Houston vs. Rutgers Betting Odds & Pick: Value on Cougars In Second Round of NCAA Tournament
Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images. Pictured: Quentin Grimes.
Houston vs. Rutgers Odds
|-375 / +300
|Time | TV
|Sunday, 7:10 p.m. ET
This is one of the least intriguing games in the Round of 32.
The No. 2-seed Houston Cougars, after struggling for a bit in the first half, eventually dominated Cleveland State in a 31-point win. The Cougars are a two-way force to be reckoned with.
Meanwhile, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights managed a very uninspiring win over an incredibly inconsistent Clemson team. However, they did just win their first tournament game since 1983, which is something fans can certainly revel in.
If I was a Rutgers student, I would enjoy that victory, because the Scarlet Knights are about to step in front of a Mack Truck.
Houston is an awesome basketball team.
The Cougars are just one of four teams in the top-15 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. Houston is a particularly dominant defensive force, pacing paces the country in defensive eFG% while being top-five in both block and steal percentages.
Houston plays big in the backcourt and small in the frontcourt, with every starting player measuring between 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-7. All five defenders are long, athletic and versatile, allowing head coach Kelvin Sampson to switch everything and play aggressive half-court defense.
Overall, Houston allows just 57.8 points per game, good for second in the country.
Offensively, Quentin Grimes, a native of the Houston area, has been playing awesome. Over his last three games, he’s averaging 20 points on 52.5% shooting from the field and 56% shooting from 3-point land.
However, don’t sleep on the rest of the Houston offense. While they play at a slow pace (321st in adjusted tempo), the Cougars still manage 78 points per game, which is good for 42nd in the country.
Houston likes to score from the perimeter. It takes 25 3-point shots per game and scores mores than 35% of its total points from beyond the arc (60th in the country).
A lot of 3-point attempts mean a lot of long rebounds up for grabs, and Houston also excels in that area. The Cougars are second in the country in offensive rebounding percentage and pull down almost 14 per game.
All-in-all, Houston is one of the most dangerous teams in the tournament on both ends of the court. The Cougars are always primed to take over a game, which is why they’ve won six of their last eight by at least 24 points.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Sometime in late December, I was ready to believe Rutgers was one of the best teams in the country. Between a suffocating defense and Ron Harper Jr. leading the offense, Rutgers could keep up with and beat anybody.
On Dec. 30, the Scarlet Knights were 7-1 overall and 3-1 in Big Ten play with wins over Syracuse, Maryland, Illinois and Purdue. Steve Pikiell's team proceeded to lose five straight games and hasn’t looked the same since.
Rutgers play decent all-around defense and ended up finishing sixth in the Big Ten in defensive efficiency. The Scarlet Knights actually paced the conference in both block and steal percentages, with big man Myles Johnson averaging 2.5 blocks per game.
Offensively, Rutgers has been a dumpster fire. Early in the year, Harper was able to carry the Scarlet Knights to victory, as he averaged 25.7 points per game over his first six games (all wins).
Since then, Harper is averaging just 12.6 points per game while shooting less than 40% from the field. And the rest of the Scarlet Knights' offense hasn’t been able to pick up the slack.
Rutgers really struggles in the two most important offensive areas: 3-point and free-throw shooting. The Scarlet Knights shoot just 30.8% from deep and a pathetic 63.3% from the charity stripe. Those numbers brought Rutgers' eFG% down to 50%, and it finished ninth in the Big Ten in offensive efficiency.
Unless Harper ascends to all-star levels again, I wouldn’t expect Rutgers to win another tournament game.
Betting Analysis & Pick
I think Rutgers is the less-talented team that doesn't match up well with Houston.
Similar to Cleveland State, Rutgers scores the majority of its points from inside the arc. In fact, the Scarlet Knights score 59% of their total points from the interior, which is 15th-most in the country.
So, similarly to what Houston did against Cleveland State, I expect the Cougars to pack it in and use their length and athleticism to overpower the Scarlet Knights on the interior.
There’s an argument to be made that Myles Johnson, at 6-foot-11, could overpower the Houston offense down low. However, he’s not much of an offensive weapon, as he averages just eight points per game.
Therefore, I don't know how Rutgers expects to score in this game.
Houston is definitely weaker on the offensive end, but it has the star power to put up points on anyone.
Plus, while Houston is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the nation, Rutgers is one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the nation. The Scarlet Knights finished 223rd in the country and 13th in the Big Ten in defensive rebounding%, and they should get smoked by the Cougars in that area.
Eight points is a lot for Houston to lay in the second round, but I’d like to remind everyone that Houston has won six of its last eight games by at least 24 points.
I’m laying the number with Houston. Both because I believe Houston is an elite team and think Rutgers is even worse than its numbers insinuate. I’d play Houston up to -9.
Pick: Houston -8.5 (Play to -9).