Was hoping for 8 but guess not (is up at DraftKings). Really don't get this number. Houston is excellent, but by his own admission star guard Marcus Sasser isn't 100 percent and the team has been rather blah since the AAC title game. Miami seems to be disrespected left and right (only -2 vs. Drake? +1.5 vs. Indiana? despite sharing the ACC regular-season title -- granted, that league was down this year -- and having one the country's top backcourts led by ACC Player of the Year Isaiah Wong. It's as good as Houston's. The Cougars certainly should be favored but are 2-6 ATS in their past eight. I expect a fairly close game even though most models disagree with me.
Miami's breakout season included a regular-season ACC title and Sweet 16 appearance, but it's difficult to see the Hurricanes going further. Battle-tested Houston has a suffocating defense that held Auburn to four second-half field goals and a 10-minute stretch without one. All-American Marcus Sasser is stull struggling with a groin injury, but the Cougars were fine without him in spurts. This Houston team could easily cut down the nets on championship Monday. Look for another second-half surge and cover.
Injuries have put a crimp into Houston's offense. In the 10 games preceding the Cougars' regular season finale, when they were healthier, the top-ranked team exceeded 70 points each time. Healthy again, the Coogs should resume their scoring ways. Miami should do its part, having crossed the 70-point threshold in all but one of its last 13 outings. This total is the lowest for a Hurricanes game in the calendar year. Their defense entered the least efficient in the Sweet Sixteen field.
The Miami Hurricanes are back in the Sweet 16 for a second consecutive year. They have experience but have found themselves as only a basket favorite against Drake and were a small underdog to a 12-loss Indiana team. After needing a comeback to defeat Auburn, Houston should be much more focused on Friday. I'm taking the Cougars and recommend buying the hook to get this down to -7 if you can.
Houston allows only 56 ppg and 36% shooting, but this is a lot of points to give Miami, which is 7-2 ATS as an underdog and 17-8 ATS against winning teams. Houston went 33-3 SU this season, but only 19-17 ATS against large numbers. Miami also went 12-5 ATS on the road, evidence of the composure the Hurricanes will need Friday. Take Miami to cover.
Miami guard Isaiah Wong went 1 for 10 in the NCAA Tournament opener vs. Drake, then buried 9 of 17 for 27 points in the win over Indiana. Look for him to struggle in this matchup against Houston, which guards perimeter players a lot better than the Hoosiers do. The injury reports on Marcus Sasser and Jamal Shead have been good, and it helps that they don't play until Friday. Houston is the only team in the nation that ranks in the Top 10 in offensive and defensive efficiency at KenPom. The Cougars rebounded nearly 40 percent of their misses versus Auburn and should get another boatload of offensive boards.