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March Madness Analysis: Why Houston Will Win

Cougars Ready To Take the Final Step

The Akeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler Houston teams were so close to bringing Houston a national title and the Elvin Hayes-led teams also advanced to back-to-back Final Fours in the 1960s.

Is this the year when the Cougars finally seal the deal?

March Madness Odds Why Houston Will Win
March Madness Odds Why Houston Will Win

Houston remains at No. 1 in the NCAA NET rankings even though the five Quad 1 wins ranks 15th out of the top 20 teams in the most recent NET rankings. The lack of Quad 1 games won’t stop Houston when it comes to having impressive Las Vegas March Madness odds.

Houston is the top-ranked team in both national polls for the third week in a row and has been there for five weeks this season. The Cougars are receiving 87 of the 92 first-place votes this week.

It remains to be seen whether the Cougars will end up as the overall No. 1 seed when the March Madness brackets are announced on Sunday. However, the Cougars seem certain to land on the top line on one of the four brackets as Kelvin Sampson has his team ready to make a run at the national title.

Houston takes an 11-game winning streak into the American Athletic Conference tournament. Memphis, which is on the other side of the bracket, has given Houston a couple of tough tests in recent weeks. The team entering the NCAA tournament sitting atop the national polls aren’t always the ones cutting down the nets. However, Houston would like to change that.

The odds to win March Madness has Houston (+650) as having the best odds to win the national title.

As the March Madness expert picks begin to heat up, it is time to look at why Houston is viewed as such a strong contender for the national title.

When making March Madness picks, it should be noted that the Cougars are just 17-14 against the spread this season.

Been There, Done That

Three of Houston’s top five scorers were part of the team that reached the 2021 Final Four.

Marcus Sasser is making up for lost time after being limited to 12 games in an injury-shortened season last year. He was the No. 2 scorer on that 2020-21 team while Tramon Mark and Jamal Shead were role players.

Shead, Sasser and Mark rank first, second and third on the Cougars in steals per game and they combine for 37 points per game. Sasser leads Houston in free throws made and 3-pointers as well.

The trio are not only the team leaders in assists, they are also positive assist/turnover players. Together they have 326 assists and 142 turnovers. Late in games, there are multiple Houston players who can be trusted to make the right decisions with the ball. It doesn’t hurt that all three have shown the ability to contribute on the offensive end as well.

When it comes time to make March Madness predictions, keep in mind that the Cougars rank in the top 15 in assist/turnover ratio.

Putting Up a Fight

Houston is not a fun team to play. The Cougars are second nationally in scoring defense, second in field-goal percentage defense and in the top 30 in steals per game so scoring against this Houston team is no easy task.

Houston has players who are used to turning things up on the defensive end of the court when March Madness arrives and that should prove beneficial when the competition level begins to increase.

Even in the two losses, Houston has allowed 71 and 56 points so the issues have come on the other end of the court.

Making an Immediate Impact

Jarace Walker came to Houston with plenty of hype and the Pennsylvania product hasn’t disappointed.

He is second on the team in scoring (11.1 points per game) and rebounding (6.7). He has shown the ability to step out and hit from the perimeter as well.

Like all freshmen, he has had his ups and downs. However, he is a player that has been proven to be reliable on both ends of the court and much like Sasser’s role two years ago, the Houston coaches do not view him as a freshman any longer.

His physical style of play should be perfect for March Madness as long as he knows where to draw the line between being aggressive and being foul prone.

Emanuel Sharp is another freshman to keep an eye on as oftentimes he leads the bench players in minutes played.

Passing All The Tests

Knowing that there wouldn’t be that many challenging games in conference play, the Cougars have been tested with out-of-conference matchups.

Games against Oregon, WCC tournament finalist Saint Mary’s, SEC power Alabama and ACC regular season co-champion Virginia are among the games that have helped prepare the Cougars for where they are right now.

With Houston, the only team from the American Athletic Conference guaranteed to be a part of the NCAA tournament field, every game Houston plays in the AAC tournament will feel like the national championship for the opposing team with the March Madness odds favoring the Cougars to win the AAC title after taking the regular season crown by four games.

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