Big 12 News

Joe Lunardi Says Not Talking About Houston as National Title Contenders is a ‘Big Mistake’

NCAA Basketball: Houston at Texas

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi believes its time that the college basketball world recognizes the Houston Cougars as a National Championship contender in 2023-24.

Lunardi spoke on the Cougars in his recent bracketology update and justified his decision for listing Kelvin Sampson’s squad as a No. 1 seed and a serious threat to cut down the nets in Arizona.


“It’s well past time for a word or two about Houston,” Lunardi said. “The Cougars’ success under Kelvin Sampson has included a 1-seed, a 2-seed, and a 3-seed in the past five seasons. It has also included a Final Four, an Elite Eight, and two Sweet 16s. But the joyride was supposed to end, or at least slow down, with this season’s entry into the Big 12.”

While the Cougars were greeted with some outside noise from fans anticipating a fall off in the Big 12, someone apparently forgot to tell Houston that. The Cougars got off to a red-hot start and currently sit atop the Big 12 Conference with a 21-3 overall record and 8-3 record in conference play.

“Surely the grind of the nation’s top conference would wear them down,” Lunardi said. “Instead, the Cougars sit at a tidy 21-3. Their only losses have come at Kansas, Iowa State, and TCU, all NCAA tournament teams. They are No. 1 in the NET, No. 1 in KenPom and a clear-cut No. 1 seed. It’s not a manipulation of the numbers, either. Houston has the wins (7-3 in Q1, third-best in the country in that all-important category). Yet somehow, few are talking about the Cougars as national championship contenders. And it says here that’s a big mistake.”

While Houston has a great chance of taking home a Big 12 title in their first year in the league, the Cougars will have to take down the team challenging them for first place on Monday when the 10th-ranked Iowa State Cyclones come to town.

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