The first two rounds of the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament are in the rearview mirror. After a couple of days off, March Madness resumes with four Sweet 16 contests on Thursday, with four more games scheduled for Friday.
The spread is awfully close for a 1-.vs-.5 matchup. The oddsmakers at BetOnline the top-seeded Wildcats listed as slight 1.5-point favorites to get the better of the Coogs in this one.
The Wildcats have endured a few lean years, but they finished atop the Pac-12 in 2022. Thanks to a couple of future first-round NBA draft picks, Arizona is in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2017. Tommy Lloyd, in his first year as head coach, has guided the Wildcats to a 33-2 season, including an 18-2 mark in conference play.
Bennedict Mathurin and Christian Koloko lead Arizona’s impressive offense. Mathurin exploded for a career-high 30 points in the overtime win over TCU in the round-of-32. The springy swingman nailed a huge three-pointer in the game’s waning seconds to send it to overtime. He then scored six of Arizona’s 10 points in the overtime period to help seal the victory.
While Mathurin came up huge when it mattered most, Koloko was a dominant force throughout for the Wildcats. The 7’1″ big man put 28 points and 12 rebounds on the board, including a tip-slam with just 11 seconds to go in OT that gave Arizona an insurmountable lead. Koloko is a matchup nightmare for opposing frontcourts given his size and touch around the rim. In 40 minutes of play, the Cameroon native hit 12 of his 13 attempts from the field against the Horned Frogs on Sunday night.
The Wildcats are 19-15-2 against the spread so far this season. That includes an ATS mark of 18-14-2 as favorites.
Arizona is 3-4-0 ATS thus far at neutral sites.
It’s been a few years since we’ve seen Arizona in the Sweet 16, but advancing this far is becoming a habit for Kelvin Sampson’s team. Despite losing their two best players after last year’s unexpected run to the Final Four, the Coogs are back in the Sweet 16 for the third successive tourney.
The Cougars’ Final Four appearance last year was the program’s first since the “Phi Slama Jama” era back in the early-1980s. However, Sampson’s side hasn’t missed a beat since losing Quentin Grimes and Dejon Jarreau to the professional ranks. Houston finished the season 31-5 overall and 15-3 in American Athletic Conference play. The Cougars stormed their way to a win in the AAC Tournament final, as well.
Why is Houston a No. 5 seed? It’s a good question. Based on their overall success, this team should probably have been a No. 3, at worst. That low seeding means they’ll face off with Arizona earlier than expected. However, after an impressive win over Illinois in the last round, it’s safe to say Houston won’t back down despite a daunting matchup against one of the nation’s top teams.
Taze Moore, who averaged just 10.5 points per game during the regular season, led the Cougars with 21 points in the round-of-32 triumph over Illinois. Houston has won both of their tourney games by double digits thus far. Jamal Shead supplied 18 points on Sunday. Kyler Edwards, the team’s leading scorer during the regular season, finished with 15.
U of H is also one of the better teams in the nation against the spread. The Cougars are 24-12-0 ATS thus far, which is the fifth-best ATS record in the nation. St> Peter’s, at 22-9-0, is the only tournament team still alive with a better ATS mark so far in 2021-22.
Arizona Wildcats vs. Houston Cougars March Madness Game Pick
With this game taking place in San Antonio just a couple of hundred miles from their campus, the Cougars may enjoy a favorable crowd in this one.
I think the tiny spread is a bit disrespectful to an Arizona team that has been among the best in the country all year long. Houston is a formidable foe, but, ultimately, I’d expect the Wildcats’ superior talent and athleticism to win out. Take Arizona to win and cover the small 1.5-point spread at -110 to advance into the Elite 8.
Arizona Wildcats vs. Houston Cougars Betting Recap
- Moneyline: Arizona -130, Houston +110
- Point Spread: Arizona -1.5 (-110), Houston +1.5 (-110)
- Over/Under: Over 145 points (-110), Under 145 points (-110)
- Pick: Arizona Wildcats -1.5 (-110)