Kentucky vs. Houston Betting Guide: PJ Washington’s Injury Clouding NCAA Tournament Game

Kentucky vs. Houston Betting Guide: PJ Washington’s Injury Clouding NCAA Tournament Game article feature image

USA Today Sports. Pictured: Kentucky forward Reid Travis, Houston guard Corey Davis Jr.

#2 Kentucky vs. #3 Houston NCAA Tournament Betting Odds

  • Spread: Kentucky -3
  • Over/Under: 134.5
  • Location: Kansas City, Mo.
  • Date: Friday, March 29
  • Time: 9:57 p.m. ET
  • TV: TBS

>> All odds as of Thursday night. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and live win probabilities on your bets.

The Wildcats (18-16-1 against the spread) have won three of their past four games ATS, including their last-second cover vs. Wofford (+5.5).

Meanwhile, the Cougars (22-12-2 ATS) have covered in four of their past six duels, as their most recent one pushed them into the Sweet 16 after falling short a season ago.

Where’s the value in this Midwest Region matchup? Let’s break it down.

Kentucky F PJ Washington’s Status Crucial

The 6-foot-8 forward (14.8 points per game) has missed Kentucky’s first two NCAA Tournament games with a left foot sprain. But he posted a video on Wednesday, in which he shed his walking boot.

But as of Friday afternoon, there’s still no real update on his status.

It’s unknown whether or not Washington will suit up against the Cougars, creating uncertainty for backers of either side. The sophomore isn’t just valuable because of his three-level scoring prowess, but he’s also tallied an above-average block rate (4.7%) among qualified players.

Even if the sophomore plays, I’d expect Wildcats coach John Calipari to keep him on a pitch clock, limiting his effectiveness against an underrated Houston frontcourt. Washington would still provide an impact, but don’t let his status dominate your perception of this matchup.

Which Interior Attack Stands Pat?

With or without Washington, much of Kentucky’s offense stems from inside the arc. Not only has it tallied a mere 14.9% 3-point scoring rate in its first two affairs in the big dance, but it’s produced the 52nd-highest 2-point scoring rate across college basketball.

Nevertheless, the Cougars have surrendered the 50th-lowest 2-point scoring percentage (45.4%).

Kelvin Sampson’s Houston team, guided by its tenacious backcourt of Corey Davis Jr. and Galen Robinson, delivers a handful of ball pressure to keep the opposition out of the paint. Houston’s stout bigs — Breaon Brady and Fabian White — match up well against Wildcats 6-foot-8 bruiser Reid Travis (11.5 ppg), too.

The one area Houston could get exposed is at the line. It’s allowed the 13th-highest scoring rate (23.4%) in that department, while the Wildcats have tallied the 15th-highest scoring percentage (22.8%).

The Cougars are in position to negate some of those concerns, though, with their 62nd-rated defensive rebounding rate (25.6%). The ‘Cats thrive off second-chance opportunities to spark their free-throw surge, so Houston will need to continue to deliver its gang rebounding at a high-level.

Wildcats’ Leaky Perimeter Defense

Houston’s motion offense presents the 78th-highest perimeter scoring rate (35.8%), with a bevy 3-point gunners in Armoni Brooks, Davis, Dejon Jarreau and Robinson, who all shoot at least 35%. All four of them can handle the ball, creating mismatches off the dribble drive.

John Calipari’s unit has been susceptible from behind the arc, yielding the 59th-highest 3-point scoring percentage (35.7%) in the nation.

Even though Wildcats guards Ashton Hagans and Tyler Herro are sound on-ball defenders, they caught a break via Wofford’s cold-shooting performance (29.6%) in the Round of 32.

Expect the Cougars’ savvy unit to make the Wildcats pay from that vicinity, and their 21st-rated offensive rebounding rate (34.6%) should present a challenge for the opposition to control the pace (65.8 possessions per 40 minutes) as well.

THE PICK: Houston +3, and I’d be willing it bet it down to Houston PK

Our Projected Odds: Kentucky vs. Houston

These ratings were built by Sean Koerner, our Director of Predictive Analytics, a former oddsmaker and FantasyPros’ most accurate in-season fantasy football ranker from 2015-2017.

  • Spread: Kentucky -4
  • Total: 132.5
  • Proj Score: Kentucky 68.5 | Houston 64.5
  • Win Probability: Kentucky 64% | Houston 36%

Editor’s note: The opinions on this game is from the individual writer and are based on his research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.

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