Overall Rank: #48
Conference Rank: #2 C-USA
2006-07: 18-15, 10-6, 3rd
2006-07 postseason: none
Houston had a disappointing campaign in 2006-2007, despite the third place finish in the conference. When Lanny Smith went down with an injury in just the fourth game of the season, it was rather impressive that Coach Tom Penders managed to keep his team together and do so well. Some key players are gone, but Smith is back for another go at his senior season and the point guard will lead the way for Houston.
The Cougars do lose a couple of starters in Oliver Lafayette and Jahmar Thorpe. Lafayette did a good job helping to replace Smith as a leader of the backcourt. He also put up some nice numbers, averaging 14.3 points, 3.1 assists and 5.9 rebounds. Thorpe, a forward, led the team with 6.1 rebounds per contest. Like most of Coach Penders big men, Thorpe could stretch the defense with his outside shooting abilities. Guard Robert Lee earned a handful of starts, but lacked the consistency to be a big contributor. Richard Young only saw action in six games and will not be returning this season.
The Cougars have enough potential to overcome their losses and then some. Along with the return of Smith, Kelvin Lewis, DaShaun Williams, Horace McGloster, Zamal Nixon, Brockeith Pane, Al Jones and Kyle Hatcher will solidify the perimeter depth. Transfer Lewis should make the biggest impact of the newcomers. The 6-4 wing is a great shooter and could benefit with plenty of open looks due to the scoring expertise of the returning backcourt. Williams, a transfer from the junior college ranks, will provide some experience off the bench. He may not be explosive enough on the offensive side of the floor to be a major contributor, but he will be beneficial on defense. McGloster is a big 6-7 wing who can play a variety of positions if need be. Nixon and Pane will see minutes at the point and are expected to be the future of the backcourt. Marcus Cousin will be expected to play an important role off the bench, or maybe even as a starter. The 6-11 center spent two years at Seton Hall and will immediately help in the rebounding department. He will not be the most prolific post scorer in the league, but with his size and rebounding abilities, Cousin will get some easy put-back buckets. Barring any injuries, Yan Moukoury will not see much action this season. The 6-7 forward has a nice stroke from outside, but will need some time to adjust to the level of play in C-USA.
Who to Watch:
Dion Dowell needs to get tougher in the paint. The 6-7 forward spends most of his time on the perimeter, which means Houston is practically running a four guard lineup when he is on the floor. Dowell is a good shooter and a fine athlete, but he is usually playing out of position at the four spot. He may spend more time at the three this year if the depth up front is adequately bolstered by the newcomers. Tafari Toney did not show it off much last year, but he can hit the outside shot. The 6-8, 241 pound senior will also mix it up in the paint, but he needs to prove he can be a more consistent rebounder and stay out of foul trouble if he wants to see a lot of minutes. Nick Mosley may drop below Cousin on the depth chart, but the 6-8 center had a decent freshman campaign and no team can have too many experienced big men.
Lanny Smith averaged 12.1 points and 5.4 assists two years ago and will be the floor leader of the backcourt. Rob McKiver will be by his side. McKiver, a 6-3 shooting guard, averaged 19.2 points, 3.4 assists and 3.2 rebounds his first year at Houston. The well traveled senior will look to make a bigger impact this year and having Smith by his side will certainly help. McKiver took over ten three-pointers a game last year, but those numbers should go down with more talent on the wings. Marcus Malone started 19 contests last season and could fill the void left behind by Lafayette. He has the size to be a decent rebounder from the wing, but can lack defensive focus at time. The Houston backcourt took a lot of shots and missed a majority of them. The guards are the scorers, but the team at least needs some guys under the basket who can grab some offensive rebounds since the team will hoist up a ton of long balls. If Cousin can make a big difference in that category, and the team stays healthy, Houston has enough weapons and experience to make a run at the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Lanny Smith, Senior, Guard, 7.8 points per game
Rob McKiver, Senior, Guard, 19.2 points per game
Marcus Malone, Senior, Guard, 7.2 points per game
Dion Dowell, Senior, Forward, 11.1 points per game
Tafari Toney, Senior, Center, 3.0 points per game