NCAA Basketball Pick on Houston Cougars as Big Underdogs

LT Profits Sports Group

Thursday, February 26, 2015 3:17 PM GMT

Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015 3:17 PM GMT

Each day LT Profits Sports seeks an overlay side that has a better chance of cashing than its spread, offering long term value. Here is their Side Value Play for Thursday.

 

The double-digit underdogs seem to hold good value Thursday night vs. a struggling offense as those Houston Cougars (9-17, 1-8 away) pay a visit to the Temple Owls (19-9, 12-2 home) at The Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, PA at 7:00 ET in a game televised nationally on CBS Sports Network.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Houston as a large road underdog for this contest with the current line at +15 with odds of -110.


Owls Still Hoping for NCAA Bid
Temple is still hoping for an at-large NCAA berth as the Owls are 19-9 overall and 10-5 inside the AAC despite losing their last two games. Personally we do not see that happening as they are ranked 62nd overall on the Pomeroy Ratings while facing a good but not terrific schedule ranked 85th in SOS, so we think Temple will have to win the AAC Tournament to go to the Big Dance. That still makes these games important though as the Owls look to improve their seeding.

Houston was the team that upset SMU in the first round of the AAC Tournament last season in the game that may have been the single biggest reason the Mustangs got snubbed by the NCAA Tournament committee, but the Cougars have had very few highlights this season going a dismal 1-13 in conference play and 9-17 overall, and they have now been the losing NCAA Basketball picks in five straight games.


Terrible Shooting Lately
Despite Houston’s poor AAC record and current losing streak, we still feel this is too many points to give for a Temple team that has struggled offensively for most of the season and that has been shooting even worse than normal in recent games. The Owls may have hit rock bottom last game with a pathetic offensive showing in a 55-39 loss at Tulsa on Sunday.

Temple shot an embarrassing 14-for-57, 24.6 percent overall in that contest including going 1-for-14 from beyond the three-point arc, and that came on the heels of shooting 22-for-54, 40.7 percent in a 67-58 loss at SMU in the previous contest. In fact, over the last three games the Owls are a combined 57-for-168, 33.9 percent from the field including shooting just 26.0 percent (13-for-50) from three-point land.

The worst part is that while those numbers are certainly worse than Temple’s year-to-date numbers, it is not as if the Owls were that good offensively to begin with. That is because Temple is just 238th in the country in offensive efficiency and 333rd out of 351 Division I teams in effective field goal percentage at a mere 43.5 percent, hitting 42.4 percent of its two-point shots (ranked 337th) and 30.4 percent of its three-pointers (306th).

The Owls have gotten to 19-9 by ranking an outstanding eighth in defensive efficiency and 17th in effective field goal percentage allowed, but do you really want to give 15 points with a team that cannot put the ball in the ocean right now?


Houston Losing but Not Getting Blown Out
Yes, the Cougars’ record speaks for itself, but so does the fact that none of the five losses during their current losing streak have been by more than 13 points and four of them have been by 10 points or less. And this five-game skid followed a two-game winning streak where Houston won its only conference game of the year, ironically against the defending national champion Connecticut Huskies, as well as posting a non-conference win over Rice.

So that makes seven straight games where the Cougars would have covered this 15-point spread, and another reality is that only five of their 17 losses all season have been by more than 15 points.

As for how Houston can keep this game close, the Cougars could extend possessions as they have a good offensive rebounding percentage of 33.2 percent vs. a national average of 31.1 percent, and their defense is holding opponents to a reasonable 49.3 percent effective field goal percentage. Considering the way Temple has shot the basketball, that percentage should be good enough to make stops in this game.


Cougars Swept Last Season
Finally, Houston swept both meetings from Temple last season including an 89-79 win here in Philadelphia. Those were the first two meetings ever between these programs in their first season as AAC conference-mates.

While Houston may not make it three straight outright wins over the Owls here, continued poor shooting by Temple should allow the Cougars to slide in under this huge point spread in Philadelphia on Thursday.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Houston +15 (-110)

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