After their upset loss to Temple, the Houston Cougars have bounced back with two straight wins and will now head to Wichita State. We’ll preview the game before going over my best play in this one.
There is no question that Houston is the best team in the American Athletic Conference, but recently conference teams have started to give them more of a challenge on a nightly basis. This could be a result of comfortability among the teams due to the larger amount of games between them, but Houston has gone two straight games where they allowed close to 15 points more than their season average.
The Cougars are still 3rd in the country in defensive efficiency rating, according to KenPom, but their last two opponents have managed a shooting percentage about 9% higher than what they have allowed on average this season. Houston’s ability to force turnovers has also fallen off a bit recently, but the good news for the Cougars is that their offense got right back on track after scoring 55 points in the Temple game.
Houston is now up to 8th in the country in offensive efficiency rating, according to KenPom, and they have scored 71 or more points in eight of their nine conference games. Jarace Walker helped the Cougars come away with a win over Cincinnati in their most recent game, as he shot 71.4% from the field for 25 points. The Cougars will need Walker to continue his hot shooting and Marcus Sasser to bounce back from his recent nine-point outing, as they’ll take on a Shockers team that ranks 71st in defensive efficiency rating.
Wichita State is 4-5 in conference play, but they have done a solid job of limiting their opponent's shooting numbers, as entering tonight’s game, the Shockers rank 11th in opponent shooting percentage and 19th in effective field goal percentage. In their most recent win over ECU, they allowed 72 points but held the Pirates to a 37% field goal percentage.
Houston is currently favored by -12.5 points in most sportsbooks, but for my play in this one, I’ll be taking the Houston first-half spread of (-6.5). The Shockers are 177th in the country in first-half scoring this season, while the Cougars rank 3rd in the country in first-half points allowed.
Wichita State has been losing at halftime in seven of their nine conference games this season, and Houston has been an exponentially better scoring team in the first half than they are in the second. The Cougars are 22nd in first-half scoring, and they fall to 156th in second-half scoring, so I think the best way to profit off the Cougars tonight is in the first half.
The Shockers, who already struggle in first-half scoring, are shooting 42.5% from the field this season, which is 258th in the country, so they could run into problems tonight against a Cougars team that, on the season, is holding opponents to a 35.2% shooting percentage. Overall, I think the best way to wager on this game is to stay in the first half and bank on Houston coming out of the gate strong.
Houston Cougars 1H (-6.5)