UConn, an 8 seed entering Sunday in our Bracketology forecast, just took on a loss that will undoubtedly cause its standing to shake.
The Huskies fell 75-68 at home, inside rowdy Gampel Pavilion, to a good-but-flawed Houston team that put on perhaps its strongest showing this season. UConn’s Daniel Hamilton led his team with 20 points. Oregon transfer Damyean Dotson had 22 points and 14 rebounds. The Cougars had 18 assists on 28 field goals and shot 52 percent from the field. Quality stuff by the Cougars, but with a nonconference schedule that ranks among the worst in the nation, eight-loss UH doesn’t have much of an at-large argument right now.
UConn does, though, and now its defense is getting weaker. By the time we get to late February the objectives are fairly well-defined. If you’re a bubble team playing at home against a team not on the bubble, win or suffer the consequences. The consequences here would mean slipping at least to a No. 9 seed, and tougher sledding is coming. UConn’s next game comes in four days at SMU, a team that would easily qualify for this year’s tournament if it wasn’t on postseason prohibition.
The Huskies are now sixth in the AAC standings (10-6) and 20-9 overall. From my perch, I’m seeing two more wins of any variety for UConn in order for it to feel safe come Selection Sunday. Beat UCF at home on March 6 to close out the regular season, then win the first game of the AAC tournament, and that should be enough. Beating SMU could lock up this discussion.
For Houston, this 21st win of the season marks the most in a year for the program since 2008-09. Kelvin Sampson is buiding something certain there. It’s going to be tough for the Cougars to crack the NCAA Tournament this season (though the AAC tourney could get wild), but it seems pretty likely next year will be another step forward for the Cougs.