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Preview: Houston Cougars vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders

The Texas Tech look to rebound after a loss and take on the Houston Cougars in the second game of a back to back in Las Vegas.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Game Details:

Date: Tuesday, December 23rd
Time: 8:00 pm
Good Guys: Texas Tech Red Raiders (9-2, 0-0)
Bad Guys: Houston Cougars (5-4, 0-0)
Location: Orleans Arena | Las Vegas, NV
TV/Stream: FOX Sports 1
Radio/Stream: Broadcast Affiliates and TuneIn App

It Is Sampson. For some reason I had James Dickey as being the head coach here at Houston, so I think I've officially lost it. Dickey was fired at the end of last year and was replaced by former Oklahoma and Indiana head coach Kelvin Sampson.  Sampson has spent the last handful of years attempting to resurrect his career after he was the head coach at Indiana, where there were some serious NCAA allegations.

As coach at Indiana in October 2007, Sampson again came under scrutiny for making impermissible phone calls. Despite being restricted from making any outbound recruiting phone calls, Sampson participated in approximately 10 conference calls with recruits that violate the terms of the sanctions levied against him by the NCAA. IU assistant Rob Senderoff (who has since announced his resignation) also made some 35 impermissible phone calls to recruits from his home. On February 8, 2008, the NCAA informed Indiana that Sampson had committed five "major" rules violations. The NCAA alleged that Sampson knowingly violated telephone recruiting restrictions imposed on him. More seriously, the NCAA also alleged that Sampson lied to IU and NCAA officials regarding his involvement in the impermissible calls.

Indiana launched an internal investigation that school president Michael McRobbie said would take seven days. On February 14, 2008, ESPN reported that Sampson's status as coach of the Hoosiers would be decided on a "game-by-game basis.". Fox Sports reported that Sampson was to be fired on February 22, 2008, but later reports indicated that Sampson would be suspended without pay. Eventually it was announced that Sampson would resign, reaching a $750,000 settlement with Indiana. In return, Sampson agreed not to sue Indiana for wrongful termination. Assistant Dan Dakich was named as interim head coach for the rest of the season.

According to many college basketball pundits, however, Sampson had virtually no chance of keeping his job once the allegations broke. Sports Illustrated college basketball columnist Seth Davis implied that Indiana officials had already decided Sampson was guilty, based on the fact that its internal investigation would only last a week. The NCAA had given Indiana 90 days to respond to the notice. ESPN's Mark Schlabach suggested that Indiana wanted to look for a reason not to pay the remaining money he was owed on his contract, and also wanted to eliminate any chance of being sued. He also said that the only reason Sampson was allowed to continue coaching was because his contract didn't allow the school to suspend him immediately. ESPN's Pat Forde said that Sampson's departure was "preordained" the moment the NCAA sent out its notice of allegations, and that it is very unlikely Sampson will ever coach again in Division I.

During a private meeting with the NCAA infractions committee on June 30, McRobbie apologized for hiring Sampson and called that decision a mistake. McRobbie said that Sampson betrayed his trust as Indiana's coach, and demonstrated that his hiring had been "a risk that should not have been taken."

Seriously. This guy got a 5 year deal at Houston.  I don't know what to think when a serious and habitual NCAA violator is now the head coach at Houston, but I suppose I should have been asking that same question about Texas Tech hiring a habitual drinker and program ruiner in Billy Gillispie.

Three Keys to the Game:

1. Scouting the Cougars. Houston is led by Jherrod Stiggers (6-5/210) a small forward type that is averaging 16 points a game, but he is a woeful shooter, making only 35% of his shots. Stiggers does average about 3 boards a game and almost 3 assists, but he has the same number of turnovers as well. The best player is Devonta Pollard (6-8/215) a forward that is averaging 12 points a game, making 47% of his shots from the floor while averaging 7.8 rebounds a game. Those are some pretty good numbers. The other guard that is making some noise is Eric Weary (6-5/210) who averages 11.5 points a game, 4 rebounds and, like Stiggers, dishes out the ball at the same rate that he turns it over.

2. Stats. No StatSheet stats this morning.

Houston is much worse than I would have ever imagined and it's really on both sides of the ball. Houston is ranked in the 260 range overall and is 260 or so in AdjO and 220 in AdjD. There's really nothing that's good about what's happening statistically for Houston and just in looking at their averages, I think it starts at the top by not having a true point guard leading this team. They're also starting a center that is 6-10 and weighs 190 pounds in Cavon Baker.

*AdjO and AdjD via KenPom.

3. Matching Up. I get the feeling that if Texas Tech is patient, then they will be fine with this game. Pollard's game is really nice, but I don't see a situation where there should be a lot of concern about this game despite the name on the opponents' jersey. Houston lost to Arkansas-Pine Bluff 56-61 and then lost to South Carolina State 63-71. Texas Tech won both games easily. Having not seen a minute of action, I'm guessing that Houston has real issues all over the court and makes a ton of mental mistakes.  The Cougars did take Boise State game incredibly close, which is surprising in that Boise State is significantly better than Houston, a top 50 KenPom team.  Yeah, anything can happen, but this should be a game that Texas Tech wins.