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Houston vs. Alabama College Basketball Odds, Picks, Prediction: Elite Defense Square Off in Top-25 Matchup

Houston vs. Alabama College Basketball Odds, Picks, Prediction: Elite Defense Square Off in Top-25 Matchup article feature image

Sarah Stier/Getty Images. Pictured: Jahvon Quinerly.

  • The Houston Cougars take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in Saturday night's college basketball nightcap.
  • Both teams reside in the top 15 of the most recent AP Poll, so this has the potential to be one of the best games of the young season.
  • DJ James breaks down the game below and shares a betting pick based on his analysis.

Houston vs. Alabama Odds

Saturday, Dec. 11
10 p.m. ET
Houston Odds
-110o / -110u
Alabama Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

The Alabama Crimson Tide are riding high after their victory over the Gonzaga Bulldogs last Saturday. They will take on the Houston Cougars at home in a night cap of a full slate of hoops.

Both teams have one crucial loss on the season, but Houston has typically dictated the pace of its games. Even in this road matchup, it should be able to limit Alabama to slower possessions. Alabama usually runs at a quick tempo but has been slowed down by teams, like Iona and South Alabama, so it could happen in this game again.

Houston Cougars

Houston is a fantastic defensive team. It has the second-best defensive efficiency, per KenPom in the NCAA and the ability to control games with an average of 18.5 seconds per possession on the defensive side. Not only that, the Cougars average 17.3 seconds per possession on offense and have the 255th slowest Adjusted Tempo. All of these signal to the under.

Although Houston can shoot the three (38.4%) and can crash the glass on the offensive side (23rd in the NCAA), it struggles immensely from the free-throw line, only hitting 65.4%. Given the Cougars’ slow pace and their inability to execute when handed free points, this could come into play late in the game, particularly if they are leading the Crimson Tide. The same scenario applies to Alabama, who only shoots 65.2% from the strike, so free points will be limited if this game is close by the end.

Houston can turn teams over quite often. It has five players averaging at least one steal per game, with Marcus Sasser averaging 2.6. Alabama is a bit sloppy on the offensive side. It turns the ball over on 18.4% of its possessions, and this includes games against the likes of South Alabama and Oakland. Houston will be able to force the Tide to be a bit hectic, so if it eliminates offensive possessions without running at a quick pace, it will be able to restrict scoring opportunities consistently.

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Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama is the antithesis of Houston in that it loves pushing the ball up the floor. The Tide rank 22nd in Adjusted Tempo, per Kenpom, but they do have a top-25 defense. Still, they do not turn over opponents too often (17.4% of the time). This says they will be able to make stops on the defensive side, but the pace may not be as significant of a factor.

The Tide have the defensive artillery to throw Houston’s way in Keon Ellis, Jahvon Quinerly, Jaden Shackelford and J.D. Davison. Houston’s power resides in its guards/wings (Sasser, Kyler Edwards, Jamal Shead), so this does not bode well for either team offensively.

Surprisingly, Alabama’s tallest player is only six-foot-eight, and the Tide only average 43.3 rebounds per game. Houston averages about 38 boards, so this provides a slight edge to the Crimson Tide. However, Houston’s tallest starter is the same height, so the rebounding margin could be a wash by the final buzzer.

Lastly, Alabama only shoots 34.7% from three-point range, while Houston holds opponents to 27.6% from behind the arc. On the flip side, Houston shoots 38.4% from long distance, but Alabama holds its opponents to 27%. Most points will have to come from inside the paint in order to manufacture a consistent source of scoring.

Houston vs. Alabama Betting Pick

It is hard to see how this game turns out to be anything other than a defensive battle. These are two of the top defenses in the league. Neither team has enough height to have an advantage inside, and both are elite at defending three-pointers with strong backcourts.

Given how neither team can get to or execute free throws, all signs point to the under. It sits at 146 (-110), so play to 142 (-110).

Pick: Under 146 (-110) | Play to 142 (-110)

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