Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Houston Cougars Pick
Cincinnati Bearcats (20-3 SU, 12-11 ATS) vs. Houston Cougars (22-1 SU, 15-7-1 ATS)
When: Sunday, February 10, 2019 – 4 PM ET
Where: Fertitta Center, Houston
By: Dan Jamison, College Basketball Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CIN +5/HOU -5 (Bovada Sportsbook)
Total: O/U 132
Last Time Out: Cincinnati beat Memphis 69-64; Houston bested Central Florida 77-68.
Scouting the Bearcats:
Since their shock loss to East Carolina on Jan. 5, Cincinnati has spent the past month doing what it does best: winning with its defense. Only South Florida has broken 70 points in regulation on Cincinnati over the Bearcats’ past eight games, and it’s taken pressure off leading scorer Jarron Cumberland and allowed him to shine. Cumberland averages 18,.9 points per game and hasn’t found much resistance in the American this year, as he’s gone for at least 18 points in every league game except one this season.
Scouting the Cougars:
This has been the season that Houston and Kelvin Sampson have pointed toward for a while, and the Cougars haven’t disappointed. While Nevada has claimed most of the national attention for schools in lesser conferences this year, Houston has been every bit as good as the Wolf Pack without the attention, and the reasons are the Cougars’ guard play and stingy defense. Houston has taken Cincinnati’s winning formula and put it to work for its needs, holding seven of its 10 league opponents under 70 points, including each of its past six foes. With Corey Davis Jr. backing up those efforts with the kinds of performances like his 26-point showing against UCF, Houston has proven a tough matchup for just about anyone in the nation this season.
The budding rivalry. With the recent collapse of Connecticut and Wichita State falling back to the pack this year, these two teams have established themselves as the best the American has to offer. They play similar styles, neither one really gets the respect they deserve and they both feel they have a point to prove after losing in dramatic fashion in the second round of the NCAA tournament last year. They have yet to meet this season, so this will be the first meeting since last year’s American conference tournament final, a 56-55 Cincinnati triumph that was a battle on every possession. This contest might not have long history, but it’s long on talent.
Cincinnati will Cover if:
The Bearcats can win the rebounding battle. Given how well both of these play defense, rebounds are likely to be a major key to victory. That plays right into Houston’s strength, as the Cougars average 41 boards a game. The Bearcats won the rebounding battle the last time they faced Houston, and odds are that Kelvin Sampson has focused his team on that statistic while preparing for this game. Cincinnati probably can’t beat Houston on the boards this year, but it doesn’t have to win the board battle. All it has to do is keep the margin within a reasonable distance, and that is doable.
Houston will Cover if:
The Cougars can make shots. For all of its strengths at both ends of the court, the Golden State Warriors they are not. Houston is simply not a great shooting team. The Cougars only make 43.8 percent of their baskets, which isn’t anywhere near as much as some of the best shooters in the Big 12 do. Instead, the Cougars have won by extending their possessions and playing disciplined basketball by not turning the ball over. That’s a winning strategy against most teams, but Cincinnati knows how to play and succeed that way, so that won’t be enough against the Bearcats. The Cougars have to knock down good shots when they come along in addition to denying Cincinnati.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
With Cincinnati riding an eight-game winning streak and Houston at seven in a row, something has to give in this matchup of hot teams. I think that something is going to be the Cougars, for the simple facts that they’ve looked like the better team throughout the season and they’re playing this game at home. Sportsbooks have Houston as steep favs at -5 but look into the series between these squads, and you’ll find that both teams held server at home before the one-point nail-biter on a neutral floor last season.
I don’t think Cincinnati is quite as good as it was a season ago, and this Houston team looks like it’s what Cincinnati was a year ago. That gives me a lot of confidence in taking the Cougars and laying just five points at home: Houston was able to win this matchup last season at the Fertitta Center as part of its 31-game home winning streak, and I think the Cougars can do it again. I’m taking Kelvin Sampson’s squad in this one.
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