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PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA - MARCH 20: Kyler Edwards #11 and Reggie Chaney #32 of the Houston Cougars celebrate after defeating the Illinois Fighting Illini 68-53 during the second round of the 2022 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at PPG PAINTS Arena on March 20, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Kirk Irwin/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Kirk Irwin / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

The top-seeded Arizona Wildcats look to keep their national championship hopes alive against a No. 5-seed Houston Cougars team trying to make the Final Four in back-to-back seasons. Read on for our best against the spread and Over/Under play in our Houston-Arizona picks.

Houston (31-5, 15-3) was quickly dismissed as a serious national championship contender in early January when it lost two double-digit scorers, Marcus Sasser (17.7 points per game) and Tramon Mark (10.1 ppg), to season-ending injuries. However, Houston not only rolled through its AAC competition, but not many teams have looked more impressive in their first two NCAA Tournament games. The Cougars beat UAB and Illinois by an average of 14.5 points and are knocking on the door of consecutive Final Four appearances for the first time since they went to three straight in 1982-84.

Arizona (33-3, 18-2) entered the tournament with the second-best odds of any team to win the national championship, but it almost squandered its chance in the Round of 32. TCU pushed the Wildcats to overtime and almost beat the No. 1 seed in regulation, but Bennedict Mathurin saved the day with a game-tying 3-pointer with 14 seconds left. Arizona improved to 6-1 as a top seed in the second round since 1985.

This Sweet 16 matchup is the first time these schools have ever met in the NCAA Tournament.

Here are my picks and predictions for Thursday's Sweet 16 matchup between Houston and Arizona (odds via Caesars Sportsbook; pick confidence based on a 1-to-5-star scale).

Houston vs. Arizona Matchup Info

Date/Time: Thursday, March 24, 9:59 p.m. ETTV: TBSLocation: AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

SEE ALSO: North Carolina-UCLA Picks

Houston vs. Arizona Odds

Arizona is a two-point favorite at most sportsbooks, with BetMGM being the lone sportsbook offering -2.5. The Wildcats have been three-point favorites or fewer on three occasions, and they are 2-1 straight up and ATS in those games. Houston has been an underdog just once all season, covering as a three-point underdog but losing outright to Alabama 83-82 on Dec. 11. Sixty-one percent of the tickets and 58% of the cash is on Arizona to cover.

Sharps have been all over the projected 145.5-point total. While 70% of the tickets have backed the Over, 57% of the cash is on the Under. There is not much variance among the sportsbooks with this total, as most offer 145 or 145.5. The Under is 7-2 in Houston's last nine games, while the Over is 7-1 in Arizona's previous eight.

Houston vs. Arizona Picks

Houston +2.5 (-110) ????Under 145.5 (-110) ??

SEE ALSO: March Madness Betting Guide

Houston vs. Arizona ATS Pick

Houston +2.5 (-110)

Sometimes as sports bettors, we look at a line and think, "that line looks awfully fishy." That is precisely the feeling I get when looking at this line, which triggers the sentiments that the oddsmakers must know something here.

The most likely angle for not favoring the No. 1-seed Wildcats more over the No. 5-seed Cougars is that Houston can get after Arizona's guards, which will disrupt Arizona's offense completely. Wildcats point guard Kerr Kriisa has committed at least four turnovers on 10 different occasions, and two of those instances were in Arizona's three losses. Kriisa still does not look 100% healed from a sprained ankle that kept him out for three games, and if he does not look better on Thursday night, Arizona will have a hard time initiating its offense and using its size as an advantage.

Check out our top-rated sportsbooks here

Houston vs. Arizona Over/Under Pick

Under 145.5 (-110)

A wager on the total seems pretty cut-and-dried in that one should seemingly back the Over if they like Arizona's chances or the Under if they like Houston's chances. Because we like Houston to win the game outright, the team is more likely to prevail in a low-scoring battle than a track meet.

It is impossible to come to a consensus on the total just by looking at the trends of how each team has played with respect to totals lately, as Arizona has been a profitable Over team and Houston has been a profitable Under team. However, this analysis comes down to whose style of play is more likely to win out, and for us, that is Houston.

If the referees "let them play," Houston's physicality will do well to muck up the game and prevent Arizona from running its offense smoothly. However, if the game is called tight, that favors the Wildcats. Thus, we are making our Under wager a two-star play with the uncertainty of what kind of whistle we will get.

Where to Bet Houston-Arizona Picks

Here are our top-rated sportsbooks:

FanDuel SportsbookCaesars SportsbookDraftKings SportsbookPointsBetBetMGM

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Houston-Arizona picks made 3/21/2022 at 9:27 p.m. ET.