We are big fans of Bama boss Nate Oats, but this Cougars defense will be the star in this late show on ESPN2.
In adjusted defensive efficiency, Houston is second, according to Ken Pomeroy’s metrics, at 87.5. Alabama is 22nd, at 91.4.
In defensive shooting percentage, the Cougars are seventh, allowing opponents to sink only 35.7% of their attempts. However, they’ve clamped down over their past three games, yielding a national-low 31.8%.
The Tide will be in for a battle for every point before its own fans. WynnBet opened this total at 143 on Friday afternoon, but be sure to shop around at other sportsbooks leading up to tip-off.
No. 14 Houston Cougars (8-1, 6-3 ATS)
Other than an oddball overtime game against Hofstra, in which the Cougars allowed 75 points, they’ve allowed an average of 50.8 to eight other opponents. That includes their only defeat, in which Wisconsin tallied 65.
Both teams’ horrendous touches at the free-throw line—Alabama’s 65.2% and Houston’s 65.4%, both in the bottom 20 percent of the nation—will contribute to a low-scoring affair.
Houston coach Kelvin Sampson’s ironman is 6-foot-2 guard Marcus Sasser, a junior from Dallas who leads the team with 17.7 points a game.
Sasser has improved his touch considerably, inside and outside the arc. At the line, though, he’s at a career-worst 74.1%. In itself that’s acceptable, but his squad will fare much better if he returns to last season’s 85.2%.
No. 9 Alabama Crimson (7-1, 6-2 ATS)
If Sasser jousts with Jaden Shackelford, in man-to-man action on both sides of the court, the viewer will be in for a treat.
A 6-3 junior from Hesperia, Calif., Shackelford leads the Tide with 19.3 ppg and also yanks down 6.8 boards a game. A decent shooter, he’s a woeful 65.2% at the stripe, more than 10 percentage points below his career average.
Fellow guards Jahvon Quinerly (14.9 ppg) and Keon Ellis (12.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg) will have to produce to give ‘Bama a shot at upending Houston.
Since Alabama is tied, with Oakland, for the 27th-lowest 3-point defense in the land, at 27%, we expect Sampson to focus on scoring inside the arc, which will further cut into the output.
The Cougars own a 3-1 lifetime edge in this series, but these two teams haven’t played since 1979.
Houston Vs. Alabama Pick
Under 145 (-110)
Note: Spreads and totals listed are derived from KenPom.com’s ratings, which many sportsbooks use to help establish opening lines. Our picks are based on these estimated numbers, so be sure to gauge the value against the actual lines before placing your wagers.
Also read: NFL Week 14 Sportsbook Report