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Houston vs. Cincinnati Pick NCAA Basketball – Jan 13th

The college hoops carnage continued last night with two more allegedly elite teams getting dropped on the road. I took the loss with Maryland coming up short at Michigan and the nation’s number one team – the same team that murdered Baylor and looked amazing in a win against Oklahoma went to west Virginia and got handled. The Mountaineers, whom I have been very suspect of because of their schedule, are now 15-1 with a win over the number one team in the country. That sure helps solidify the resume.

Oklahoma becomes the presumptive #1 team in the country, though one could make a good case for Michigan State who also has just a single loss to a good team on the road, though theirs was without their best player. It also pushed Villanova onto the #1 seed line in most bracket projections, despite the fact their two losses were both ugly, and to Oklahoma and Virginia. But Virginia has lost two games in a week to unranked foes (though bounced back nicely last night to beat #9 Miami), Xavier lost to Villanova by close to a thousand, and Kansas just lost (albeit on the road in a game where state police had to help their bus get through the snow storm conditions) and now has two losses, and…

You get the point. It is complete and utter chaos this college basketball season. I still think Kansas is an eventual one seed, and either Maryland or Michigan State is another. But who the heck really knows for sure at this point. Strap in – it’s going to be a fun two months.

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Today’s Free Pick:

Houston Cougars at Cincinnati Bearcats -9.5

I wish life were simpler in the AAC, but it has been the same madness that has befallen every other major conference. Take Temple for example; they have wins AT UConn and AT Cincinnati sandwiched around a 77-50 loss at home to Houston. That small fact alone makes tonight’s nine point line raise my eyebrows a bit. So it is really as insane a line as it appears? Let’s dog a little deeper into the matchup and into both teams true resumes.

Let’s start with Houston. They enter at 13-2 and a perfect 3-0 in conference. Now, two of their wins are virtual byes; over South Florida and Tulane, but the third is the aforementioned slaughtering of Temple. Their non-conference wasn’t stellar, but they did knock off LSU and the loss to Rhode Island is acceptable. Here’s the one that’s a stunner for non die-hards; the loss to Grand Canyon State isn’t as bad as you think. GCSU is 15-2 and has also beaten San Diego State and New Mexico State. Their losses are a murdering by the hands of Louisville and a four-point loss to Omaha (who will likely win the Summit, or at least battle with IPFW).

The point is, Houston’s 13-2 is reasonably legit and there is reason to think they can contend for a Tourney berth in the AAC along with Memphis and Temple (I am assuming, delicately, that UConn and UC are in, and of course, SMU is ineligible).

Meanwhile, Cincinnati is just 12-5, but the losses are high-quality and in some cases, gut-wrenching. They lost to Butler by 2 at the buzzer, Iowa State by 2 on the final possession, SMU in a late comeback by two points on the road and @ Xavier. Only the Temple home loss feels “bad” and all of a sudden Temple is back in the bubble conversation. Cincinnati is a balanced team with good guard play in Troy Caupain and Farad Cobb and tough inside with Octavius Ellis and Shaq Clark. They play an aggressive tempo and make up for some occasional offensive woes with good defense.

It should be a good game. Houston feels less familiar because their success in hoops has been minimal over the last few decades. But this is a solid ballclub. Sophomore Robert Gray is making a case for AAC Player of the Year, averaging 18.6 ppg and nearly a steal and a half per game as well. Oregon transfer Damyean Dotson is providing great leadership as well as 12.5/7 boards a game as well.

I guess Vegas isn’t sold on Houston yet. Tonight is a great opportunity to validate a great start. I think they at least show up. I’ll take the 9.5 points and expect a tough contest.

Free Pick: Houston Cougars +9.5