College Basketball Odds & Picks for Houston vs. UCF on Saturday, Jan. 29

College Basketball Odds & Picks for Houston vs. UCF on Saturday, Jan. 29 article feature image

Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Darius Perry.

  • Houston travels to Orlando to take on UCF in an AAC duel.
  • The Knights have beaten Michigan and Memphis at home this season.
  • Tanner McGrath breaks down which team to back.

Houston vs. UCF Odds

Saturday, Jan. 29
8 p.m. ET
Houston Odds
-110o / -110u
UCF Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

It's crazy how Houston lost two major contributors — including the favorite for AAC player of the year — and continues to blow through the conference opposition. With last Saturday's victory over East Carolina, the Cougars are now 6-0 in conference play.

Meanwhile, UCF has been as Jekyll-and-Hyde as it comes. Recent wins over Michigan and Memphis are paired with recent losses to Temple and South Florida. Most recently, the Knights dropped a road contest to Wichita State.

This is certainly an important spot for UCF. But do the Knights have enough firepower to compete with the Cougars?

Houston Cougars

Houston's top player Marcus Sasser went down in the December 18 game against Oklahoma State. It was a devastating blow that was to seriously affect Houston's future.

This is how the Cougars responded:

  • 80-47 win over Texas State, 1.25 PPP, .78 PPP allowed
  • 66-61 win over Temple, 1.18 PPP, 1.01 PPP allowed
  • 83-66 win over South Florida, 1.37 PPP, 1.03 PPP allowed
  • 66-64 win over Tulsa, 1.06 PPP, 1.00 PPP allowed
  • 74-55 win over South Florida, 1.15 PPP, .80 PPP allowed
  • 79-36 win over East Carolina, 1.21 PPP, .57 PPP allowed

It hasn't been the most impressive competition, but it's a solid stretch of games to write home about.

Houston is just very well-coached. Kelvin Sampson has created a stifling defense that's impossible to get by. The Cougars contest every possible shot and are sixth in defensive eFG% as a result.

Meanwhile, the offense hasn't gotten away from its identity — which is offensive rebounding. The Cougars are second nationally in offensive rebounds are score 1.1 PPP in put-back opportunities.

Since Sasser went down, Kyler Edwards and Josh Carlton have developed into the main two players. With Edwards creating out of the backcourt and Carlton dominating upfront, it's created a very dangerous inside-out duo.

A two-man game like that is hard to stop in college hoops.

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UCF Knights

UCF has a ton of dangerous weapons. With a bevy of athletic guards and wings, the Knights can run-and-slash you to death. It's hard to keep up with UCF, which has the 35th-shortest average length of possession.

However, the Knights' offensive identity is clear — they create through their backcourt.

Darin Green and Darius Perry combine for over 23 points per game and are the team's two highest-usage players. Perry is more of the playmaker (4.7 assists per game), but Green scores at a higher clip (41.8 FG% to 39.6%).

Either way, things get bleak offensively with those two off the court.

Image credit: CBB Analytics

The Knights aren't super special defensively. They'll pressure the ball and force turnovers at the highest rate in the AAC. But UCF is probably due for some negative shooting regression, as UCF allows the 34th-highest opponent three-point rate, although the opponents are hitting those 3s at just a 30% clip.

Houston vs. UCF Betting Pick

UCF likes to run. But the Knights aren't particularly good at it.

UCF gets out in transition at the 35th-highest rate (28.4%) but ranks 314th in transition eFG% (49.5%) and 324th in transition PPP (.899).

But, thankfully for Knights fans, Houston will not allow you to run. The Cougars slow the game way down (302nd in tempo) and force you into your half-court sets. Generally, the Cougars suffocate teams in this position.

But this style of play will likely work in UCF's favor, who can then fall back on their guards to overpower a shorthanded Houston backcourt.

Therefore, I like UCF here. Plus, catching over seven points with a home dog in a Rock Fight is always a sharp play.

Moreover, UCF needs this win. Taking down Houston gets the Knights right back in the bubble conversation, and they get to do it at home.

I'll take the Knights down to +7.

Pick: UCF +7.5 | Play to +7

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