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The No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the nation each have games on our Thursday night college basketball slate! With March quickly approaching, every game begins to hold more value, whether it is conference implications or NCAA Tournament implications. Take a look below at our best bets for the Houston Cougars versus the SMU Mustangs and the Purdue Boilermakers versus the Maryland Terrapins.
When: 7:00 PM EST
The Houston Cougars look to widen their lead in the AAC even further when they take on the second-worst team in the conference, the SMU Mustangs. SMU has struggled this season, going just 4-9 in the AAC, with a 9-17 record overall. A win for the Cougars would likely lock up yet another conference title, while the Mustangs have little to play for except pride and the chance to knock off the No. 2 team in the nation.
What makes Houston so great? The answer can be boiled down to two areas: defense and rebounding. The Cougars rank sixth in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency, first in offensive rebounding percentage, third in opponent 3P% (three-point percentage), and third in opponent eFG% (effective field goal percentage.)
Defense and rebounding have been part of Houston’s identity since head coach Kelvin Sampson came to the program; however, this season, things are even more bright for the Cougars. Houston actually has a better offense (4th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency) than defense. The Cougars don’t blow the top off of the 3P% and eFG% categories, but they crash the boards exceptionally well and garner many second-chance points.
Houston’s offensive attack is headlined by its two-headed monster of Marcus Sasser, one of the best pure scorers in the nation, and freshman sensation, Jarace Walker. Sasser and Walker combine to form one of the most dynamic duos in the country and can easily take this team to a Final Four appearance this season. Other key contributors are Jamal Shead, Tramon Mark, and J’Wan Roberts, who contribute in scoring, rebounding, playmaking, and passing.
Houston has been a fantastic team all season long, but the ability to cover at home and on the road has made this squad fun to bet on. The Cougars are 16-9 against the spread in total, but their 7-1 road ATS record is mindbogglingly impressive. In their only matchup earlier this season, Houston won by 34 points at home. A 15.5-point spread does not scare me at all, as the Cougars are arguably as good on the road as they are at home, and the Mustangs boast a rough 4-8-1 record ATS at home.
Further, SMU is at a significant disadvantage on the glass, ranking 267th in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage. The Mustangs also rank 293rd in 3P%, while Houston is one of the best perimeter teams in the country. In short, they will struggle to eclipse 50 points. Back Houston once again in this spot.
When: 6:30 PM EST
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The Purdue Boilermakers will try to turn things back around after dropping two-straight road games to Indiana and Northwestern, respectively. To be fair, the Hoosiers and Wildcats represent the second and third-best teams (as far as record goes) in the Big Ten, so these are not bad losses. Purdue has yet another tough test on the road against Maryland!
As far as best home teams in the Big Ten go, the Maryland Terrapins have to be towards the top of the list. Maryland boasts a 13-1 record at home, with its only loss coming against the No. 4 ranked UCLA Bruins, a team that is a matchup nightmare for it. The Bruins deploy many guards and shoot at a high level, while the Terrapins’ biggest weakness is three-point shooting.
Regardless, these two teams (Maryland and Purdue) have met once this season already, and Purdue squeaked out a narrow three-point home win against the Terrapins. In that game, National Player of the Year favorite Zach Edey had to post 24 points and 16 rebounds to get out with a win. Maryland defended everyone else exceptionally well, as Purdue’s second-leading scorer finished with just eight points.
Edey will score a lot and cause some issues for Maryland since the Terrapins are undersized, at least relative to the 7-foot-4 center; however, the Terrapins are a high-intensity team that has been rebounding incredibly well in their past three games. As a matter of fact, Maryland ranks first in team defensive rebounding percentage in the past three games; that should help mitigate Purdue’s impact on the offensive glass.
I love backing Maryland in this spot. The Terrapins are tough to beat at home, and the fact they are getting points here is too good to pass up.
Andrew has always been an avid sports fan and followed his hoop dreams all the way to college. He’s well-versed in everything betting with multiple years of experience and is qualitatively and quantitatively knowledgeable in sports statistics and analytics.More info on Andrew Norton
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