BIRMINGHAM — Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson knows who to call when looking for some Alabama Crimson Tide help when the Cougars play Auburn on Saturday night in the NCAA Tournament in Legacy Arena at the BJCC.
"Call my old buddy Wimp (Sanderson), get them fired up," Sampson said during Friday's NCAA Tournament press conferences. "I've known Wimp a long time. He still doesn't know how to pronounce my name. Every time I talk to Wimp, he says, Kevin. Nope, nope, it's not Kevin. It's Kelvin. Eh, don't matter, Kevin. The Wimpster. Him and his Sonny (Smith) still do the radio show? Podcast, I bet it's popular, isn't it? Those two guys there are a piece of work."
Sonny Smith will be courtside on Saturday, serving as the color analyst on the Auburn radio network. We'll see if Sanderson is nearby, leading Houston cheers.
It's certainly a unique situation that a No. 1 seed is playing what amounts to a road game in the first weekend of the tournament. As a comparison, Alabama is 58 miles from home, while No. 8 Maryland is 750 miles away from Birmingham. Top seed Kansas is 234 miles away from Des Moines, Iowa while second-round opponent Arkansas traveled about 430 miles.
Sampson was asked what it would be like to have 90% of the crowd rooting against his team in an NCAA Tournament game.
"90 percent?" Sampson said with a laugh. "I'm hoping 90. You know, we've been pretty good on the road."
Houston is 11-0 in true games and 5-1 in neutral site games, with the lone loss coming in the AAC Tournament championship game loss to Memphis in Fort Worth, Texas.
"We think (Saturday) is going to be probably 75%, 80 % of Auburn fans," said Houston guard Marcus Sasser. "We're just going to treat it like a road game. When we go into road games, we always say it's just us versus everybody. That's one of our sayings that we say before every road game, and that's the saying we're going to say tomorrow to try to go out there and get the W like it is a road game."
Just in case, though, Sampson was asked to make an appeal to University of Alabama fans for help.
"Well, from what I know about Auburn-Alabama, I don't think I have to," Sampson said. "I think I just did. We're playing Auburn, 6:10. Let's go. We need some help. Roll Tide. They're good enough. How do you say "Roll Tide"? Roll Tide. Yeah. Well, Roll Tide, 6:10. I don't think I have to go much further than that. That's pretty good."
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