Back Houston -6 With Your NCAA Basketball Picks vs. Tulsa

Jason Lake

Saturday, February 6, 2016 6:57 PM GMT

The Tulsa Golden Hurricane couldn't beat the basketball odds the last time they met the Houston Cougars. They'll take another swing at it this Sunday afternoon.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Houston +6 (–105)
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

 

Jason's 2015-16 record as of Feb. 5: 3-2 ATS, 1-0 Totals

It made sense at the time. We had the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in our NCAA Basketball picks a couple weeks back when they met the Houston Cougars at Hofheinz Pavilion. This game was a pick 'em, Tulsa was on a hot streak and looked like the better team on paper, there weren't any injuries of note – easy as pie. Houston won 81-66.

These things happen. If we do our job right, maybe they only happen about 46-47 percent of the time. But will it be Tulsa Time this Sunday (3:00 p.m. ET) when the same two teams meet at the Reynolds Center? The Hurricane have opened as 6-point favorites on our NCAA Basketball odds board, so it looks like the betting market is already anticipating stormy weather for the Cougars. Is it the revenge factor? Or is something else going on that we should know about?

 

Gray's Anatomy
First, let's see if the math still adds up for Tulsa. It might not; since that loss to Houston, the 'Cane have split a pair of games at 0-1-1 ATS, while the Cougs are 2-0 SU and 1-0-1 ATS, including an upset win over the No. 12 SMU Mustangs (–6 away) last Monday. Factoring in those results, Houston (+9.5 SRS) is now slightly ahead of Tulsa (+9.2 SRS) on the Simple Rating System at Sports-Reference.

Don't mash that “bet” button just yet. The Cougars lost sophomore guard Robert Gray Jr. (22.1 PER, +2.5 BPM) to a sprained left ankle during last week's 97-93 double-overtime win against the East Carolina Pirates (+4 at home). Gray had 31 points and four steals in that game, shooting 6-of-11 from the perimeter, before he exited in the first overtime period. He missed the win over SMU and is considered questionable for Sunday's game.

 

Raising Barnes
At least the Cougs did manage to beat the Mustangs without their leading scorer. Junior guard and Purdue transfer Ronnie Johnson (18.3 PER, +2.0 BPM) took Gray's place in the starting lineup, but he was held to seven points on 3-of-10 shooting, and Houston was down 11 early in the second half before the reserves mounted that unlikely comeback.

It's that bench strength that has us leaning toward Houston this time. Senior guard LeRon Barnes (17.2 PER, +7.0 BPM) has been in and out of the starting rotation this year, but he's got the highest Box Plus/Minus of anyone on the Cougars, thanks to his stout defense. Gray and Johnson are both one-way players. You don't actually want to lose Gray's services if you're Houston, but as a betting commodity, this is a better pick with Barnes soaking up some of those backcourt minutes and Tulsa giving up six points instead of three or four.