Houston Cougars vs. Kansas Jayhawks Pick & Prediction MARCH 9th 2024

With a victory at top-ranked Houston on Saturday, No. 14 Kansas could complete the regular season in third place in the Big 12, a finish that most programs in the nation would relish.

Of course, the standard for excellence is higher for the Jayhawks (22-8, 10-7), whose season-long injury woes have undermined what was an outstanding start to the campaign that included victories over Kentucky, Tennessee and defending champion UConn.

Kansas entered its conference opener against TCU with a 12-1 record and as the second-ranked team in the nation. The Jayhawks proved unable to maintain that momentum through the Big 12 gauntlet, one that will conclude against a Houston team that is atop the league standings.

“We had arguably as good a non-conference as anybody in America: Connecticut, Tennessee, you played Kentucky,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “You had some great wins. And then we haven’t been as good in conference play. But our conference is really good.

“So if we had played really well in conference instead of being 10-7 … if we’d played great we’d be 13-4. But the feeling that happens so often here is that when you lose, the sky is falling. We did (recently) fall out of the top 10 for the first time in three years. It’s not like the sky is falling.”

Kansas handed the Cougars their most recent loss, a 78-65 thrashing on Feb. 3 in Lawrence, that wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate. But while Houston has reeled off eight consecutive victories, the Jayhawks are 4-4 over that span and needed a 90-68 win over Sunflower State rival Kansas State on Tuesday to snap a brief two-game skid.

There are opportunities ahead for Kansas to salvage this season and make a positive impression on program annals. Completing a season sweep of the Cougars would be a good place to start.

“I’m proud of our guys. We’ve had a good year,” Self said. “But we haven’t had a special year. In order to have a great year or a special year, we’ve got to play good from this point forward.”

By any definition, Houston (27-3, 14-3) has enjoyed a special first season in the Big 12.

The Cougars clinched at least a share of the regular-season title with a 67-59 road win over UCF on Wednesday and would secure the outright crown by defeating the Jayhawks. Houston owns a 21-game home-court winning streak, the longest active streak in the nation.

Houston, which has won a conference tournament or regular-season title in each of the last six seasons, also has dealt with injury attrition. The Cougars lost Ramon Walker Jr. (knee), Terrance Arceneaux (Achilles) and Joseph Tugler (foot) yet somehow maintained the success established in the American Athletic Conference.

The change in leagues hasn’t affected the Cougars’ overall results.

“We’ve had our share of injuries and adversity, but what we still have is our DNA,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “This is our sixth consecutive year of winning the championship. That’s where the DNA comes from. Our kids know how to win.”

–Field Level Media

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