College basketball has become a frenzy. The era of one and done has brought a lot of chaos to the game. The best players may still land at the biggest powers such as Kansas, Duke and North Carolina, but there is no telling how long they will stay. Houston guard Marcus Sasser doesn't follow these new rules. Sasser is a senior with the Cougars and is playing as well as anyone in the country.
Originating from Red Oak High School, Sasser is averaging a clean stat line of 16.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. Sasser is also adapted for the modern perimeter game, as he has shot 36.5% from 3-point range over his entire college career. Recently named to the John R. Wooden Award watch list, Sasser has been tabbed as one of the most elite guards in the college game.
Sasser is Houston's Not-So-Secret Weapon
Sasser leads his team in points and helps run one of the better offenses in the American Athletic Conference. As a key distributor, Sasser helps the Cougars average over 77 points per game, good enough for fourth in the conference.
Houston has a howling defense, and it has been the biggest talking point for the Cougars this season. The team allows just 55.4 points per game, the best in the entire country ahead of Tennessee and North Texas.
While defense is largely a team effort, Sasser has more than played his part. The Dallas native currently leads Houston with 1.8 steals per game, and he has helped defend other top guards the team has been pitted against. His efforts have hardly gone unnoticed, as Sasser has been named to the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year watch list.
Sasser is clearly a huge contributor to his squad, but the goal for Houston makes his impact mean much more. The Cougars, No. 3 in the most recent AP poll, have a large goal. The city of Houston has never seen its college win a national championship.
Though Houston has never won it all, it hasn't been for a lack of program success. The Cougars have made the Final Four six times. Moreover, Houston has reached the Sweet 16 a total of 13 times, yet the school has not taken advantage of its chances.
Connecticut, another school with a rich history, has made the Final Four five times, one less time than Houston. Unlike the Cougars, when the Huskies have gone deep in the tournament, they have often ended the season with a win. The Huskies have four national championships, winning in 1999, 2004, 2011 and 2014. In other words, it is clear that Houston has had somewhat unexplained difficulties finishing seasons.
Houston has a history full of winning but no cigar. The Cougars again find themselves near the top of the rankings; and with the current expectations, they will need to capture a title this season or the year is a bust. The pressure is on.
The Cougars last made the Final Four in 2021, but the core that made it so deep in that tournament has blown up. Two of the seniors on that team, DeJon Jarreau and Justin Gorham, declared for the NBA Draft.
Last year, the Cougars again found themselves in the mix near April, losing in the Elite Eight to Villanova 50-44. After a disappointing ending to the season, Houston lost more key pieces of the puzzle. Two of the Cougars' frontcourt starters in Josh Carlton and Fabian White received first-team All-Conference honors. Kyler Edwards, a senior and starting guard who made the second All-Conference team in the American, also left to declare for the NBA Draft.
With seniority and the pros plucking away at the pieces of the Cougars, they have needed a leader in 2023 — and Sasser has stepped in.
The scene is completely set for a big run in the tournament, as the city of Houston will host the Final Four in what is also to be Sasser's last year with the team.
There aren't many college basketball stars who are sticking around as long as Sasser has. The 6-foot-2 guard has elevated his play to an elite level; and without his contributions, it would be difficult for the Cougars to hold their spot among college basketball elites.
As the college game continues to move forward with players who come and go, Sasser's chemistry with his team and coach may be a key difference late in the NCAA Tournament. After experiencing consecutive runs to at least the Elite Eight, there is no better time than now for Sasser to leap way up the ladder in basketball lore as the main man on a first-time championship team.
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