Culture / Sporting Life

Slighted — Houston Gets Treated Like a Mere Speed Bump on Way to Gonzaga-Baylor Showdown by the National Media

Bears Guard Calls Potential Gonzaga Championship Game a Batman vs. Superman Showdown

BY // 04.03.21

INDIANAPOLIS — Baylor guards Jared Butler and MaCio Teague get asked as many questions about Gonzaga as Houston during their Final Four media sessions on Friday. Both Butler and Teague try to turn the conversation back to the team they’re actually playing in the Final Four semifinals, but the implication is clear.

Kelvin Sampson’s University of Houston team is largely seen as little more than a speed bump that must be rolled over on the way to the epic Gonzaga-Baylor showdown in the national championship game that everyone wants. At least everyone who isn’t rooting for the University of Houston. And maybe those few souls who prefer a little chaos thrown into their sports.

Gonzaga-Baylor on Monday night is certainly what the national media wants — and expects. That much is clear from the questions the Baylor players face.

“It will never happen if we don’t win this next game,” Butler says when asked about all the buzz about a potential Gonzaga-Baylor title tilt. “I’m just focusing on the next game.”

Of course, then Butler starts talking about what a Gonzaga showdown would be like.

“It’s crazy if we play them in the championship,” he continues. “It will be like four months to the day we were supposed to play them (in a regular season game canceled by COVID). That’s like kind of ironic. I think it’d be like a Batman vs. Superman type thing.”

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While Zack Snyder may appreciate that reference, it’s unlikely DeJon Jarreau, Quentin Grimes and the 28-3 Cougars do. After all, Baylor still does need to actually dispatch of Houston Saturday evening to set up college basketball’s version of a superhero showdown.

Despite ranking right behind Gonzaga (30-0) and Baylor (26-2) in the KenPom rankings as the clear third best team in America, and despite having lost fewer games than any team in the country besides the Zags and Bears, this UH team is used to still being somewhat overlooked. Or discounted. Or outright dismissed.

Many national college basketball voices predicted that Houston would lose to Syracuse and tournament darling Buddy Boeheim in the Sweet 16. Instead, the Houston is one half of an all-Texas Final Four semi.

And Houston will show up for this 4:14 pm tip.

“We might not have the brightest lights,” Sampson says. “But our brightest shine as bright as anybody’s.”

The history of big-time sporting events is full of anticipated dream matchups that never happened. Jarreau and Co. will try to add Gonzaga-Baylor to that list.

Quentin Grimes Memphis UH
Memphis could not stop Quentin Grimes no matter what it tried. (@UHCougarMBK)

In many ways, this Baylor-UH game is all about the guards. The Bears have four of them in Davion Mitchell, Jared Butler, MaCio Teague and Mark Vital who are among the most dynamic players in America. Mitchell, Butler and Teague all shoot 40 percent or better from 3-point range.

Houston counters with DeJon Jarreau, Quentin Grimes, Marcus Sasser and, in shorter spurts, super freshman Tramon Mark. Grimes will likely have Mitchell, who swept the national defensive player of the year awards, sic-ed on him.

It’s a daunting challenge, but one the Cougars feel like they’ve been battled tested for.

“Every round we get more confidence,” Grimes says. “And we feel like we’re supposed to be (here). I don’t feel like there’s a lot of pressure.”

Kelvin Sampson’s University of Houston team is largely seen as little more than a speed bump that must be rolled over on the way to the epic Gonzaga-Butler showdown in the national championship game that everyone wants.

Grimes and his teammates are not getting asked about the possibility of playing Gonzaga in the national championship game. Because the national media does not expect them to be there. Almost no one does. The allure is all in that glittering Gonzaga-Baylor showdown.

“It’d be just a game,” Teague says when asked about Gonzaga on the eve of Houston-Baylor. “I’m sure that media would like try to hype it up into bigger than what it is. But it’s just a basketball game. And we’re not really focused on Gonzaga.

“We’ve got to play Houston.”

Just try telling that to the national media. More than a speed bump? The world will soon find out.

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