Houston Draws Best 16 Seed
The No. 1 and No. 16 seeded matchups are typically the least entertaining of the first round. However, we have seen chaos – it’s March Madness after all. UMBC will never fade after taking down No. 1 Virginia in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
The 2023 NCAA Tournament’s highest-rated No. 16 seed in Kenpom is Northern Kentucky (22-12), which will take on No. 1 Houston (31-3) in the Midwest region. College basketball odds have the Cougars as 19½-point favorites, which is one of the largest point spreads in the Round of 64. Will the Norse become the second No. 16 seed to defeat a top-seeded team?
Storybook Ending for Houston?
The Cougars have one goal in mind – a national championship. This is the first time the program has back-to-back 30-win seasons since the legendary Phi Slama Jama teams, which lost back-to-back finals in 1983 and 1984. Plus, the Final Four would be a homecoming in H-Town. According to NCAA basketball odds, the Cougars are tied with Alabama as favorites to win the tournament (+650). Is it too good to be true?
Houston’s 13-game winning streak was snapped on Sunday against Memphis (75-65). Guard Marcus Sasser (17.1 points) was absent with a groin injury, which he sustained on Saturday against Cincinnati. He is questionable for Thursday’s game.
This could make Northern Kentucky a tough out, and the Cougars’ odds to win March Madness will take a hit if Sasser does not return. A groin injury is also concerning since soft-tissue injuries are delicate and can often resurface.
Houston will lean on its top-five defense, and freshman forward Jarace Walker’s role could increase. Walker ranks second on the team at 11.1 points per game, and he has scored 20 or more points on five occasions this season.
Jarace Walker i have no words pic.twitter.com/Y9eL5eEVtJ
— Basketball Report (@basket_reportfr) March 12, 2023
Norse Seeking First NCAA Tournament Win
This will be Northern Kentucky’s third appearance in the big dance since 2017. However, the Norse have yet to win a tournament game. They come in red-hot, going 6-1 outright and against the spread (ATS) in the last seven games. Is this the year to favor Northern Kentucky in March Madness betting?
The Norse rank 121st in Kenpom’s defensive efficiency, which is the highest unit ranking among any No. 16 seed. In the last seven games, only one opponent has reached 70 points. NKU plays at the sixth-slowest pace nationally, which holds opponents to only 52.1 shots per game (16th). Houston does the bulk of its scoring in the paint, ranking in the 83rd percentile of 2-point percentage. The Norse lack rim protection at 2.6 blocks per game (258th).
Northern Kentucky has also averaged 74.3 points in the last four, compared to its season average of 67.2 points. Guard Marques Warrick (19.1 points) has scored 22 points in two of the last three games. The Norse will need big showings from their formidable backcourt, as the Cougars are fourth in defensive efficiency. NKU is an intriguing online gambling option with Houston’s Sasser questionable.
Houston vs Northern KY Game Injuries
Houston vs Northern KY Head-to-Head
Houston and Northern Kentucky have yet to meet. Will the Norse shock the world in the first meeting?
Houston vs Northern KY Game Information
- Game: No. 1 Houston (31-3) vs. No. 16 Northern Kentucky (22-12)
- Location: Legacy Arena at BJCC, Birmingham, AL
- Day/Time: Thursday, March 16, 9:20 p.m. ET
- Houston vs N. Kentucky Live Stream: TBS.com
Houston vs Northern KY Betting Lines
Houston vs Northern KY Picks and Prediction
Most are not bold enough to pick a No. 16 seed outright. I will not be doing so either, but Northern Kentucky can easily cover the spread. The Norse have a solid defense and play at a slow pace. Houston also features one of the nation’s slowest paces. If Sasser does not go, this could stay close with the Cougars pulling away late. Look for NKU to cover the 19½-point spread.
College basketball lines also have the projected total at 122½. The under is promising with both teams ranking 343rd or lower in tempo.