Kelvin Sampson and his elite pack of Cougars take on The U. The one-seed Houston Cougars are off two challenging performances in the first weekend. After losing star Marcus Sasser for the game, 16-seed Northern Kentucky gave them a scare. In the Round of 32, Auburn had a second-half lead over Houston. Miami needed a late burst from Nijel Pack to down 12-seed Drake before they dominated Indiana.
Houston guards Marcus Sasser and Jamal Shead have been cleared to play. Sasser missed most of the game against Northern Kentucky, but both guards played full against Auburn.
Time: 7:15 EST
Odds: Houston -7.5, 139.5
Houston Wins If…
Marcus Sasser and Jamal Shead are 100%. Frankly, Miami has played suspect perimeter defense for most of the season. Miami possesses an average pick-and-roll defense, which Houston will run repeatedly. Shead and Sasser are dynamos with the rock in their hands. With Nijel Pack expected to see extended time on them, they should be comfortable running offense immediately. Pack poses an exploitable advantage for Houston.
Miami Wins If…
Shot-making wins. In terms of pure bucket-getting, Miami is among the best in the nation. Isaiah Wong, Nijel Pack, Norchad Omier, and Jordan Miller are all competent off the dribble, and Pack and Wong genuinely shine in an array of shot-making scenarios. Miami is 1-3 against Kenpom’s top 25 defenses and was not tested physically in the ACC as Houston will. Omier and Miller will be tasked with attacking the offensive glass, one area (maybe the only one) that Houston can be susceptible to on defense. Houston creates matchup nightmares all over the floors for many teams, but Miami’s ability to win in iso situations establishes a path to victory for the Canes.
Players to Watch
Marcus Sasser, G
The All-American. Sasser’s play makes me wish he had stayed healthy for their tournament run last year. His scoring ability and creativity fit perfectly with what Coach Sampson tries to do on offense. Expect a massive scoring performance.
Jordan Miller, F
Taller, creative forwards give the Cougars trouble; see DeAndre Williams. Miller and Norchad Omier will have immense opportunity to feast on the offensive glass. Miller stretches the floor and will be a mobile test for Jarace Walker and J’Wan Roberts.
I expect this game to go back and forth to start before the Cougars pull away and hold a lead, similar to UConn against Arkansas.