The final game of Thursday’s slate features the fifth-seeded Houston Cougars (31-5) matched up against the top-seeded Arizona Wildcats (33-3) in a Sweet 16 battle in the NCAA Tournament South Region.
Houston took care of business against UAB (82-68) and Illinois (68-53) to advance to the second week of play and Arizona downed Wright State (87-70) and TCU in overtime (85-80).
Thursday’s tip-off is at approximately 10 p.m. EST inside the AT&T Center in San Antonio, TX. The coverage of the contest will be on TBS. Arizona is a 1.5-point favorite in the meeting, with the over-under total at 145.5 points.
What to Know – #5 Houston Cougars
Houston is back in the Sweet 16 for the third season in a row and after advancing to the Final Four last season. The Cougars, coached by Kelvin Sampson, won both the American Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament title.
On offense, the Cougars average 75.8 points per game, hitting 46.9% from the floor and 34.2% from the 3-point line. Houston’s defense limits opponents to 59.0 points per game, 37.5% shooting from the field, and 28.8% shooting from the arc.
Points were at a premium in Sunday’s Second Round victory over the Fighting Illini. Houston led 30-26 at the break before pulling away late in the second half. The Cougars tenacious defense forced 17 turnovers and held Illinois to just 34% shooting from the field.
The Cougars are 24-12 against the spread this season and 8-1 ATS on a neutral floor. Houston is 5-0 ATS over its recent contests.
What to Know – #1 Arizona Wildcats
The Wildcats have a new coach, but nothing has changed for the perennial powerhouse program. Arizona sat atop the Pac-12 standings at the end of the season and parlayed that into a Pac-12 Tournament title. The Wildcats carry an eight-game winning streak into Thursday’s tilt.
Arizona’s offense is one of the best in the nation scoring 84.6 points per game thanks to 49.6% shooting from the field and 35.3% from deep. The Wildcats’ defense holds opponents to 67.9 points per game, 38.5% shooting from the floor, and 32.5% from three.
It took overtime, but the Wildcats avoided TCU’s upset bid late Sunday night. Arizona turned the ball over 16 times and hit only 5-of-27 shots from deep. Bennedict Mathurin and Christian Koloko combined to score 58 points in the victory for the Wildcats.
Arizona owns a 19-15-2 mark ATS with a 3-4 record ATS at a neutral site. The Wildcats are 5-5 ATS in their previous ten games.
The Pick is In
Houston has a veteran lineup with many of last year’s Final Four participants still in a Cougar uniform. That postseason experience, along with their talent, will play a major role in Thursday’s showdown against the Wildcats.
Arizona is the biggest team in college basketball and has outmatched many of its opponents this season. The Wildcats struggle against teams with a solid defensive presence, and they’ll get that against Houston.
The Cougars looked good over the first weekend of action, and we think they will give the Wildcats all they can handle Thursday night.
Betting Pick: Houston Cougars +1.5