agree with your first post all the way. If we play our game there's no way we should lose to Houston. But that's the fun about the tourney, anything can happen in one game. If we run our offense and play solid defense, we should win, clearly. It's nice to see that Houston doesn't rebound well, considering that has been one of our weaknesses all year.

In terms of our run in '02, I personally was glad that Duke choked that year (I think is was Jay Williams missing free throws) moreso than Oklahoma losing. I did not want to see Duke in a final considering how many calls they get, and since they knocked us out the previous year. While revenge would have been nice, avoiding them altogether was just fine. The Kansas game and the UConn game were much more exciting than the final.

Posted by: CYork1 | March 15, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

I'm am from Maryland (Big Terps Fan) and currently live in Houston. You would not believe the comments on sports talk radio around here. They are already talking about round 2 of the tourney. Apparently Grievis is Superman, and when Houston shuts down him, Maryland has nothing else left.

Obviously, Houston fans are pretty stupid. Just a week ago the wanted Tom Pender's head. Now they think they are a sweet sixteen team.

Posted by: matt8 | March 15, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

I know a certain WaPost video editor who probably wants some revenge against Kansas fans...

Posted by: Barno1 | March 15, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

More details Barno...

Regards -


Posted by: HughGRection | March 15, 2010 9:31 PM | Report abuse

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