Temple vs. Houston: Cougars -4 Is The Sharp NCAA Basketball Pick

Jason Lake

Saturday, February 20, 2016 11:21 PM GMT

Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 11:21 PM GMT

The Temple Owls are on top of the AAC standings, but they're not the best team in the conference. The Houston Cougars look like the right NCAA Basketball pick for Sunday.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Houston –4
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

 

Jason's 2015-16 record as of Feb. 19: 5-5 ATS, 1-1 Totals

The Houston Cougars? Okay, fine. We managed to be on the wrong side of both games the Cougars played against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. But this should be one of our easier NCAA Basketball picks; the Cougs are about to host the Temple Owls, who just happen to have the best record in the AAC – despite being maybe the sixth or seventh best team in the conference.

More on that shortly. As we go to press, Houston is laying four points at home on our NCAA basketball odds board, down from –5 at the open. It's early in the process, so we don't have enough data yet to produce a consensus report for Sunday's game (7:00 p.n. ET, ESPNEWS), but it certainly looks like people are lining up to bet on Temple. Excellent. Cue the maniacal laughter.

 

Mind The Gap
In case you needed any more evidence of the role luck plays in sports, here we have the Owls (16-9 SU, 13-10 ATS) sitting on top of the AAC standings at 10-3. The Owls, who made the semifinals of the NIT last year. Nothing against what Fran Dunphy has achieved this year, but when you look at the stats, it's pretty clear that Temple has been very fortunate up to this point.

Let's start with the man himself, Ken Pomeroy. He's got Temple ranked No. 90 (No. 121 offense, No. 68 defense) out of the 351 teams on his Division I efficiency charts. Houston checks in at No. 69 overall (No. 20 offense, No. 197 defense). That's a substantial difference in performance level. Sports-Reference is on board, too: They've got Houston 2.4 points ahead of Temple on their Simple Rating System, so roughly –6 at home.

 

Give a Hoot, Don't Compute
It's not like the Owls have everyone fooled with their smoke and mirrors. SMU, UConn and Cincinnati have all spent time in the AP rankings this year. Temple has not. However, the Owls did manage to sweep all five of their games against the Mustangs, Huskies and Bearcats, all as underdogs. Timing is everything. Houston beat them 77-50 as 6-point road dogs back in early January.

Given all that, would it surprise you to learn the Owls are 5-2 SU and 2-5 ATS in their last seven games? As for the Cougs, they didn't get the job done for us against Tulsa when we needed them to, but that's their only blemish this month at 4-1 SU and ATS. They even beat the Mustangs along the way, 71-68 as 6-point home dogs. We're certainly happy enough here at the home office to get our money in good with this Sunday night matchup as we approach March Madness. Maybe wait until closer to tip-off for a better price, and may the sphere be with you.

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