The last two remaining one-seeds will be in action tonight, with one of them being the Houston Cougars. Kelvin Sampson’s team will be taking on the five-seed Miami Hurricanes tonight at 7:15 PM EST, and we’ll preview the game before going over why I’ll be targeting the point total in this one.
The Miami Hurricanes have faced two tough teams so far in the tournament, and they have handled those games in an impressive way. After being down five at halftime against Drake in round one, the Canes put up 38 second-half points to lead them to a 63-56 win. They followed that up with an impressive 16-point win over Indiana, in which they shot 49% from the field and were led by Isaiah Wong’s 27 points.
Their round-of-32 effort was far more indicative of why their offense ranks 11th in the country in offensive efficiency on KenPom. Aside from Wong’s offensive performance, the biggest key for Miami in their last game was offensive rebounding. The Canes are 65th in offensive rebounding percentage, and they played even well above that mark by pulling in 19 offensive rebounds.
On the season, Miami is 109th in defensive efficiency, but they will need to continue to play above that ranking tonight against a Houston team that is 8th in offensive efficiency on KenPom. The Cougars' offense exploded in the second half of their game against Auburn by scoring 50 points and erasing a ten-point deficit at the half.
Houston came out sluggish in the first half on both ends of the floor against Auburn, but in the second half, they showed why they are ranked number one overall on KenPom. The Cougars held the Tigers to just 23 second-half points, keeping them to a 31% three-point percentage on the game.
The interesting factor in tonight’s matchup will be which side can control the tempo. Houston runs at one of the slowest tempos in the country and ranks 12th in opponent field goal attempts per game, while Miami is 99th in tempo and 65th in field goal attempts per game.
The point total for this game can be found at 138.5, and I’ll be taking the under for my play. The under is 6-1 in the Hurricanes' last seven tournament games and 4-1 in the Cougars' last five tournament games. Additionally, the under is a combined 14-6 in these two teams' last 20 neutral site games.
Houston has seemed more than comfortable slowing the game down this season and winning through defense, and with how dangerous the Miami offense can be, I think they’ll likely try the same approach tonight. Miami might be 14th in the country in shooting percentage, but the Cougars are 1st in the country in opponent shooting percentage. Houston has the length to bother guys like Nijel Pack on the perimeter.
A large portion of the Cougars' offense has been through offensive rebounding but with the way their rebounding, Miami can limit their second-chance opportunities. The Canes have outrebounded both opponents so far in the tournament, with Norchad Omier fresh off a 17-rebound game.