Anticipation builds for weekend’s NCAA Final Four matches

Fred Jeter | 4/1/2021, 6 p.m.
Longtime hoops fans recall when the University of Houston was renowned as “Phi Slamma Jamma.”

Longtime hoops fans recall when the University of Houston was renowned as “Phi Slamma Jamma.”

Those airborne Cougars earned their wings by reaching the Final Four three straight years, 1982 through 1984, losing in the semifinals in 1982 and finals in 1983 and 1984.

In keeping with the catchy nicknames, the team’s current edition might be called “The Threedom Fighters.”

Few bomb from the distance like the Houston 2021 team that is set to face Baylor of Waco, Texas, in Saturday’s NCAA Tournament semifinals.

In posting a 28-3 record under Coach Kelvin Sampson, Houston has hoisted 804 three-balls with 285 connections.

Leading scorer Quinten Grimes (18 points per game) is 99-for-240 from the distance. In defeating Oregon State 67-61 in the Midwest Region finals, Houston launched 32 3-pointers (making 11 of them) out of 62 total field goal tries.

Coach Sampson, 65, seeks to become the first-ever Native American coach to win the NCAA crown. Coach Sampson grew up in the Lumbee Indian community of Robeson County, N.C. His son, Kellen, has served as his Houston assistant since 2014. His father, Ned, was a longtime coach at the University of North Carolina-Pembroke, a school affiliated with the Lumbee tribe. Coach Sampson starred at Pembroke before becoming a coach.

In 1982, Coach Sampson coached Oklahoma to the NCAA Final Four, falling to Indiana in the semifinals.

Some things never change in women’s basketball.

The ball is round. The rim is 10 feet high. And the University of Connecticut goes to the Final Four, or so it seems.

Coach Geno Auriemma’s Huskies are heading to their 13th – that’s right, a record 13th—straight Final Four this weekend in San Antonio.

The Huskies will play Arizona on Friday, April 2, in the national semifinals.

UConn is 28-1 after defeating Baylor 69-67 in the final of the RiverWalk Division.

The Huskies have reached the Final Four each season since 2008, although the 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the pandemic.

UConn has won a record 11 cham- pionships overall, with a record 21 NCAA appearances.

There is a bit of a local connection on the current roster. Center Olivia Nelson-Ododa is the sister of former University of Richmond player Alonzo Nelson-Ododa.

The 6-foot-5 Olivia Nelson-Ododa from Winder, Ga., averages 13 points and eight rebounds and has a team best 52 blocked shots. She is the American Athletic Conference Co-Defensive Player of the Year.