The No. 5 seed Miami Hurricanes face the No. 1 Houston Cougars in the Sweet 16 on Friday. Both schools are looking to return to the Elite Eight for the second straight year and the Cougars have the second-best March Madness odds.
College basketball odds opened with the Cougars as 7-point favorites before ticking up to -7.5 for this Midwest Region matchup. Here are my best free college basketball picks for Miami vs. Houston on March 24.
Miami vs Houston best odds
Miami vs Houston picks and predictions
As dominant as the Houston Cougars have been, this opening line seems a tad steep especially when you consider they haven't faced the toughest competition in the AAC.
The ACC might not be elite but it's a competitive Power Six conference and Miami took home the regular season title thanks to an offense that ranks 11th in the country in adjusted efficiency, per KenPom.
Although the Miami Hurricanes shot incredibly poorly against Drake in the opening round, that was an outlier with their three leading scorers going just 5-for-26 from the field. All three bounced back in the second round and combined to shoot 21-38 from the floor to help the Canes drop 85 points on a typically stingy Indiana team.
As well as the Cougars defend, they haven't matched up with an opponent featuring as many weapons as Miami. The Hurricanes have excellent ball movement, can attack with multiple players, and have the ability to create shots from anywhere on the floor.
Miami struggles on defense but with Houston playing at a snail's pace, it won't have the firepower to separate on the scoreboard. The Canes are 7-1 against the spread as an underdog and I'm taking them with the points here.
My best bet: Miami +7.5 (-110 at bet365)
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Miami vs Houston spread analysis
The Cougars have rolled to a 31-3 record this season and their average scoring margin of plus-18.3 points per game is the best in the country by more than four points. That said, Houston is just 3-8 ATS in its last 11 games.
The Cougars didn't come close to covering in the first round but Marcus Sasser and Jamal Shead were hobbled by injuries against an extremely slow-paced Northern Kentucky squad. Both looked much healthier in the second round and Houston hammered Auburn 81-64 in Birmingham.
Sasser was the AAC Player of the Year and leads Houston with 16.9 ppg while Shead adds 10.4 ppg and a team-high 5.4 assists per game. The Cougars are ninth in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency while ranking fourth on defense.
While they don't shoot particularly well from the field, they are fourth in the country in offensive rebound rate and rank 28th in turnovers per possession. On defense, they're extremely disruptive (33rd in opponent turnover rate) while holding foes to 36.1% shooting.
The Hurricanes have struggled in their own end, where they rank 108th in adjusted defensive efficiency and allow opponents to shoot 44.7%. Thankfully, their offense rarely turns the ball over and shoots a sizzling 48.1% from the field.
The Hurricanes won the regular season ACC title but came up short in the conference tourney semifinals against Duke after losing big man Norchad Omier. Although Omier's status for the opening weekend of March Madness was up in the air, he ended up playing and his dominance on the glass (14 rebounds vs. Drake and 17 against Indiana) was crucial to Miami's victories.
ACC Player of the Year Isaiah Wong paces the Canes with 16.1 ppg on 45/39/84 shooting splits while Omier averages 13.4 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. Jordan Miller (15.1 ppg, 53.7 FG%) and Nijel Pack (13.4 ppg, 44/39/89 shooting) can also get buckets for Miami.
Miami vs Houston Over/Under analysis
Although the Hurricanes have a high-scoring offense and a leaky defense, they don't play at a particularly fast pace. In fact, their opponent's average length of possession of 17.9 seconds ranks just 233rd in the country. Their defense won't be able to pressure Houston into moving the ball any faster which means the Cougars will likely be able to dictate the tempo.
That means a sluggish game since Houston ranks just 342nd in the country in adjusted tempo. The Cougars hold Div 1 foes to just 56.6 ppg and while that number should no doubt creep up against a team like Miami, the Hurricanes likely aren't going to be dropping more than 70.
On the other end of the floor, Miami might actually do a better job of defending Houston than many expect them to. While the Canes struggle to defend outside shooters the Cougars are just 165th in the country in 3-point percentage (34.2%).
The Cougars are efficient at finishing at the rim (58th in the country per ShotQualityBets) but the Canes rank 33rd in defensive efficiency at the rim.
Miami vs Houston betting trend to know
The Hurricanes are 36-16-1 ATS in their last 53 games vs. teams with winning percentages above .600. Find more college basketball betting trends for Miami vs Houston.
Miami vs Houston game info
|Location:||T-Mobile Center, Kansas City, MO|
|Date:||Friday, March 24, 2023|
|Tip-off:||7:15 p.m. ET|