Three things Duke basketball fans should know about Houston

Duke fans may not know a lot about Houston so let's take a deeper look at the Blue Devils' Sweet 16 opponent.
Mar 24, 2024; Memphis, TN, USA; Houston Cougars head coach Kelvin Sampson reacts with guard Emanuel
Mar 24, 2024; Memphis, TN, USA; Houston Cougars head coach Kelvin Sampson reacts with guard Emanuel / Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
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Duke and Houston are just days away from one of the most anticipated college basketball games of the season. One team will advance to the Elite Eight in Dallas and one team will be sent home with its dreams of a Final Four dashed.

Being that the Blue Devils and the Cougars have not crossed paths before this game, Duke fans may not know too much about Kelvin Sampson's club. Sure, Houston has been in the top-5 of the college rankings for most of the season but their orbit in the Big 12 has kept them from coming into Duke's galaxy.

In fact, the Cougars have not played an ACC opponent all year. However, there is one common opponent that these two teams share.

Back on December 20, Duke handled Baylor 78-70 in New York City. That night, Jared McCain had 21 points on 7-11 shooting to lead the Blue Devils.

Houston played Baylor in Waco on February 24 in one of the better Big 12 games of the season. In an 82-76 OT win, the Cougars jumped out to a huge halftime lead before allowing the home team to claw its way back into the game and tie the affair with just 4.4 seconds to play. The extra five minutes, though, saw UH dominate to the tune of a 13-7 margin.

One interesting note from that game was that the Bears were able to shoot 40% (10-25) from 3-point range against a stingy Houston defense. That's a recipe that Duke will likely have to follow if John Scheyer's team is going to prevail on Friday night.

So let's dive a little deeper into the Cougars and find out what their strengths and weaknesses might be. Here is a look at three things Duke fans need to know about Houston.

Duke must be prepared for the rugged defense of Houston's guards

Houston leads the nation in points allowed per game at just 57.7. Now, some of that is due to their slow pace of play (they are 345 out of 362 teams in the nation in possessions per game at just 66.6).

However, most of their defensive prowess is rooted in the play of their guards. That will be something Duke must be ready for.

Houston is No. 5 nationally in steals per game at 9.9. That tone is set by their best player, Jamal Shead, the Big 12 Player of the Year. He leads the team with 2.2 steals per game.

What's more, Shead has a defensive rating (an estimate of the number of points a player surrenders per 100 possessions) of just 89.3. However, he isn't the only standout defensive guard Duke will have to contend with.

Mylik Wilson is an athletic, rangy backup guard who plays key defensive minutes for Sampson. His defensive rating is just 85.7. Even LJ Cryer and Emanuel Sharp, their 3-point specialists, have defensive ratings below 100.

Houston is second in the nation as a team in the adjusted defensive efficiency rating. As a team, they give up only 88 points per 100 possessions. Only Iowa State is better.

That effort will center around the ball pressure that Houston will put on the Duke guards. It will be the toughest test yet for Jeremy Roach, Tyrese Proctor, and McCain and how they handle that pressure will be the most important factor of the game.