Houston Cougars vs. Texas Christian Horned Frogs Pick & Prediction MARCH 14th 2024

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Top-ranked Houston looks to continue its late-season hot streak and cement its spot atop the pack for the NCAA Tournament when it squares off against TCU on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City, Mo.

The winner of the dustup between the Cougars, seeded No. 1 in the Big 12 tourney, and the eighth-seeded Horned Frogs will play the winner of the contest between fourth-seeded and No. 25 Texas Tech and fifth-seeded and No. 20 BYU in a semifinal on Friday.

Both Houston and TCU are expected to be a part of the field of 68 when the NCAA Tournament participants are named on Sunday.

Houston (28-3) heads to Kansas City with a nine-game winning streak after charging through the second half of the demanding Big 12 regular-season gauntlet. The Cougars’ most recent outing was a 76-46 thrashing of then-No. 14 Kansas at home on Saturday in which league player of the year Jamal Shead produced 13 points and eight assists.

Damian Dunn added 12 points off the bench for the Cougars, with L.J. Cryer hitting for 11 points and J’Wan Roberts amassing 10 points and eight rebounds.

Houston forced Kansas into a season-high-tying 18 turnovers and scored 30 points off those miscues. The Cougars emerged as outright Big 12 regular-season champions in their first year in the league, sealing the feat against one of the league’s perennial powerhouses.

“We’re the University of Houston. We’re a damn good basketball program,” coach Kelvin Sampson said after the win over Kansas. “We should never ever, ever, ever think that we should take a backseat to anybody. I’m proud of our program.”

Shead was lauded by Sampson for his leadership and moxie.

“A point guard’s greatest statistic is, ‘Did his team win?’ and Jamal cares more about winning than any individual statistic,” Sampson said. “In my 35 years, he is the greatest leader I have ever coached.”

The Horned Frogs (21-11) earned a spot in the quarterfinals via a 77-70 win over ninth-seeded Oklahoma on Wednesday afternoon. Emanuel Miller racked up 26 points and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds in a game in which TCU led by 14 points at the break by talking advantage of Oklahoma’s 10 turnovers that led to 14 points in the first half.

The Horned Frogs were up 67-48 after Jameer Nelson Jr. canned a 3-pointer with 8:26 to play, then held on despite going the final 6 1/2 minutes without a field goal and despite a spirted Sooners rally that culled TCU’s lead to seven points in the final minute.

Nelson finished with 14 points and JaKobe Coles scored 11 in the win.

“We got off to a good start and I wish we could have sustained it for 40 minutes,” TCU coach Jamie Dixon said. “We did some really good things and beat a really good team with a high NET, which is what you do in the Big 12 tournament.”

TCU has to be buoyed by the fact that it handed Houston one of the Cougars’ three losses this season, a 68-67 decision on Jan. 13 in Fort Worth, Texas. Miller sank the decisive layup with six seconds remaining. The Cougars have won 14 of their 15 games since that setback.

“We just need to move on, be ready for Houston,” Coles said after the Wednesday game. “We have to come with a fight. We beat them the first time, but it’s going to be a fight this time. So I think we’re going to be ready and excited to play.”

–Field Level Media

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