Looking at the (Possible) Replacements, Houston

It seems fairly clear at this point Texas A&M will leave the Big 12 conference to join the SEC any day now. Even though some of the reporting on the A&M situation has been a bit amateurish and exaggerated (ahem, Doug Gottlieb), it would seem highly unlikely that after all the public moves A&M has made that they’d end up declaring their allegiance the Big 12.

It’s no secret that conference realignment and the bags of money that motivate and accompany it are football-based. But obviously whatever moves are made will have an effect on the every other sport, basketball included.

Image courtesy collegeshade.com.

The Big 12 has stated that  it plans to aggressively expand in the event A&M leaves. Numerous schools have been thrown out there as possible replacements, including Conference USA member Houston. Here is a snapshot of their basketball program.

Houston Cougars

 Coach: James Dickey (entering second year).
Dickey has plenty of Big 12 experience, as he was the head coach at Texas Tech from 1991-2001, with limited success. He was then assistant at Oklahoma State from 2002-2008.

Best finish: Houston’s glory days were in the early/mid-eighties when Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler led the “Phi Slamma Jamma” Cougar teams to the 1983 and 1984 championship games. Unfortunately for Houston fans they lost both of those games but it was an impressive stretch nonetheless. Houston did not capitalize on that success as they have only been to the NCAA tournament four times since, with an 18-year absence between 1992 and 2010.

Last NCAA appearance: The Cougars last received an NCAA invite in 2010, their last season under former Texas coach Tom Penders. Although they went 7-9 in conference play, the Cougars won their conference tournament. They were rewarded with a first round loss to Maryland, and Penders resigned afterwards.

2010/11 record; record against Big 12: 12-18 (4-12); 0-0

Outlook: The Cougars don’t seem to offer much basketball-wise, as they would likely become the smallest fish on the feeding chain talent-wise right off the bat. I base that generalization solely on their recent performance in a weaker conference.Their arena, Hofheinz Pavilion, would also work against them as it is outdated (built in 1969) and would be the smallest in the conference.

On the positive side, it is not unreasonable to say that their recruiting should get a shot in the arm with the ability to offer a players a chance to play in a major conference. I’m not sure whether the Phi Slamma Jam teams still hold any weight, but it would be cool to rub elbows with Hakeem or Clyde every once in awhile. That ship may have sailed however.

They also have an advantage no other Big 12 school has by playing in a huge city, and this can work in two ways. First, they could use the allure of a big city and all the perks that come with it as a recruiting tool.

Second, there will always be top talent available in a gigantic metropolitan area. Some recent players from the Houston area include Emeka Okafor, Stephen Jackson, Daniel Gibson Gerald Green and Randolph Morris. But the key is getting the talent to listen and then really locking down the Houston metro area, which as mentioned earlier could be easier for the Cougars as a Big 12 member.

Houston’s ceiling could be high…but that is very optimistic.


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