UAB vs. Houston Odds, Picks, Predictions: Target Friday’s NCAA Tournament First-Round Total
Ron Jenkins/Getty Images. Pictured: Kyler Edwards.
- Houston begins its effort to return to the Final Four with a first-round NCAA Tournament matchup against UAB.
- Will the 5-seeded Cougars roll against the 12-seeded Blazers on Friday night? Our experts aren't betting on it.
- They are betting on the over/under, though. Find their picks and predictions based on the odds below.
UAB vs. Houston Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Houston went to the Final Four last year. Remember that? Most of the college basketball world seems to be forgetting that fact.
The Cougars return to the NCAA Tournament with a higher seed (5) than KenPom or Bart Torvik ranking (4th and 2nd, respectively). Houston has lost two of its best players to injury, yet the machine Kelvin Sampson has put into place continues to churn out wins.
The Cougars’ reward for their incredible season is a dangerous first-round opponent. UAB comes in red-hot off a run to win the Conference USA Tournament, led by one of the most likely names to become a star this month: shot-making miracle worker Jelly Walker.
This game promises to be a brawl, with both sides eyeing a chance to advance to Sunday.
After seven years, the Blazers are back in the NCAA Tournament. UAB finished the regular season at 24-7, and had a hard fight to win the C-USA Tournament, which included a three-overtime battle against Middle Tennessee in the semis. They enter this first-round matchup on a seven-game win streak.
The Blazers’ defense is one of the toughest in the country, ranking fourth in total steals and seventh in steals per game. That is due in large part to the efforts of Quan Jackson, who is third in the country in steals.
UAB is holding teams to an effective field goal percentage of just 47.9%, and it has been solid when it comes to defending shots from anywhere on the floor.
By now, you should be familiar with the Blazers’ leading scorer and the C-USA Player of the Year, Jordan “Jelly” Walker.
Walker is a transfer from Tulane, and is the only player in UAB’s history to be named C-USA Player of the Week on three separate occasions. On the season, he is averaging 19.3 points and 5.1 assists per game, while also leading the conference in 3-pointers and finishing third in 3-point percentage (40.7%).
His 42 points in the three-overtime win over Middle Tennessee set a program single-game scoring record.
Walker has the March factor and is a danger to any team UAB will face in the tournament.
Houston got no love from the selection committee, which slotted the Cougars as a five seed despite them ranking fourth overall on KenPom.
Houston has been without All-American guard Marcus Sasser since the first month of the season. But the group didn’t miss a beat, finishing with a 29-5 record and only losing conference matchups to Memphis and SMU.
Houston ranks inside the top-12 in the country in both offensive and defensive efficiency ranking. The defense presents relentless pressure, holding opponents to 29% from 3-point range (11th) and 43% on 2-point attempts (8th). The Cougars rank third in the nation in block rate and force turnovers on 22% of defensive possessions.
The Houston defense will be swarming UAB’s Jordan “Jelly” Walker all game long.
Offensively, the Cougars play with the same intensity, finding offensive rebounds on 38% of its misses – the third-highest rate in the country.
The Cougars have done nothing but impress this season, winning their games by an average margin of 17 points. They completely shut down the red-hot Memphis offense in the AAC tournament championship.
Despite them being under-seeded, there hasn’t been much conversation about the Cougars making a deep run in the tournament. If there is one thing for certain, Kelvin Sampson will have his program ready to play with the highest levels of intensity when the tournament tips off.
UAB vs. Houston Betting Pick
Houston should be able to dictate the flow of this game. The Cougars prefer to play slowly, averaging the slowest tempo in the American Athletic Conference this season. That’s notable, considering the AAC doesn’t have many teams looking to push the pace.
UAB’s game plan will likely mirror closest to Memphis, the thorn in Houston’s side all season. The Tigers like to play a fast tempo and handled Houston’s defensive intensity, winning the season series, 2-1, over the Cougars.
UAB, however, does not exist in the same universe talent-wise as Memphis. It’s really hard to see how the Blazers will manage to score points against a suffocating Houston defense. Even run-and-gun Memphis only managed to push Houston to an average of 129.3 total points in the teams’ three meetings.
Seven of Houston’s last eight opponents in games that ended in regulation scored 67 points or fewer. UAB, even if they keep this game close and within the number, likely has to do so in a low-scoring affair. Take the under.