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Christmas College Basketball Betting Odds & Picks: How I’m Betting Houston-Washington, AAC Futures

Christmas College Basketball Betting Odds & Picks: How I’m Betting Houston-Washington, AAC Futures article feature image

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Jaden McDaniels.

Eli Hershkovich is an Action Network contributor and produces/hosts the You Better You Bet Podcast on RADIO.COM Sports.

No. 21 Washington — the lone ranked team playing on Christmas — advanced to the Diamond Head Classic championship game with an outright win and cover (-7.5) against Hawaii on Monday. Mike Hopkins’ squad faces Houston, which knocked out Georgia Tech in the same fashion.

Let’s break down where the value lies in the finale of this holiday tournament.

Odds as of Wednesday morning and via DraftKings, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.

Houston vs. Washington

  • Spread: Houston -1
  • Over/Under: O/U 139.5
  • Time: 8:30 p.m. EST
  • TV: ESPN2

The Huskies (6-5 against the spread) boast one of the premiere frontcourts in college basketball with five-star freshmen Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels. They’ve helped propel Washington to the 55th-highest free-throw scoring rate and 84th-highest two-point scoring rate, respectively (via KenPom).

Awesome debut for Jaden McDaniels in Washington's win over Baylor. Looked like the top-10 pick his obvious talent suggests he should be. True 6-9 wing, flashed the handles to create drives + dribble jumpers. Totally fluid with athleticism/skill execution.

— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) November 9, 2019

But the Cougars (6-6 ATS) should be able to limit the explosive bigs more so than any team thus far in Hawaii. Kelvin Sampson’s bunch has yielded the 23rd-lowest two-point scoring rate in the country, as juniors Fabian White and Brison Gresham combine to form one of the more underrated mid-major frontcourts.

Moreover, Houston has tallied the 65th-highest defensive rebounding rate in Division I while Washington has struggled on the glass despite their athleticism and length. Expect the Cougs to be able to slow down the tempo to their liking as a result.

The Huskies have struggled with their halfcourt offense and turnovers when they’re unable to push the tempo consistently. Houston has produced college hoops’ second-highest offensive rebounding rate, so it’s ability to generate second-chance opportunities will slow down Washington’s attack as well.

The key to breaking down the Huskies’ 2-3 zone, which they’ve broken out from time to time in the tournament, is shooting right through it. Only 27.8% of the Cougs’ offense come via behind the arc, but they’ve still notched the 73rd-highest 3-point clip (36.0%) in the nation.

Look for Nate Hinton (44.0%), freshman Caleb Mills (35.4%) and Kansas transfer Quentin Grimes (33.3%) to come up big against Washington’s defense.

The Pick: Houston -1

Given James Wiseman’s departure from Memphis, the No. 1 college basketball recruit in 2019 opened the door to the rest of the league in hopes of winning the American Athletic Conference tournament title.

This bet is available at certain books, and the contenders are listed below:

* Memphis +225

* Wichita State +250

* Cincinnati +350

* Houston 4-1

* UConn +850

* Temple 15-1

Despite the Cougs’ slow start, losing two of their first four game straight-up to BYU and No. 6 Oregon, there’s some value in Sampson’s team.

The Bearcats are overvalued, and forward Jarron Cumberland’s injuries and lethargic play has held them back. KenPom actually projects No. 9 Memphis, Wichita State and Houston to finish with an identical 12-6 conference mark.

With the Cougars’ improved attack (19th-ranked Adjusted Offensive Efficiency), led by the improved Grimes and the underrated freshman Mills, they could very well finish atop the league headed into the conference tournament. I’d consider sprinkling a little on Houston if you’re able to snatch it.

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