Preview: Houston Cougars

Cougars will need upgrade on D to finish in upper half of new conference

Updated: October 16, 2013, 9:45 AM ET
By Jordan Brenner | ESPN Insider

TaShawn Thomas Troy Taormina/USA TODAY SportsTaShawn Thomas nearly averaged a double-double (16.9 points, 9.8 rebounds per game) last season for Houston.

Houston Cougars

2012-13: 20-13 (7-9 Conference USA)
In-conference offense: 1.08 points per possession (3rd in C-USA)
In-conference defense: 1.08 points allowed per possession (9th in C-USA)

For those expecting Houston to increase its win total for the third straight season, we point to one number: 269. That's where the Cougars ranked in defensive efficiency a season ago. So despite all of the reasons for optimism, particularly the return of forwards TaShawn Thomas and Danuel House from a 20-win squad, that won't mean much unless Houston figures out how to guard someone. And considering the Cougars are stepping up a weight class in moving from Conference USA to the AAC, that won't be easy.

Jordan Brenner | email

ESPN The Magazine contributing writer
Brenner writes for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN Insider. He covers the NBA and college basketball.