It remains arguably the greatest nickname in NCAA Tournament history. The 1983-84 Houston Cougars, led by Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler were known as Phi Slama Jama, a team of high-wire, highlight-reel slam dunk ballers.
The Cougars didn’t get back to a Final Four until 2021, when coach Kelvin Sampson’s relentless defensive style took Houston to the national semifinals where they lost to eventual champion Baylor out of the Big 12. Houston could get back again. The Cougars are the best defensive team in the field. They have experience and toughness.
Will it be enough? The No.2 seed is another Big 12 power, Texas. The No.3 seed is high-scoring Xavier and the No.4 seed is Indiana, as storied a program as there is in college basketball. Hoosiers, anyone?
The first games between Texas A&M versus Penn State, and Iowa versus Auburn figure to be decided in the final minutes. Meanwhile, Kent State, out of the MAC, has a senior group that fears no one.
Let us help you fill out your bracket and make smart bets.
No. 1 Seed
No. 13 Kent State
No.2 Texas vs No.15 Colgate
No. 13 Kent St over No.4 Indiana
No.10 Penn State
Big 12 vs Patriot
26-8, 12-6 vs 26-8, 17-1
28-6 vs 22-11
Golden Flashes +6.5 vs Hoosiers
Buzz Williams/Micah Shrewsberry
Rob Senderoff / Mike Woodson
College Station, Tx./State College, Pa.
State College, Pa.
Texas 36-39/ Colgate 0-5
IU 67-35 / Kent 4-6
Runnerup, 1983, 1984
Elite 8, 2002
Final 4:1943, 47, 2003/ Colgate /First round
Elite Eight, 2002
3rd Place , 1954
Houston -20.5 over Northern, Ky.
Kent State +6.5 over Indiana
Texas -15.5 over Colgate
Penn State +2.5
Texas 1600 / Colgate 100000
Kent 50000/ IU 3500
Cougars hold teams to 56.6 points on 36.4% shooting
Kent State is 75-46 in games decided by 5 or less under Senderoff
Colgate’s Oliver Lynch-Daniels shot 50.3% on 3’s (77-of-153)
Hoosiers are the last team to go undefeated 1975-76
Lions lost 4-of-their-last-6 2022; won 5-of-last-6 in 2023
The first-round matchup between No.13 Kent State and No.4 Indiana seems like a mismatch of college basketball royalty. And it is. Indiana has gone to nine Final Fours. The Golden Flashes have never gotten to a Final Four. Their only chance came in 2002 when they won their first three games. Indiana knocked them out.
Anyone knowing little about college basketball who watches Texas and Colgate warming up for their first-round game will quickly come to the conclusion that the Longhorns should dismantle the Raiders by halftime. The Longhorns are as athletic and physical as any team in the field. Colgate? Not so much. But the Raiders are the best 3-point shooting team in the tourney.
FROM STATE COLLEGE TO COLLEGE STATION
What is this, the Sugar Bowl? Penn State (State College) and Texas A&M (College Station) are known as football schools. Maybe that’s why both have seemingly been dismissed this season. The Nittany Lions were sitting 17-12 after a loss to Rutgers, and on the wrong side of the bubble. They made it to the Big Ten title game, losing to No.1 Purdue. The Aggies made it to the SEC title game, losing to No.1 Alabama, and finished 2nd in the regular-season standings, only to get a No.7 seed. Maybe the Selection Committee got confused and thought this would make a good bowl game. It should make for a great first-round game.
Shake his Money Maker
Scored 41 points against Illinois
Ranked the 399th H.S. recruit.
Posted back-to-back 32-point games
Had no offers coming out of H.S.
Never attempted a 3 in 4 seasons
PLAYING FOR MONEY
Two players in the Midwest have a chance to make an impression on NBA scouts. Drake star ‘Tucker DeVries, a sophomore, is the son of the team’s coach, Darian. Tucker’s not coming out any time soon but if he lights it up,,,hmmm. Houston’s Marcus Sasser is the epitome of a Kelvin Samson player – under recruited, chip on his shoulder. Sasser took one visit – to Houston – and signed. Four years later he can prove to scouts he’s worth a look.
OLD SCHOOL POWER FORWARD
Indiana’s Trayce Jackson-Davis is old school. He was a unanimous selection on the Big Team First Team, leading the Hoosiers in scoring, 20,8, rebounding, 10.9, and blocks, 2.7. The 6-foot-9 J-D knows his game. He shot 57.8-percent from the field. In an era when every player is stepping back to shoot 3’s, Jackson-Davis never attempted one. He’ll have to prove to scouts he can shoot the 3. Just don’t expect him to start this month.
No player has greater cause for celebration at getting to play in the Big Dance than Iowa State PG Jaren Holmes, Raised by his mother, he was born Jaren English after his father, who wasn’t around. He changed his name from English to Holmes, his mother’s name. After getting no offers out of high school, he enrolled in Ranger Junior College.That got him a scholarship at St. Bonaventure, where he led the Bonnies for two seasons. He transferred to Iowa State for his final year of eligibility and gets to play in the tournament. Overlook him at your bracket peril.