It’s NCAA Tournament season – otherwise known as win or go home time. Houston has two teams participating in this year’s tournament, which began this week.
The 18th-ranked University of Houston Cougars, who are experiencing unprecedented sustained success under Kelvin Sampson, are back in the tournament for the fourth straight year after sweeping both American Athletic Conference regular-season and conference tournament championships.
Johnny Jones also has Texas Southern back in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season. The repeat SWAC Tournament champs defeated Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the First Four round of the NCAA Tournament to set a first-round matchup against No.1 Kansas in Fort Worth. The Tigers made a First Four appearance for the third time since 2018.
The Cougars, meanwhile, are looking to make another long run in the tournament this month. They advanced to the Final Four last season, and are back despite losing four starters from that squad and then losing two key players to injuries this season.
UH earned a fifth seed and will meet No. 12 UAB in the opening round in Pittsburgh.
In addition to the two local teams, the state of Texas also has plenty of reason to be excited this tournament season on both the men’s and women’s sides.
There are seven state men’s teams in the NCAA Tournament starting with defending national champion Baylor, which garnered a No. 1 seed for the second straight year and will take on No. 16 Norfolk State.
“I’m really excited about Fort Worth,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team had a five-game winning streak snapped with a 72-67 loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship quarterfinals.
“The guys worked really hard to make that happen, getting a No. 1 seed two years in a row. And with the COVID year (2020), we were set to be a No. 1 seed. That would have been three times in a row, and that’s really rare air. There are only three teams that have done that since 2010. Great accomplishment for what the guys have worked hard to achieve. The perks of that are playing in Fort Worth, so really excited about that.”
Texas Tech is a No. 3 seed and the University of Texas is back in the tournament for the first time since 2014. TCU rounds out the Texas contingent, making an NCAA Tournament appearance for just the second time in the last 24 years.
On the women’s side, the state has four teams in the NCAA Tournament with the Texas Longhorns leading the way as a No. 2 seed after knocking off perennial Big 12 power Baylor in the conference championship game to extend their winning streak to 11 games. The Bears are back in the tournament but their untimely upset loss to the UT not only cost them 12th Big 12 title but it also cost them a No.1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
UT takes on No. 15 Fairfield and No. 2 seeded Baylor is matched up against No. 15 Hawaii in the first round.
Stephen F. Austin is in the Tournament as a 12 seed and will take on No. 5 North Carolina in the first round, while 14th-seed UT Arlington will meet No. 3 Iowa State in the opening round.