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UCF vs Houston Odds, Picks: AAC Saturday Betting Guide

UCF vs Houston Odds, Picks: AAC Saturday Betting Guide article feature image
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Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Johnny Dawkins (UCF)

UCF vs Houston Odds

Saturday, Dec. 31
2 p.m. ET
ESPN+
UCF Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
+15.5
-110
120.5
-105o / -115u
+1100
Houston Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
-15.5
-110
120.5
-105o / -115u
-2300
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

I love the AAC this season.

Temple has played above its means. Cincinnati is 10-4. Memphis has new life with Kendric Davis at point guard. Javon Small has become my favorite mid-major guard leading East Carolina. Even South Florida and Tulane are intriguing.

At the center of the league are these two.

Houston is a legit national title contender, and I’d rate it as the second-best team in the nation right now.

Meanwhile, UCF is an upset threat whenever it takes the court, boasting a good frontcourt and a top-25 defense.

But you will always be fighting an uphill battle in the AAC. Houston is a double-digit favorite against almost every team in the conference, including against UCF at home.

Houston has won and covered against UCF in five straight games. Do the Knights have a fighting chance in this game?


UCF Knights

Johnny Dawkins has adopted the hot, new college basketball offense: chuck it up and hit the offensive glass.

The biggest example of this is TCU, which used the chuck-and-crash offense (I just made this term up) to make a second-round NCAA tournament run last year. The Horned Frogs grabbed 20 offensive rebounds on 26 3-point attempts in a near-upset of Arizona.

Dawkins returned just one starter from last season and is working with an entirely new roster. Luckily, this is not the hardest system to teach, and UCF has the length underneath with Michael Durr (7-foot-0) and Lahat Thioune (6-foot-10) to fake-it-and-make-it.

UCF is 145th in 3-point rate and 12th in offensive rebounding rate. Freshman Taylor Hendricks has been a revelation, as he’s elite in offensive rebounding rate (9.4%), is shooting 44.4% from 3 and is blocking almost two shots per game.

Hendricks is such a versatile weapon. A lengthy stretch-four with a high motor and a defensive IQ is hard to find, and it’s harder to find in a freshman.

Taylor Hendricks has emerged as one of college basketball's most productive freshmen, leading UCF in scoring while shooting 46% from 3. At 6-9 with long arms, mobility and explosiveness, he brings defensive versatility and a high motor. ESPN stock watch: https://t.co/Ikg5ppfP1R pic.twitter.com/JyuGGM7L29

— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) December 27, 2022

This guy might be a lottery pick.

But other than chuck-and-crash, UCF doesn’t have a lot of routes to score. So, the Knights rely on their defense.

UCF is top-40 in both eFG% allowed and defensive turnover rate, and it owns one of the most efficient ball-screen offenses in the nation (97th percentile in cutting PPP allowed, 93rd percentile in PnR PPP allowed).

And don’t even try to post-up UCF because Durr and Co. are the best post-up defense in the nation by a considerable margin.

In terms of post-up PPP allowed, the difference between the first-place Knights (.352) and second-place SIU Edwardsville (.452) is the same as the difference between third-place UNLV (.468) and 12th-place Norfolk State (.568).

A great defense and a slow pace (358th in tempo) keep the Knights in games, making them great to back as underdogs.

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Houston Cougars

The loss to Alabama was largely flukey. Nate Oats’ squad always pulls off a monster non-conference upset due to its high-variance scheme. Houston was in control of that game and let it slip away at the end.

I have Houston as the second-best team in the nation, behind only UConn. KenPom has it the other way around, with the Cougars about two efficiency points ahead of the Huskies.

Everything to be said about Houston has been said. The defense is suffocating, and the scheme dictates shot selection and funnels opposing shot-creators into the least-efficient floor area.

Wait, does it?

The Cougars’ 3-point attempt rate allowed is the highest since 2020 and the second-highest of the Kelvin Sampson era. It hasn’t bit them yet — because Houston is so good at contesting those shots — but I think it could.

Maybe it won’t. Houston is top-50 in field goal percentage allowed at the rim and first in block rate, so nobody is scoring on the interior, no matter what. Good luck beating Houston by trying to shoot over the best shot-contesting team in the nation.

Marcus Sasser is everything we hoped. He’s fifth in KenPom’s Player of the Year ratings, averaging 15.7 points per game while ranking at elite levels in assist rate, turnover rate, steal rate and usage.

Image Credit: CBB Analytics

Sasser being healthy makes this team much more dangerous than before. The Cougars have the best defense in the nation combined with a legit No. 1 option that can create shots late in the clock — or when the rest of the team is dragging.

Good luck beating Houston.


UCF vs. Houston Betting Pick

I want to bet on UCF.

The game script favors a big underdog, considering UCF plays excellent defense at a slow tempo. Houston will oblige with both the tempo and the defensive-minded game.

UCF is 3-1 ATS as an underdog this season and a perfect 2-0 ATS on the road.

But Dawkins is horrendous in these spots, having recorded a 52-70-1 ATS record as a conference underdog. Moreover, Houston has covered five straight games against UCF.

Unfortunately, this game is a pure stay away from me. I lean UCF +14.5.

I don’t mind the under — considering these two teams are 17-10 to the under this season and Houston is 8-2 to the under at home — but 118.5 is a really low number.

Leans: UCF +14.5 | Under 118.5

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