FORT WORTH, Texas – Kelvin Sampson and No. 7 Houston are going to their third consecutive NCAA Tournament, this time with an American Athletic Conference tournament title after finally getting past Cincinnati in the championship game.
The Cougars were already a lock for the 68-team NCAA field before AAC tourney MVP Quentin Grimes scored 21 points with five 3-pointers and Marcus Sasser had 16 points as they led the entire way in a 91-54 victory Sunday, after losing in each of the last two finals to the Bearcats.
“Our guys were excited about competing for a championship,” Sampson said. “Being the automatic qualifier was never something that we (wanted). We wanted to be the American Conference champions.”
Just more than an hour after the AAC title game ended, the Cougars (24-3) were named the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Midwest Regional. They will play their first-round game against Horizon League champion Cleveland State (19-7).
Houston went into the AAC tournament as the No. 2 seed because Wichita State, which played four fewer games, had a higher conference winning percentage during the regular season.
“At 14-3 this year, we felt like you could have called us regular-season champions,” Sampson said. “But (AAC officials) decided before the season started how they were going to do that.”
It was the first conference tournament title for the Cougars since 2010, when they were still in Conference USA, and five seasons before Sampson became their coach. Sampson's last conference tournament title had been at Oklahoma, which won three in a row in the Big 12 from 2001-03.
DeJon Jarreau, two days after a triple-double in the quarterfinal round, hit a 3-pointer for the first basket of the game to put Houston ahead to stay. He finished with 10 points.