NCAA Basketball Picks: Bet Cincinnati & Houston To Stay 'Under' 137

Jay Pryce

Wednesday, March 2, 2016 11:50 PM UTC

Wednesday, Mar. 2, 2016 11:50 PM UTC

Houston is full of confidence after winning eight of their last 10, but will be hard-pressed to continue momentum against one of the nation's stingiest defenses when Cincinnati comes to town. Get your NCAA Basketball pick and betting analysis here.

Cincinnati and Houston square off at the Hofheinz Pavilion on Thursday (9 p.m. ET), the second meeting between the AAC foes this season. The Bearcats disposed of the Cougars 70-59 at the Fifth Third Arena back in January, but Houston has rattled of eight wins in its last 10 and will look to avenge the early conference loss.


Cincinnati Bearcats (21-8 SU, 11-14 ATS)
Head coach Mick Cronin's Bearcats are on bubble watch. They are one of three or four teams representing the AAC receiving attention for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, and a win against the Cougars on the road will certainly pad their resume.

Cincy does it with defense. It ranks in the the top five in the nation with 92.5 points allowed per 100 possessions, and its 40.2 percent per game for two-point shots yielded is tops. Cronin's squad is a little vulnerable from the three-point area, though, giving up a trey 36.1 percent of the time. This dips their overall opponent shooting percentage allowed to 38.7, still good enough for ninth-best.

The Bearcats shine when up against other stingy defenses. Versus opponents allowing less than 67 points per game, they are 8-2 SU and 7-3 ATS. Against foes giving up more a night, Cronin's crew are 3-11 ATS. Houston is offense-first, yet holds opponents to a respectable 69.2 points per contest. However, in regards to efficiency, the Cougars 103.8 points allowed per 100 possessions is a little worse than the points total suggests. If Houston forces them to run, beating the number may be out of reach for the Bearcats.

The UNDER is 5-1 in conference play when Cincy takes to the road, staying south of the total by an average of 13 points due to a combination of atrocious offensive and stellar defensive play. The Bearcats allow a paltry 59.4 points on 38.8 percent shooting under these conditions. But the low totals come from their own poor shooting too; slipping to 38.5 percent from the floor per game. This a far cry from its offensive performances at home. Cincy, in fact, ranks in the bottom 30 nationally for home-road split differential in scoring, posting 80.1 points per game at the Fifth Third Arena as opposed to 63.9 away from their own beds.


Houston Cougars (21-8 SU, 13-8-1 ATS)
Houston is full of confidence under second-year coach Kelvin Sampson. Its won eight of its last 10, topped off by a 75-68 triumph over Connecticut as a 10-point dog last time out. The victory moved the Sampson's squad to 9-3-1 ATS in conference play.

The Cougars, who last visited the big dance in 2010, need a win to catapult into the tournament committee's RPI top 50, likely a requirement for serious consideration at receiving a bid. There's also the conference tourney in Orlando next week, which may be the only realistic option.

Houston can rack up points and are chock-full of hardened veterans. It leads the AAC in scoring (78.5 ppg) with top pointsgetter Rob Gray Jr. (16.4), a sophomore guard, leading the way. The heart and soul of the team is senior forward Devonta Pollard. His performance is often a bellweather of the team's success. He's scored in double digits in the last eight games, but was held to only 8 points and 6 rebounds in the first matchup.

Houston is 14-4 at Hofheinz Pavilion this year. All four of their losses have come against teams guarding the three at a better-than-average 31.5 percent or less. Otherwise they're a perfect 10-0 SU and 6-0 ATS against those averaging higher, seeing about a 5-point boost in scoring from 77.4 to :81.9 points per game.


Final Analysis
Bettors have to go all the way back to 1973 to find the one and only Cougar victory over the Bearcats. Cincy owns a 27-1 record overall in the matchup, notching 16 straight victories. Despite the home team's recent run, the Ohio group carry more talent, and defense will likely be the difference-maker in this one. Since 2013, these two have met three times with the total staying UNDER in each by an average margin of 5 points. Combined, they have failed to score more than 121 points in any, so keep this in mind when placing your March Madness picks. Scoring is up roughly 10 points per game across college basketball with the sped-up shot clock and other rule changes implemented at the start of the year, but there still appears to be a little value in the game total opening at 137 on the March Madness odds board. UNDER 137 is the play.  

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Under 137
Best Line Offered: at Bookmaker

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