NCAA Basketball Picks: Houston's Key Injury Means Back SMU -6

Matthew Jordan

Monday, February 1, 2016 4:09 PM UTC

Monday, Feb. 1, 2016 4:09 PM UTC

If the University of Houston has any prayer of an at-large NCAA Tournament bid, it 100 percent has to win Monday night's game against No. 13 SMU. Let's check the NCAA basketball odds.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: SMU -6
Best Line Offered: at TheGreek


Mustangs Pretty Much Playing For Pride
It must be somewhat hard to be a player for SMU (19-1, 8-1 AAC) as the Mustangs are ineligible for postseason basketball. So even though it's pretty evident this is the best team in the American Athletic Conference and will win the regular-season title, there will be no conference tournament for the players. The original goal for the guys was to run the table in the regular season but that ended with an 89-80 loss at Temple on Jan. 24.

SMU bounced back from that loss with an 80-68 win over visiting Memphis, probably the second most-talented team in the conference, on Saturday. Nic Moore played through an injury and led SMU with 22 points as the team led for all but 38 seconds. The Mustangs are one of the best rebounding teams in the country and outrebounded Memphis 51-35. The Mustangs have outrebounded foes by at least 10 a total of 12 times this season. It was SMU's 15th straight home win, the third-best streak in school history. The record  is 34 in a row from  February 1954 to March 1957.

Obviously this one is on the road and SMU has won 17 of its past 20 away from home. The Mustangs lead the AAC in scoring (80.0 ppg), assists (17.8 apg), rebound margin (plus 11.6) and field-goal percentage (50.6), among other stats. The 19-1 start is the best in school history. Moore probably will repeat as AAC Player of the Year.  

SMU is 7-9 against the spread on NCAA basketball odds this season and 4-2 ATS on the road.


Cougars Without Leading Scorer?
Houston (15-6, 5-4 AAC) hasn't made the NCAA Tournament since 2010 and isn't likely to this season, either. The team's RPI is 130th in the nation and that's not going to cut it.  Obviously a win here would improve that number. I suppose it's not impossible that Houston wins the AAC Tournament, especially with SMU not in it.

The Cougars do enter this one on a two-game winning streak, which followed a four-game skid. On Saturday, Houston went to East Carolina and won 97-93 in double overtime. UH shouldn't have let it get that far but blew an eight-point lead with three minutes left in regulation. Rob Gray Jr. led Houston with 31 points (tied career high) and Damyean Dotson had 23 points and 13 rebounds. Reserve Wes VanBeck had all 11 of his points in the overtimes. Gray leads the AAC in scoring at 17.6 ppg but did have to leave the ECU game in the first overtime with an  ankle injury. He is doubtful here so that's obviously a big deal. He's looking to become Houston's first league scoring champion in five years. Thanks in large part to Gray, UH is second in the AAC in scoring at 78.6 points per game.

The Houston football team, which finished 13-1 and won the Peach Bowl over Florida State, will be honored at halftime of this one. The Cougars, who already have exceeded last year's win total, are No. 1 in the conference in 3-point defense, as opponents hit on only 28.4 percent.

Houston is 8-7-1 ATS on NCAA basketball picks this year and 6-2 ATS at home.


First Meeting
On Jan. 19 in Dallas, SMU was a 13-point favorite and won 77-73 -- the Mustangs' final game before their first loss. Moore led SMU with 23 points. Markus Kennedy had 16 points and 10 boards, including two free throws with 5:35 left that gave SMU the lead for good. There were 12 ties in the game. Dotson led Houston, which led much of the first half, with 16 points. That remains Houston's only game against a team ranked at the time. The Cougars have lost five in a row in the regular season in  this series.


Final Analysis
I would have taken these points if Gray were healthy, but then the spread  might not have been that big. So I'll go Mustangs on the presumption he's not playing. The road team has covered five of the past seven in this series. Houston is 7-15 ATS in its past 22 games after allowing more than 90 points in its previous game.

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