MARCH MADNESS

Let's examine how the UH Coogs stack up against UAB

The Coogs face UAB on Friday. Photo by David Becker/Getty Images.

After defeating Memphis on Sunday to win a second consecutive American Athletic Conference championship title, the Houston Cougars earned their fourth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament as a 5 seed.

The first team they will matchup with is UAB, who won their conference tournament as well.

The No. 12 seed Blazers are led by second-year head coach Andy Kennedy and Conference USA Player of the Year Jordan Walker (20.4 points per game) who made the second most 3-pointers (115) in Division 1 this season.

UAB ranked sixth in the nation in points per game (80.7), and outrebounded their opponents in the majority of their contests as well.

To counter this explosive offense, Houston boasts one of the nation’s best defenses, with guys like Taze Moore and Kyler Edwards securing the perimeter and Josh Carlton locking down opponents in the paint.

Fabian White Jr. and Jamal Shed are no slouches when it comes to guarding opposing players as well, giving the Cougars one of the most dominate defensive starting lineups in college basketball.

Houston on average allowed 58.9 points per game and held opponents to a 43.5 field goal percentage this season, fourth-fewest among Division I teams.

The keys to a Cougar’s victory will be their ability to limit UAB’s offensive possessions, opportunities and contain their aforementioned leading scorer Walker.

The Blazers’ offense runs almost exclusively through the junior guard’s hands when he is on the court. So much so that UAB is undefeated when he scores more than 23 points in a game.

With the exception of their loss against Wisconsin earlier this season in which Johnny Davis scored 30 points, Houston’s defense has done a good job at limiting guards from having breakout performances.

Head coach Kelvin Sampson will have Moore, Edwards and Shed most likely share defensive responsibilities on UAB's Walker to try and limit his offensive production.

On paper, the Cougars are the better team defensively and have an underrated offense that can compete with any team in the country.

Although from a numbers perspective both teams may have similar stats across the board, Houston has far more experience playing in big games which will benefit them throughout the dance.

Coach Sampson has taken the Cougars to four straight NCAA Tournament appearances and has built a winning culture here at the University of Houston that his players showcase game after game.

This team went from a mindset of grateful to make the tournament a few years ago to now expecting to go far in the dance year in and year out. That's what a good coach and a culture change can do to a program.

As it currently stands, Houston is an 8.5 point favorite to win this game and has proven they can make a deep run.

As long as Houston doesn’t overlook UAB and can play their elite level of defense consistently, they should advance to the round of 32 to face either Illinois or Chattanooga.

Houston and UAB will tip off on Friday at 8:20 CT.

The game will air on TNT and will be played at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.

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