Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#661 Houston vs.
#662 UCF
Wednesday, January 25, 2023 at 7:00pm EST
Written by Blake V.

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The No. 3 Houston Cougars will be looking to bounce back from a disastrous loss when they travel to UCF on Wednesday night. Houston had its nine-game winning streak snapped and top spot in the polls revoked when it lost to Temple in a 56-55 stunner on Sunday. UCF gave Houston all it could handle on Dec. 31, losing by six points on the road.

Cougars hoping to recover from shocking loss

Houston is in an unfamiliar position heading into this game, as it is coming off just its second loss of the season. The Cougars won their first nine games of the campaign before losing to then-No. 8 Alabama in a 71-65 final, but they proceeded to win their next nine games after that. They once again had a nine-game winning streak snapped when they lost to Temple as 19.5-point favorites on Sunday. Houston used a 7-0 run to tie the game with 1:30 remaining, but Temple’s Damian Dunn split a pair of free throws to give the Owls the win. Jamal Shead missed a 3-pointer and a driving layup on Houston’s final two possessions of the game.

The Cougars have relied on their defense in crunch time this season, but their offense is among the best in college basketball as well, ranked No. 14 in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency ratings. Their strength has not been hot shooting, it has been their low turnover rate and the fifth-best offensive rebounding rate in the country. They have had all of that success on the offensive glass despite ranking outside the top 225 in average height. UCF is one of the tallest teams in the country and ranks No. 39 in adjusted efficiency. Senior guard Marcus Sasser leads Houston with 16.7 points, 3.2 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game, while Tramon Mark and Jarace Walker are each scoring 10.1 points.

Knights rely on defense as well

UCF is coming off consecutive losses for the first time this season, dropping a pair of road games at Tulane and South Florida. The Knights had gone 13-4 through their first 17 games this season, with the losses coming against UNC Asheville, Miami, Missouri and Houston—all of those setbacks came by six points or fewer. They responded to the loss to the Cougars by rattling off a three-game winning streak, beating East Carolina, SMU and Memphis. This will be their first home game since their double-overtime win against the Tigers—they are trying to avoid falling back to the .500 mark in conference play.

The Knights have been better defensively than offensively as well, as they are No. 82 in adjusted offensive efficiency. Their biggest issue has been a large number of turnovers, ranked outside the top 300 in that category. They have been able to salvage a lot of their offensive possession with an offensive rebounding rate that is No. 12. UCF also shoots well from the free-throw line (76.2) and the 3-point arc (35.9). The Knights are facing a Houston defense that is No. 3 in 3-point percentage, No. 4 in 2-point percentage and No. 17 in turnover rate. Freshman forward Taylor Hendricks leads UCF with 14.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, while C.J. Kelly (12.6) and Ithiel Horton (11.9) have both been key contributors as well. Fourth-leading scorer Darius Johnson (11.8) has been sidelined with a foot injury since Jan. 4.

Best Bets for this Game

Full-Game Side Bet

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There is no way I am going to lay nearly double digits with Houston in a trap road game against a team that took them down to the wire earlier this season. The Cougars are coming off their worst showing of the season and now must emotionally recover in a road game against a solid opponent. UCF easily covered the spread as a huge underdog at Houston earlier this season, as it matches up well with the Cougars. The Knights have the height to disrupt Houston’s success on the offensive glass, and they do not mind getting into a defensive battle. This game is going to be played at a snail’s pace, creating some additional value on a spread this large.

Prediction: UCF +8

Full-Game Total Pick

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If you’re looking for a game on Wednesday’s schedule with a ton of offensive fireworks, this isn’t the game to watch. This game will be played at one of the slowest paces of any game in college basketball this season, as Houston is No. 313 in average possession length and UCF is No. 317. The Cougars are the second-best defense in the country behind Tennessee, and they are going to be motivated following their loss to Temple. UCF is a strong defensive squad as well, so this is going to be a low-scoring affair. Neither team ranks inside the top 75 in 3-point percentage, giving me another reason to take the under.

Prediction: Under 123
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Written By Blake Von Hagen , "Blake V."

Blake is a lifelong sports fan and hoops junkie. Prior to joining our team at Winners & Whiners and StatSalt, Blake worked for several newspapers and websites. He enjoys combining his beat writing expertise with the knack for finding the winning edge in a matchup. Blake is also an avid sports being expert and you would not be disappointed in following him on a daily basis. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. 
Follow on Twitter @Blake_Vonhagen