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No. 25 Cincinnati at No. 12 Houston
When and Where: Sunday, Feb. 10, Fertitta Center, Houston, Texas, 4 p.m. EST.
It’s the game of the year thus far in the American Athletic Conference as co-leaders No. 12 Houston and 25th-ranked Cincinnati meet at Hofheinz Pavilion on Sunday to determine sole possession of first place in the first meeting of the season between the conference co-leaders.
Bearcats looking for high-profile road sweep
No. 25 Cincinnati (20-3, 9-1 AAC) grabbed a share of the conference lead with a 69-64 victory at Memphis on Thursday night. Jarron Cumberland had 17 points, six rebounds, and six assists for the Bearcats, who shot nearly as well from 3-point range (11 for 29) as it did overall at 39.7 percent.
— Cincinnati Men’s Hoops (@GoBearcatsMBB) February 8, 2019
Bearcats coach Mick Cronin, though, is more concerned with his team’s ability to keep up with the Cougars on the glass since the Bearcats have a plus-5.1 margin per game compared to Houston’s plus-7.5 per contest.
“We’ll have to handle Houston’s relentless attacking of the glass to have a chance to win,” Cronin told the school’s official website.
Cumberland, though, is Cincinnati’s go-to scorer at 18.6 points per game while shooting 41.9 percent from 3-point range. While the Bearcats are connecting at a 35.1 percent clip from 3-point range on the season, they are 21 for 55 (38.2 percent) from deep in the last two games and have hit at least 10 treys in three of their last four games.
While Cincinnati is known primarily for its defense, it has given up 66.3 points per game during its eight-game winning streak, a few ticks above its season mark of 61.7 per game overall. The Bearcats have been consistent on the offensive end, averaging 74.3 points — just off their season mark of 74.8 per game — as second-leading scorer Keith Williams (10.9 ppg) is shooting 50.5 percent and remaining consistent by averaging 10.8 points.
The Bearcats have won four straight road games since a 73-71 loss at East Carolina on Jan. 5 and gone 3-0 in games decided by five or fewer points.
Houston looks to protect top 16 status
The 12th-ranked Cougars (22-1, 9-1) were considered a No. 3 seed by the NCAA in Saturday’s first unveiling of its top 16 teams Saturday and carry a seven-game winning streak into this game after a 77-68 win at UCF on Thursday night.
— Houston Men's Hoops 🏀 🐾 (@UHCougarMBK) February 9, 2019
Corey Davis Jr. scored a career-high 26 points and Galen Robinson Jr. added 12 and seven assists for Houston, which got 25 points from its bench after starting forwards Breaon Brady and Fabian White Jr. were held scoreless in 19 foul-filled minutes.
“I really believe it’s our senior leadership and me and Galen being two of the better defenders on the team,” Davis told The Associated Press. “We’ve just been playing hard and everybody else has been feeding off of it.”
Davis is not understating Houston’s defense, which has held its last six opponents under 70 points. The Cougars have yielded 61.2 points per game on 36.7 percent shooting in that span, including 24.6 percent from 3-point range. Houston ranks third nationally in 3-point defensive shooting percentage at 26.5 percent.
Houston carries a 31-game home winning streak into this game that started at the beginning of last season. The Cougars are 16-0 at home this season, outscoring opponents by 17.5 points per game and limiting them to 59.9 points on 35.8 percent shooting.
- 7-2 ATS in its last nine games vs. above-.600 teams.
- 22-8-2 ATS in its last 32 games following a straight up win.
- 5-1 ATS in its last six home games vs. teams with an above -.600 road record.
- The under is 8-1 in its last nine games vs. above-.500 teams.
- The under is 5-2 in its last seven games as a favorite between 0.5-6.5 points
- The under is 16-5 in its last 21 home games vs. teams with an above-.500 road record.
- No trends of note.
- The under is 4-1-1 in its last six games as a road underdog between 0.5-6.5 points.
- The under is 7-1 in its last eight games vs. above-.500 teams.
- The under is 40-12-1 in its last 53 games vs. teams with an above-.500 home record.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
This is not intended as a backhanded slap at Cincinnati, but Cronin’s team is playing with house money in this game. The Bearcats have already achieved a split at worst in the two toughest venues in the AAC, and it would not be a surprise if they suffered a bit of a letdown in this game.
On the other side, Houston has everything to play for after being included in the top 16 of the NCAA’s unveiling of its top four seeds Saturday. The Cougars have been staggeringly dominant at home, winning all of their conference home games by seven or more points, and have a chance to legitimize their status as a top-4 seed.
Prediction: Pick: Houston -5
Full-Game Total Pick
While Houston is the pick for the game, the other expectation is Cincinnati will turn this game into a rock fight. The Cougars, though, have one of the best defenses in the country and make the Bearcats work for every point they get in this game. This is a game where first to 60 should be your winner.
Prediction: Pick: UNDER 132.5 points
Full-Game Prop Bet
There is some risk to this pick considering Cincinnati has been held under this total just twice all season — by Ohio State in its season-opener and by archrival Xavier — the hedge is Houston’s defense is a notch above both, especially the Musketeers. The Cougars have held 14 of 23 opponents under 63 points on the season, including three of their last six while not allowing more than 68 overall in that span.
Prediction: Pick: Cincinnati UNDER 63 points
Half-Time Side Pick
The Bearcats have been notoriously slow-starting teams and were down six at halftime at Memphis before regrouping. Houston has led by six or more points in four of its five AAC home games and 12 of its 16 at home overall. The home crowd should also buoy the Cougars here in their biggest game of the season to date.
Prediction: Pick: Houston -2.5
Half-Time Total Bet
While the game is expected to be a rock fight, the number feels too low considering Cincinnati has played to 60 and higher in four of its last six road games and Houston has played to 70 and above in three of its five AAC home games. It probably will not clear 60 by all that much but just enough.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 60 points
Half-Time Prop Prediction
The Bearcats have not scored more than 33 first-half points in any of their seven true road games and failed to top 30 in all five of their AAC road games. Houston has also limited three of its five conference foes under 30 points in the first half, making the under a solid play.
Prediction: Pick: Cincinnati UNDER 29 points