Rice is 5-24 and on a nine-game losing streak, but the Owls play at a very slow pace and Tulsa does not shoot the ball well enough to be a decided road favorite with limited possessions.
The poor shooting road team may be overvalued on Saturday night as those Tulsa Golden Hurricane (15-14, 5-7 away) pay a visit to the Rice Owls (5-24, 5-10 home) at Tudor Fieldhouse in Houston, TX at 8:00 ET.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Rice as a decided home underdog for this contest with the current line at +6½ with odds of -106.
Tulsa is currently tied with UAB for sixth on the Conference USA standings at 7-8, as they have been erratic while being unable to replace the scoring punch of Rashad Smith, who still leads the team in scoring despite being lost for the season after playing only four games due to a foot injury.
Thus James Woodard is the leading scorer on the active roster with only 12.0 points per game and Tulsa is ranked 238th in the country in offensive efficiency and 195th in effective field goal percentage. The picture is just as gloomy when looking at Conference USA games only where the Golden Hurricane rank an identical 11th in a 12-team league in both of those offensive categories.
Granted Tulsa has averaged 76.4 points in the last five games, but that is very deceptive because the Hurricane are still shooting just 42.4 percent over those games and that average is skewed by a triple overtime game and a bunch of free throw attempts. They are even shooting only 32.4 percent on three-point attempts over those five games, which is right at their season’s average.
The bottom line is that Tulsa does not shoot the ball well enough to be a decided road favorite, and that fact gets compounded here because the Golden Hurricane figure to get a limited number of possessions due to the plodding pace that Rice likes to play at.
Now Rice has certainly taken a step back after going 19-16 and playing in the CIT last season, as the Owls are just 5-24 this year including 1-14 in the conference, and they are currently on a nine-game losing streak.
However, Rice has often remained competitive because it is ranked 299th in the country with a pace rating of 62.7 possessions per game, and that makes the Owls look attractive whenever they are underdogs vs. teams with low shooting percentages, which is the exact situation we have here. Furthermore, Tulsa is ranked only 206th in defensive turnover percentage, so Rice’s slow tempo does not figure to get disrupted.
With all of that in mind, take the points with Rice at home in the regular season finale on Saturday.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Rice +6½ (-106)