NCAAB · Sat (4/3) @ 5:14pm ET
|Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN|
Our Pick: Houston at Under 134.5 (-110). Place your bets now with DraftKings
Houston, now you have a bona fide problem.
Until now, a saunter through March Madness has only required dealing with a 15 seed (Cleveland State), a 10 (Rutgers), an 11 (Syracuse) and a 12 (Oregon State).
The Scarlet Knights and Beavers gave the Cougars a scare, too. Now, the fear is real, and Houston will need to do a lot more than gather a few loose rebounds under the offensive glass to come away from this one with a cover.
The victory for the Cougars will be losing by only a few points. The likely scenario, for us, makes an outright victory for Houston a bridge way too far for it, but we won’t toil with the spread.
A Gonzaga-Baylor finale, what so many have anticipated for months, goes down Monday night inside Lucas Oil Stadium.
- Baylor -5 vs. Houston, Total 134.5, Saturday, 5:14 pm ET
- Action: Under 134.5
The opener for the Cougars could not have been easier. Cleveland State put up six points in the first 10 minutes of the second half, when Houston was racking up 27. Game over, but it was far from a fair fight.
From then on, the Cougars have been flimsy. They’ve made only 36 of 56 free throws (64.3%) and only 39 of 101 2-point attempts (38.6%).
In those three games, Houston has missed 54 3-pointers. That’s a lot of misses for their big men to grab, but that abundance of long caroms will also produce long up-for-grab arcs, for which the best low-post positioning can’t account.
Baylor guards Mark Vital, MaCio Teague, Jared Butler, and Matthew Mayer, and forwards Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and Flo Thamba will all have plenty of opportunities to grab those errant balls.
The biggest issue for Houston (28-3) will be Baylor’s long-range shooting. On the season, the Bears (26-2) are the top team in college hoops in 3-point marksmanship, at 41.1%. The Cougars’ possess the nation’s 11th-best perimeter defense, at 29.2%.
More than what Houston is doing under its own glass, it will be key to watch how well Baylor is shooting from downtown.
It will be incumbent for junior guard Butler, senior guard Teague and sophomore guard Adam Flagler to be on target for the Bears.
Butler has been off in four NCAA games, nailing only 6 of 24 from beyond the arc. He is capable, however, which he showed by going 9-for-18 from distance in consecutive victories over Oklahoma State and West Virginia this season.
Teague went 7-for-15 in back-to-back games this season, and he torched Texas Tech with a 10-for-12 effort from long range in an 88-73 victory.
Flagler might be the key. He’s gone 8-for-12 from 3-point range in the NCAAs. If the Cougars key on him that will leave windows for Teague and Butler to excel.
But Houston has other worries, too, because Baylor has been the seventh-best team in the nation in effective field-goal percentage, at 56.5%. Of the Final Four squads, that’s bested only by Gonzaga, whose 61% is tops in the country.
A Premium On Points
Houston has allowed an average of 58 points this season, second in the game to Loyola Chicago’s 56.4. And over their past five games, the Cougars have whittled that to 55.4.
Baylor has yielded 65.5 to foes this season, but over its past three that’s 62.
That’s a magnificent recipe for an Under play here.
Saturday, Feb. 6, sticks in our craw. When Houston coach Kelvin Sampson had a golden opportunity to play Gonzaga, during a season full of cancellations and postponements, he passed.
Instead, he welcomed Our Lady of the Lake, an NAIA program in San Antonio that was scrambling for competition. Houston trounced the Saints, 112-46, who lost other games by 39 points (twice), 33, 32, 27 and 23 points.
That was a chance to take on the best, which Sampson declined.
This one figures to be low scoring, so an Under is safer than toying with a spread in what also appears to be a tight game. But Baylor advances, poetic justice for a Houston squad that wants nothing to do with Gonzaga, anyway.