The Houston Cougars basketball team once lost to Michael Jordan. In a Final Four, in 1982. The Cougars were a national power, mentioned in the same breath with the North Carolinas and Kansases of the world.
Sadly, that is ancient history. UH has not been in the NCAA tournament since 1992. They haven’t won a game in the Dance since 1984.
They won’t get there this year, either. The Cougars are 10-8, 3-2 in conference play, having already lost two home games in C-USA play.
They lost to Michael Jordan’s son — Marcus — and a lousy Central Florida team Wednesday night.
Coach Tom Penders has had winning records in all five seasons as head coach. Last year’s team went 21-12 but could only make the CBI tournament, losing in the first round. This year was supposed to be his best team yet.
But the Cougars are stuck in the middle of a C-USA that no longer has a dominant Memphis. They can’t shoot. They take bad shots when they do. They have a terrific player in Aubrey Coleman, but they have no inside presence and no real hope for improvement. They have home losses to Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State and Tulsa in addition to Central Florida. They lost at UT.
UT-San Antonio, that is.
Penders brought the Cougars out of an abyss — they had just one winning record in the previous eight years. They have had five winning records in a row.
But the Penders Cougars have clearly hit a plateau. There is little hope that they will be a tournament team any time in the near future. Next year, they will be starting over yet again. Coleman’s eligibility will be up.
Penders is up against it. Hofheinz needs an upgrade. The fan base is frustrated. It speaks volumes that Yates High School has a bigger following than UH now.
It’s hard to criticize what Penders has accomplished. But it appears there is little more to come under his regime.
The Cougars have 12 games left, then the conference tournament. No way 20 wins gets them in the NCAAs. A 12-0 finish likely won’t do it, either. Nothing about this team indicates it will win the C-USA tournament.
It’s wait until next year. Again.
It’s unrealistic to expect the Cougars to ever make it back to the level where they were compete with Michael Jordan level talent.
And if they can’t compete with Marcus Jordan?
Sad times indeed for Texas’ college program with the richest, most successful history in college basketball.
It appears that is all Cougar fans have left — history.