Kansas Jayhawks vs. Houston Cougars Pick & Prediction FEBRUARY 3rd 2024

The new bully on the block visits the traditional Big 12 power when No. 4 Houston opposes No. 8 Kansas on Saturday afternoon in Lawrence, Kan.

The Cougars (19-2, 6-2 Big 12) have rolled off five straight victories as they continue to thrive in their first season in the Big 12. The next win will give Houston nine straight 20-victory campaigns and further the team’s chances of posting a third consecutive 30-win season.

Kansas (17-5, 5-3) is just 4-3 over its past seven games. The Jayhawks are approaching their 35th straight 20-win season.

While Kansas’ conference record is down, Houston coach Kelvin Sampson knows the Saturday contest will be a challenge. He annually visited Allen Fieldhouse during his 12 seasons as Oklahoma coach from 1995 to 2006.

“It’s a tough place to play. I do think it is the mecca of college basketball today,” Sampson said on Thursday. “Kansas doesn’t lose at home. … Kansas is Kansas. For the past 25 years they have been the best basketball program in the country, and this year is no different.”

The Jayhawks started fast with 13 wins in their first 14 games before running into trouble.

A 65-60 loss at Big 12 newcomer UCF on Jan. 10 was a stunner. So was a 91-85 setback at West Virginia on Jan. 20.

The third Big 12 loss also came on the road, as Kansas fell 79-75 to then-No. 23 Iowa State on Jan. 27.

The Jayhawks rebounded nicely from that defeat by drubbing visiting Oklahoma State 83-54 on Tuesday. Kansas rolled despite leading scorer Kevin McCullar Jr. sitting out due to a bruised knee.

Jayhawks coach Bill Self is confident that McCullar will play against the Cougars.

“I think that if it was the end of the season, I think he would have played,” Self said of McCullar, who averages 19.8 points per game. “But I didn’t think it was the right thing to do to play him, and he didn’t either. So it was good that he was able to rest it and we were able to get by with it.

“I think he’ll do whatever he has to do treatment-wise to make sure that he does play (Saturday).”

Self was pleased with the defense as the Jayhawks held Oklahoma State to 29.3 percent from the floor, a season low for a Kansas opponent.

That type of performance made it a pressure-free game.

“It was good not to have to stress as hard or as much,” Self said. “We played well.”

Big man Hunter Dickinson ranks second on the Kansas scoring ledger with 18.7 points per game. Dickinson leads in rebounding at 11.2 per game.

Houston is coming off a 76-72 overtime win at Texas on Monday.

Jamal Shead scored 25 points, his second highest-output of the season, as he continues his transformation into an offensive force.

Shead has scored in double digits in seven consecutive games to raise his season average to a career-best 12.3 points per game.

As a freshman in 2020-21, Shead averaged 3.3 points and often needed a compass to locate the basket.

“When Jamal got here, he was a non-shooter. Not a bad shooter, but a non-shooter,” Sampson said. “Those are guys you don’t want taking shots. … I’ve never seen anybody drown in their own sweat.

“It’s not 1,000 shots, it’s not 2,000 shots, it’s doing it over and over. Hard work and determination is what it takes, and he’s done that.”

L.J. Cryer leads Houston with a 15.1 scoring average.

–Field Level Media

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