There remains a considerable amount of hype surrounding the opening game week of the 2023 NCAA basketball tournament, which will feature the pinnacle of college basketball stars squaring off for a chance to lift the coveted title of National Champions, with one school located within the sports-mad state of Texas already making a plea to be ranked amongst the top contenders for the championship trophy this season.
There is no finer college tournament within the sport of basketball that generates as much excitement or pent-up emotion as the annual March Madness event garners with each passing season.
All of the nation’s top ranked collegiate programs will square off in front a raucous atmosphere of college students and fans to determine who will walk away as National Champions at the events conclusion.
Some of the all-time greatest basketball stars have previously made a name for themselves at the college level before departing for a chance to perform in the professional leagues such as the NBA or the Euro League.
Given the sheer amount of hype that is building ahead of this season’s March Madness event, fans are already placing their predictions in play via the latest March Madness lines on the BetUS sportsbook, with the Houston Cougars already emerging as strong favorites to claim National title glory this season.
Why are the Cougars considered to be the perennial favorites this season?
There is plenty to digress when analyzing this star-studded Cougars roster that features several high-potential prospects from the college scene, who are likely to set the tournament by storm.
The Cougars currently possess one of the top ranked college players in the nation which comes in the form of 6’8’’ power forward Jarace Walker, who is projected to be a mid-to-early first round selection in the upcoming draft class should he choose to declare for the NBA.
Walker has demonstrated his ability as a feared defender in the paint as well as on the perimeter which is often considered to be a rare trait that most big men struggle to incorporate into their game.
There are still some slight issues raised surrounding Walker’s production on the offensive end despite his season averages of a respectable 15 points per game on 47% shooting from the field, yet his free throw and three pointer percentages are well below average and will need continuous development if he is to reach the next expected level of play.
However, Walker is a tremendous rebounder on both ends of the court and has proven to be a growing menace for opposing players as he has become both an integral part in Houston’s defensive play and their overall success throughout the 2022/23 NCAA season.
Despite the continuous excellence of the freshman forward, there is still growing concerns surrounding whether the Cougars will have enough production on offense following the devastating toe injury that Houston guard Marcus Sasser suffered back in December with the 6’2’’ point guard contributing roughly twenty points per game to the Cougars’ scoring numbers.
In spite of this sudden injury worry to both Sasser and fellow offensive threat Tramon Mark, the Cougars still have plenty of unique offensive talents on display such as Small Forward J’Wan Roberts and guard Jamal Shead who is currently filling in as Sasser’s replacement, with both of these players (as well as the aforementioned Jarace Walker) averaging double digits in points scored.
The importance of Coach Sampson:
Despite all these major setbacks, the Cougars are still ranked atop of many individuals standings to contend for a championship this year, which is mainly in part to do with the excellent job of Head Coach Kelvin Sampson and his talented backroom staff.
Sampson has remained one of the most respected head coaches in the NCAA circuit thanks to his recent accomplishments with the Cougars during their 2021 Final Four finish and his prior stints at Oklahoma and Washington State.
Sampson has received a widespread amount of praise from the Houston city media and various other sources thanks to his efforts in turning the once dormant program into a major contender in the Big 12 as they look to claim their first ever National Championship in the school’s history.
Coach Sampson has built-up a tremendous reputation in producing teams that provide a no-nonsense, physical defensive playstyle, which will certainly suit the Cougars well heading into the tournament given the level of talent that they possess on the defensive end.
Many may be quick to question whether the Cougars can truly possess enough talent on the offensive end to advance ahead towards the latter stages of the tournament, yet there is still a resounding amount of optimism surrounding the Houston faithful as Coach Sampson has continuously defined the odds and helped this team reach an unparalleled level of success during his tenure at the helm.