Houston Cougars hold on to No. 1 ranking, but it comes at a cost: UH's 3rd key injury of season

Greg Bailey Image
Tuesday, March 5, 2024
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HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The University of Houston men's basketball team lost another key player, even as the Cougars kept the No. 1 ranking in the national polls for the second straight week after Saturday's win at Oklahoma.

Freshman Joseph "Jojo" Tugler is scheduled for season-ending surgery later this week.

Houston Cougars head coach Kelvin Sampson said he's far more concerned with the impact the injury will have on Tugler as a person. Basketball is a distant second for the veteran coach.

"Everybody will try to figure out what it means for us, but that's a human being with a broken foot who's invested his entire life into this season. And I know how hard he's worked," Sampson said.

Tugler was originally scheduled to have surgery Tuesday or Wednesday, but the Cougars will be playing a road game at Central Florida.

Sampson asked to have the surgery delayed until later this week so he could be with Tugler.

"I want to make sure that I'm there before he goes in, and I want to make sure he sees us when he comes out. That's part of being a family," Sampson added.

Tugler is the third key UH reserve lost to a season-ending injury, joining Ramon Walker Jr. and Terrance Arceneaux.

Not many programs in the country could withstand key losses to their roster, but the Cougars have excelled as the injuries have mounted.

UH has won 12 of its last 13 games to move to the No. 1 spot in the nation. After Wednesday's game at UCF, the Coogs close the regular season with Saturday's home game against Kansas.

Sampson said his team will move forward without Tugler, Walker, and Arceneaux.

"We just have to figure it out," Sampson said.

Bracketology, odds, and and more

ESPN.com's Bracketology projection of March Madness is stopping short of giving Houston the No. 1 overall seed.

As of March 1 and before Houston's win over OU, Purdue holds the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, but the Cougars would be the top seed in the South Region, where Dallas will host the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight rounds.

Meanwhile, the Men's College Basketball Power Index, or BPI, has kept the Coogs No. 1 overall, with a 99.6% likelihood of winning the Big 12. UH holds a one-game lead with UCF and Kansas left on the schedule.

In addition, the BPI gives UH the best chance to win the March Madness tournament at 29.2%

And for added measure, ESPN Bet gives Houston the second-best odds of winning the NCAA tournament at +650.

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