The 2022 NCAA Championship saw the Kansas Jayhawks beat the North Carolina Tar Heels 82-79 in New Orleans in what proved to be an absolute thriller. KU has lost most of their core however and isn’t expected to be a contender in 2023, while UNC will essentially their entire starting fire back and will absolutely be in the mix in March Madness again, with title odds as low as +750, the second-best in the nation to Gonzaga at +700. But, there is one team in particular that cannot be slept on: The Houston Cougars. While they did bow out in the Elite Eight a number of months ago, there is lots of reason to believe UH can make some serious noise next March. Keep reading for our NCAA Basketball Futures.
Before diving into the analysis as to why Houston cannot be overlooked, make sure to check out the best sites for March Madness betting. Also, take a look at our NCAA College Basketball betting page for tips and advice on how to wager on College Hoops.
2023 NCAA Championship Futures
Houston Will be Stronger
The Cougars have been a very good program over the last two years. They’ve not only made the Big Dance in both seasons but went rather deep in the tournament, too. Kelvin Sampson’s group made the Final Four in 2021 but eventually lost to the national champion Baylor Bears. Villanova then overcame them in the Elite Eight in March in a low-scoring 50-44 game where Houston shot the ball terribly. However, it’s important to note they lost two of their guards last season to injuries in Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark. The best part? Both of them are back in 2022-23, which should be a major boost to a Cougars squad that will retain most of their main core. It’s no wonder they’re worth a look in the NCAA Basketball Futures.
Sasser averaged 17.7 points in 12 games before going on the shelf. He’s a cold-blooded scorer and arguably their most dangerous weapon. Although it’s a small sample size, Sasser’s points skyrocketed by four points from his sophomore to junior year and with him set to be healthy, it’s very good news for a Houston team that’s ranked top-10 in adjusted offensive efficiency in the previous two campaigns. Mark was also averaging double-digits in points before his injury in 10 contests played. These two are experienced and certainly have something to prove.
Jamal Shead is also a player who can’t be overlooked. He essentially ran the backcourt in 2021-22, posting averages of 10 points, 5.8 assists, and three boards per night. He’s only trending upwards after his sophomore campaign and will surely be a big part of the offense. Plus, he went through the Elite Eight run and has that unmatched experience under his belt.
Lastly, there is a pair of recruits coming to Houston that should play a key role next season. Terrance Arceneaux is long, wiry, and can really score the rock. The youngster was getting looks from a number of programs including LSU and Baylor, but he ultimately chose the Cougars. Houston is already a very gritty, hard-nosed team on both ends of the floor and he definitely fits the mold. His athleticism and length help Arceneaux play solid defense. The potential difference-maker for Houston however is a top-10 recruit named Jarace Walker. He committed back in November of 2021, choosing the Cougars over Alabama and Auburn. The 6’8″ wing is strong and physical for his age, showing the ability to go at defenders and finish with authority at the cup. He’s also got an impressive mid-range game.
Sampson does a tremendous job with Houston. He’s got such a decorated resume at the college and NBA level and you can see how his wisdom has helped the Cougars enjoy some success in recent seasons. He preaches defense and as we know, that’s what wins championships.
Houston is Worth an Early Bet
North Carolina might be the strongest team on paper heading into 2022-23, but the Cougars are worth an early bet. At +1100 odds, there is a lot of value. They’re undoubtedly going to win the American Athletic Conference again and have so many scoring options from seniors to freshmen. Seeing how far they went last season without Sasser and Mark just goes to show that Houston is capable of a lot more than just the Elite Eight and if it wasn’t for their unfortunate struggles against Villanova, we could’ve seen them in the Final Four again or potentially beyond.
Put some money on the Cougars in the NCAA Basketball Futures. They may do some big things next March.
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