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One of the most highly-anticipated times of the year is finally here—March Madness, also known as the NCAA Tournament.
This Round of 64 matchup comes out of the Midwest Region, and here, we’ll see if Northern Kentucky’s March Madness begins here and look ahead to see how the Houston Cougars NCAA Tournament future looks.
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Well, history is certainly not on the Northern Kentucky Norse’s side. Still, there’s one shred of hope—the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, is the only No. 16 seed since 1985 to beat a No. 1 seed. They beat the Virginia Cavaliers 74-54.
Northern Kentucky is averaging 68.2 points per game out of the Horizon League. They went 14-6 in conference play and are on a five-game winning streak.
As a unit, the Norse shoot 43.2% from the field, 35% from three-point range, and 32.4 rebounds per game (a -1.1 differential against opponents).
Defensively, the Norse allow 63.6 points per game, but again, against Horizon League teams.
The Norse are led by guard Marques Warrick. He averages 19.1 points per game and is by far the best offensive threat on the team. The only player who averages double-digit points per game is Sam Vinson at 11.7.
Of those 32.4 team rebounds per game, Chris Brandon leads at just under 10 per content.
Xavier Rhodes only averages 7.7 points per game, but he leads the team in assists per game (3.7) and three-point percentage (39.6).
Lastly, Vinson, who’s second on the team in points per game, averages 2.4 steals per outing.
The Houston Cougars fell in the championship game of the AAC Tournament, losing to Memphis. However, the team was without guard Marcus Sasser, who’s their best player.
Nonetheless, the Cougars still earned a No. 1 seed going 31-3 on the season and 17-1 in conference play.
The Cougars rank 77th in the nation in points per game with 76. This is a respectable number, but where the Cougars are dangerous is defensive, ranking 2nd in the nation, allowing just 56.5 points per game. Helping that points per game allowed statistic is their forced turnovers of 14.26 per game (68th), allowing just 28% of three-point shots against them (2nd).
When it comes to Quad 1 wins, Houston is 7-2.
As mentioned, Sasser is easily the Cougar's best player. He was absent against Memphis but will play against Northern Kentucky.
Sasser averages 17.1 points per game, 2.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.7 steals and shoots 43.9% from the field, 84% from the free throw line, and 38.3% from three-point range.
Beyond Sasser, three other players are averaging double-digit points per game—Jarace Walker (11.1), J’Wan Roberts (10.4), and Jamal Shead (10.3).
Roberts is the best rebounder, averaging 7.8 per game, and Shead leads the team in assists with 5.4.
It should come as no surprise, but Houston is a massive favorite over Northern Kentucky. At BetMGM Sportsbook, the Cougars are 19.5-point favorites, and rightfully so.
A No. 16 has only ever beaten a No. 1 seed once, and the Cougars have players that Northern Kentucky won’t be able to contain, such as Sasser.
The Cougar's elite defense should smother the Norse throughout and will likely score less than 50 points.
It’s a tough draw for the Norse, but for a school of their size to make the tournament, that’s a massive win for their program.
Best Bet: Houston -19.5 (-105) at BetMGM Sportsbook
Location: Legacy Arena at BJCC, Birmingham, Alabama
Game Time & Date: March 16, 2023, at 9:20 PM ET
TV Network: TNT
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After graduating from the University of New Hampshire with a BA in Journalism, Richard Janvrin has been covering iGaming and sports betting since December 2018. Richard has covered betting at Bleacher Report, Gambling.com, The Game Day, Forbes, and more.More info on Richard Janvrin
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