NCAAB Betting Guide for Cincinnati vs. Houston
Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Houston Cougars head coach Kelvin Sampson and guard Jamal Shead (1).
Cincinnati vs Houston Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Long presumed the champion of the American Athletic Conference, Houston finally showed a shred of vulnerability. Kelvin Sampson’s Cougars shockingly lost to Temple as 19.5-point home favorites last Sunday.
The league race still heavily favors Houston, but seeing the champ bleed surely gave the contenders a glimmer of hope. Among those contenders is Cincinnati, who sits two games off the pace.
The Bearcats have struggled mightily to beat quality opponents. They knocked off Tulane — KenPom’s 87th-ranked team — to close the 2022 calendar year, but they are 0-5 against all other top-100 opponents. Conquering the Cougars would be an enormous boost, but it promises to be a tall task.
Cincinnati will also be fighting matchup history in this one: Sampson has brutalized the Bearcats since his arrival in Houston.
Per Bet Labs — one of the betting tools available for Action Labs subscribers — the Cougars head coach is 14-6 against the spread (ATS) against Cincinnati. Narrow the focus to a more recent time window, and Houston has won and covered in eight straight meetings.
Sure, Cincinnati has changed coaches over this span. But that 8-0 stretch includes three duels with Wes Miller in the last 14 months. It has not mattered who oversees the Bearcats — Sampson means business.
Cincinnati’s success in conference play has come primarily via its defense. The Bearcats dominate the paint, leading the AAC in 2-point percentage and defensive rebounding rate.
Viktor Lakhin — a.k.a. the Lakh Ness Monster, as I have dubbed him — is the chief reason for this dominance. The 6-foot-11 Russian has blossomed in his second year in the states, ranking fourth in the conference in defensive rebound rate and seventh in block rate. However, he can be limited by frequent foul trouble.
Cincinnati also excels at running foes off the 3-point line. Without access to easy points at the rim nor open perimeter jumpers, opponents frequently live in the midrange. That is by design in Wes Miller’s system: The second-year coach is fully aware of the numerical edges gleaned from forcing such looks.
Much like Miller’s first campaign, though, the offensive end has been a struggle. Outside of Lakhin, no one gets to the free throw line, and the big Russian struggles to convert when he’s there. The Bearcats have multiple lethal pull-up shooters, but they rarely get easy buckets via drives or cuts.
Those flaws stood out in the first meeting against Houston’s physical defense on Jan. 8. The Bearcats shot 11-of-31 (35.5%) inside the arc. Even a bevy of second shots could not float the Bearcats above 0.90 points per possession.
So, did Temple provide the rest of the challengers a template for beating Houston? Or was it a fluke? The answer, as usual, lies somewhere in the middle.
Temple made life incredibly difficult on Houston’s scorers, limiting the Cougars to a dismal 13-of-39 performance inside the arc. They preyed upon Houston’s tendency to live in the midrange. Houston has the third-lowest “rim and three” rate in the AP top 25, per Shot Quality.
Crucially, the Owls also limited Houston’s offensive glass onslaught — a necessity in order to have a chance against the Cougars. A steady diet of second shots typically mitigates cold shooting nights. And as previously mentioned, Cincinnati is the best defensive rebounding team in the conference.
Of course, Houston also shot just 52.4% from the free throw line. Simply making their season average likely wins the Cougars the game — comfortably. That part is much more difficult to control.
All this talk about losing to Temple ignores the terrific midweek bounce-back performance from the Cougars. They won by double-digits at UCF, a foe who gave Houston all it could handle three weeks prior.
The continued emergence of Emanuel Sharp, a redshirt freshman guard from Florida, has the potential to elevate the Cougars offense. After playing minimally earlier in the season, Sharp has now hit multiple 3-pointers in four of the past nine games. He exploded for 18 points against UCF, matching a career high set in December against McNeese State.
Marcus Sasser, Jarace Walker and Tramon Mark are known quantities. If Sharp becomes a reliable weapon off the bench, Houston’s ceiling rises.
Cincinnati vs. Houston Betting Picks
These squads have dueling total trends going. Seven of Cincinnati’s last eight games have gone under the total (I told you the defense is playing well!).
Meanwhile, seven of Houston’s last 10 games have gone over. That contrasting data is enough to keep me off the total.
Instead, I will ride with old reliable: Sampson against the Bearcats.
I mentioned this trend before their first meeting, and the Cougars came through. I’m going back to the well, especially in Houston’s first home game since the Temple loss.
I plan to split my bet between first half and full game. Sampson is one of the best 1H coaches in the sport: Per BetLabs, Sampson is 148-99-4 ATS (59.9%) in first halves in his career. His teams attack with a fury from the opening tip.
|Houston -14 ⋅ Play to -15|
|Houston 1H ⋅ Play to -8.5|
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