College Basketball Odds, Picks, Predictions for Virginia vs. Houston: Ride the Under in Top-25 Duel
Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images. Pictured: Virginia’s Kihei Clark (from left), Armaan Franklin and Jayden Gardner.
Updated Virginia vs. Houston Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
But Virginia’s loss at home to Navy in its opener on Tuesday dropped the Cavaliers outside the top 25.
The Cavaliers could again fall below .500 with their road trip to Houston, which survived a scare of its own when it needed overtime to beat Hofstra in its opening game.
The teams bounced back in their second games, but both sides are replacing a lot of key scorers and are reliant on new players.
Houston is a solid home favorite following its Final Four run in March, but the Cougars and Cavaliers lost five of their six combined top scorers from last season and have some question marks about scoring consistently this season.
Last year wasn’t a traditional Virginia team — the Cavaliers legitimately struggled with defense and were an offense-first team that featured Jay Huff, Sam Hauser and Trey Murphy III as excellent scoring options in the starting lineup.
Virginia won an ACC title again and if not for COVID-19 issues in March, it might have made the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
Tony Bennett successfully navigated last season with limited defensive talent, but this season’s lack of offensive talent might be an even bigger obstacle to clear.
Virginia lost its three leading scorers from last season and the two returning starters were defense and pass-first players.
Kihei Clark is an elite defender, good passer and creator, but doesn’t often look for his own shot. He joins Reece Beekman in the backcourt.
Virginia should be as good defensively on the perimeter as ever, but neither can be relied on for consistent points.
Losing Hauser and Murphy hurts the offense the most, as both shot better than 40% from 3 last season.
Bennett also lost Casey Morsell to NC State and went to the transfer portal to grab Armaan Franklin from Indiana and Jayden Gardner from East Carolina.
Franklin was a bigger combo guard at IU who can guard wings and is an excellent defender.
Meanwhile, Gardner is a perfect fit for the Bennett pack-line defense. He’s long, can rebound and is capable of protecting the paint effectively. He also has the athleticism to close out on shooters when needed.
Virginia has serious issues scoring the ball that will need to be worked out as the season progresses. But defensively, I’m expecting the Cavaliers to be a top-20 unit once again after last season’s blip. Both KenPom and Bart Torvik are underrating the Hoos’ defense.
The Cougars made it to their first Final Four since Phi Slama Jama last season and have announced themselves as one of the nation’s elite programs.
Houston has an identity: physical defense and elite rebounding. The Cougars’ fans celebrated victories chanting “defense” and while they weren’t a good shooting team, they averaged more shots per possession than any team in the country.
Three of four key contributors from that team are gone though, as Quentin Grimes, DeJon Jarreau and Justin Gorham all left.
It’s expected to be a breakout year for Marcus Sasser at the point guard spot. He’s shined through two games, an overtime win against Hofstra and a blowout victory against Rice.
Houston added Kyler Edwards from Texas Tech as a capable defender and proven scorer in the backcourt.
Tramon Mark has to take a big leap to match the production from Grimes last year. He also has to shoot better, but scouts are very high on Mark going forward.
The Cougars have a pretty low amount of returning production — similar to Virginia — but should be able to impose their aggressive and attacking defensive style with the returning personnel and crop of transfers.
Virginia vs. Houston Betting Pick
This matchup has all the makings of a rock fight between two offenses that have question marks.
The Cavaliers’ offense has very little ability to create shots for itself and could be suffocated on the outside. Virginia doesn’t try for many offensive rebounds and that’s one way to get at Houston, which struggles defensively on the glass because of aggressiveness on its contested shots.
On the other end, Houston is very reliant on offensive rebounds for points and usually tries to work from the inside-out. That will be difficult against the Bennett pack-line defense.
Virginia sacrifices almost every offensive transition opportunity in favor of securing defensive rebounds. That sets this up to be an ugly game with almost zero transition points, few second-chance points and lots of misses.
Given that both programs have lost their best shot creators and individual offensive talent, the under is the look here.
Despite the low total at 123, I’d play this down to 121.