The year started with Gonzaga and Baylor side-by-side in the Associated Press Top 25, and it stayed that way for most of the season. Now, as the Final Four approaches, Gonzaga and Baylor are two of the four remaining teams and are the heavy favorites to meet in the National Championship. The headlines and the coverage are all going the way of those two, and even UCLA’s Cinderella run thus far, but don’t sleep on Kelvin Sampson’s Houston Cougars.
Houston finally got over the hump in the NCAA Tournament, reaching the Final Four for the first time under Sampson and the for the first time since 1984. The Cougars have done it with stout, aggressive defense while attacking the glass on both ends as well. Here are two bold reasons why Houston will win the 2021 National Championship
1.) Quentin Grimes
Come March, it’s best to have a go-to player in crunch time to deal with the madness of the NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga has Jalen Suggs amongst others, Baylor has Davion Mitchell and plenty of other options, Houston has Quentin Grimes.
Houston’s blueprint to success is certainly molded by a genuine team effort. But when they get in a bind, which didn’t happen much during the regular season, they can lean on Grimes.
The junior is averaging 18 points per game and fills it up from downtown, shooting 41% from three-point range.
In Houston’s most recent game, Oregon State rallied from a double digit deficit to tie things with just a little more than three minutes remaining. Grimes got the momentum back in Houston’s favor by burying a three, putting Houston back up on top.
Grimes goes about his business in a stealthy manner and doesn’t get the attention that the stars at Baylor and Gonzaga do. Houston and Grimes seem perfectly fine with that.
Baylor will be Houston’s biggest test in the tournament, by far, and if it’s close down the stretch, expect Grimes to take the shots for Houston. Win or lose, he’ll be the man carrying the rock late.
2.) Houston’s Rebounding
This isn’t exactly a bold proclamation, but if Houston is going to cut down the nets, they need to win the rebounding battle soundly. Houston enters the Final Four ranked 6th in the nation in rebounding margin. If they want to take down Baylor, they will need the second and sometimes even third looks on offense given how great Baylor’s perimeter defense is.
Houston’s energy is never in question and it helps lead to the advantageous opportunities on offense. They aren’t going to blow you away with their shooting, but they will out muscle and out hustle the opposition on most nights. Against Oregon State, the Cougars had 19 offensive rebounds. They out did the Beavers on the glass overall to a tune of 41-29. It will be of critical importance for Houston to post similar numbers against Baylor.
Houston’s path to the Final Four has been historically tame if you go strictly by seeding. They’ve faced a 15, 10, 11 and a 12 seed in route to their matchup with Baylor. If they want a chance to take down the Bears, they will need crunch time buckets from Quentin Grimes and a collective effort on the glass to gobble up second and third chances. If they’re able to execute, they’ve got a chance to be the last team standing.