Kelvin’s back in College Basketball

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He was reprimanded by the very ethics committee he helped create as president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, and he probably should be barred from ever owning a cell phone.

After disgracing Indiana, which came after NCAA gumshoes had levied recruiting restrictions on him at Oklahoma, the NCAA slapped him with a “show-cause” penalty.

Kelvin Sampson was effectively blackballed from college hoops for five years.

Eminent collegiate athletics pundit Pat Forde surmised that Sampson might never again coach in college. Ten years ago, Bleacher Report rated Sampson seventh on its list of the “16 scummiest coaches in college basketball.”

Yet, there’s Sampson, standing courtside for a seventh season in Houston, a gig he landed shortly after that show-cause had evaporated. Sampson became the third high-profile person (after Todd Bozeman and Bruce Pearl) to get a top job at another school after being so banished.

Power forward Fabian White Jr., one of only two Cougars to start every game last season, tore a knee ligament in May, delaying his senior campaign to 2021-22. But there’s senior starter Justin Gorham and dependable junior reserve Reggie Chaney, an Arkansas transfer, holding down the post very well in White’s absence.

And there are the Cougars in the top 10 of the AP poll, their first such ascent since the “Phi Slama Jama” Drexler-Olajuwon powerhouse of 1983-84.

All 15 Houston players have already tested positive for the coronavirus, as did a coach or two, and two games were postponed. But the Cougars are not just surviving, they’re thriving, just like their 65-year-old coach.

The Cockroach of College Roundball. Inflict misdemeanors and felonies, sully his name, boot him from the game for years … he just keeps returning.

Houston has returned to the élite and is in select company as one of only four programs (with Wisconsin, Kansas and Baylor) to boast of top-15 KenPom offensive- and defensive-efficiency rankings.

Most important, for our purposes, is the Cougars’ 5-2 record against the point spread. Five of their first seven games also finished under their projected totals, so defense remains a Sampson mainstay in Houston.

The Cougars are guard-reliant, as junior ironman Quentin Grimes, who started his career at Kansas, averages 18.4 points. Rookie Tramon Mark, a foul magnet, has turned heads with an 11.6-point average.

Marcus Sasser, a sophomore marksman, averages 15.2 points. DeJon Jarreau, a fifth-year senior out of New Orleans by way of UMass, dishes out nearly four assists a game. Jamal Shead and Caleb Mills add reserve punch.

Houston is a mediocre shooting team, but its 74.7% team touch at the line is above average and it is exceptional at rebounding under its own glass.

The Cougars are also world-class at disrupting opposing shooters, who make only 40.4% of their attempts, fifth lowest in the country. They also hold foes to 21.8% shooting beyond the 3-point arc, eighth-lowest in the nation.

The other guys will have a tough 40 minutes against Houston.

KenPom has it rated eighth. The next-highest American Athletic Conference squad is Southern Methodist, at No. 46, which the Cougars play Sunday in Dallas.

Suspicion will never stray from Sampson, nor should it. His deep list of priors is readily available to anyone interested in unethical, sordid behavior, so serial-like Houston’s administration must rest uneasy.

So, his haughty response — “I just hope they throw the book at them” — to a federal fraud and bribery scandal three years ago, that still looms, was laced with sanctimony and hypocrisy.

So what?

There’s Kelvin Sampson, who keyed the construction of a $25-million practice facility and $60-million refurbishment of the Fertitta Center, coaching as if his very life depended on it, his charges laying it all out on the line for him.

Saturday

Kentucky -1 at Mississippi State: DJ Stewart Jr., Tolu Smith and Iverson Molinar will combine for 50, and Quinten Post and Jalen Johnson will spark a 25-point bench effort for the Bulldogs. The Wildcats will struggle to get 60. MISSISSIPPI STATE

Iowa at Rutgers, Total 157: Luka Garza (national-best 28.8 ppg) of the Hawkeyes vs. the Scarlet Knights’ Ron Harper Jr. (23.4 ppg.) is the main event, and every teammate will get caught up in this electric pick-up game at the RAC. OVER

Bowling Green -7 at Northern Illinois: The hosts are spectacularly horrendous, failing to cover their first seven games by 13-plus points a game. The Falcons are nearly twice as accurate from long range and are great at the line. BOWLING GREEN

Last week: 3-1

Season: 10-4

About the Author

Rob Miech

Veteran sportswriter Rob Miech covers soccer and does features for Gaming Today. He has written about college hoops for the Las Vegas Sun, CBS SportsLine and the Pasadena Star-News. He is the author of four books, including Sports Betting for Winners.

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