March Madness Round 64 Preview
San Diego State vs. Houston
Sixth-seeded Houston will have to cool off red-hot San Diego State to win its first NCAA Tournament game in 34 years. The 11th-seeded Aztecs head to Thursday’s West Region first-round game in Wichita, Kan., on a nine-game win streak.
San Diego State’s streak includes two victories against Mountain West Conference regular-season champ – and NCAA Tournament at-large pick – Nevada and Saturday’s 82-75 win against New Mexico in the conference tournament finals. A healthy and full roster has helped the Aztecs – who feature balanced scoring from the starting five and the bench – get hot at the right time. The Cougars are in the Big Dance for the first time since 2010 and haven’t won a tournament game since reaching the championship game in 1984. Senior guard Rob Gray leads a high-scoring Houston squad that can also play tough defense, allowing 64.9 points.
TV: 7:20 p.m. ET, TBS
ABOUT SAN DIEGO STATE (22-10): Senior forward Malik Pope – who missed one game after his name was included in a report for possible impermissible benefits but was later cleared by his school – leads the Aztecs with 12.9 points and 6.6 rebounds. Freshmen forwards Jalen McDaniels (10.2 points, 7.5 rebounds) and Matt Mitchell (10.7, 4.0) give the Aztecs additional options in the frontcourt, while senior playmaker Trey Kell – who had a career-high 28 points in Saturday’s title game – does a little bit of everything with 10.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.1 steals. Junior guard Devin Watson (12.3 points, 3.8 assists) is the fifth Wolf Pack starter averaging double digits.
ABOUT HOUSTON (26-7): Gray leads the Cougars with 18.5 points and 4.5 assists, while senior forward Devin Davis adds 10.8 points and a team-best 6.2 rebounds. Junior Corey Davis Jr. contributes 13.5 points while shooting 44 percent from the 3-point line and sophomore Armoni Brooks – the American Athletic Conference’s Sixth Man of the Year – adds 9.8 points and shoots 42.3 percent beyond the arc. The Cougars can get defensive – holding opponents to 39.6 percent shooting, forcing 13.3 turnovers and control the boards – as shown in Sunday’s 56-55 loss to Cincinnati in the AAC championship.
1. Corey Davis Jr. led the AAC with 3.1 made 3-pointers and the Cougars average 8.6 3s per game. They went 7-of-23 in Sunday’s loss to Cincinnati.
2. The Aztecs went to the NCAA Tournament six straight years (2010-2015) – winning at least one game four times – before missing the past two tournaments.
3. Houston coach Kelvin Sampson is one of 14 coaches to take four schools (Washington State, Oklahoma, Indiana, Houston) to the NCAA Tournament.