Houston vs. Arizona: Odds, Spread, Preview & Pick for 2022 NCAA Tournament

Mar 24, 2022 - 12:49 PM

One of the marquee matchups of the Sweet Sixteen slate will take place Thursday night in the South Region when the top-seeded Arizona Wildcats battle against the fifth-seeded Houston Cougars.

Arizona has emerged from a relatively unheralded squad in November to one of the favorites to cut down the nets in New Orleans. Meanwhile, Houston has put together another incredible season despite a couple of devastating injuries.

Will Arizona move on to the South Regional final, or will Kelvin Sampson get his team one step closer to consecutive Final Four appearances?

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Houston Cougars vs. Arizona Wildcats Game Info 

  • Date: Thursday, March 24, 2022
  • Start time: 8:59 p.m. ET
  • Location: AT&T Center – San Antonio, Texas
  • Coverage: TBS

Houston vs. Arizona Betting Odds

Odds courtesy of PointsBet Sportsbook

  • Moneyline: Houston +105, Arizona -125
  • Point spread: Houston +1.5 (-105), Arizona -1.5 (-115)
  • Total: 145.5

Betting Trends

  • Arizona is 17-13-1 against the spread this season.
  • Houston is 19-12 ATS
  • Arizona is 16-12-1 ATS as a favorite
  • Houston has only been an underdog once this season, covering as 3-point underdogs at Alabama
  • Houston has covered in its last five games
  • Arizona has failed to cover in its two NCAA Tournament games
  • Arizona overs are 17-14 this season
  • Houston overs are 14-17

Houston Cougars Betting Preview 

Both KenPom and Bart Torvik rank Houston as the second-best team in the nation, and they’ve shown us why they’re an analytics darling in their first two tournament games.

The Cougars disposed of both UAB and Illinois with relative ease last weekend. The win over the higher-seeded Illini was rather dominant, as Houston held the co-Big Ten regular-season champs to just 17-of-50 from the floor while forcing 17 turnovers.

Houston plays a fierce and furious style. They dominate inside, ranking 20th in 2-point offense and 10th in 2-point defense. They crash the offensive glass with reckless abandon, ranking fourth in that category. And, perhaps most importantly, they cause havoc for opposing teams. The Cougars force turnovers at the 27th-highest rate in the country. The Illini learned that firsthand last Sunday.

What’s even more impressive is Houston has done this without leading scorer Marcus Sasser and sophomore guard Tramon Mark, who are both out for the season with injuries. Fortunately, this team is still deep with talent, as four other players average double figures, with a fifth averaging 9.8 points per game.

The duo of guard Kyler Edwards and forward Fabian White Jr., lead the offense, but center Josh Carlton, guard Taze Moore, and guard Jamal Shead all get in on the action. The Cougars share the ball effectively, ranking 22nd in assist rate.

Houston is extremely aggressive defensively, ranking 9th in 3-point defense and 3rd in block percentage. However, officiating will matter, as the Cougars foul at a substantial rate. If the referees are calling this game tightly, Houston could be in trouble.

Arizona Wildcats Betting Preview 

Expectations were relatively low for Arizona coming into the season. The Wildcats had missed the dance in three straight seasons and were still reeling from the controversial end to the Sean Miller era. But new head coach Tommy Lloyd has quickly rejuvenated the program and will likely be this season’s Coach of the Year.

The Wildcats are arguably the longest team left standing in this field, as four of their top players are 6-foot-6 or taller. The Wildcats use that length to their advantage, as they rank top 5 in the country in both 2-point offense and defense, as well as 22nd in block rate and 15th in offensive rebound rate.

The Cats are led by likely lottery pick Bennedict Mathurin (one of the best names in college hoops, I might add), who is averaging 17.8 points per game. Behind him is forward Azuolas Tubelis at 14.2 points and big man Christian Koloko at 12.7 points per game.

The X-factor will be guard Kerr Kriisa, who returned from an ankle injury in Arizona’s second-round win over TCU. Kriisa was clearly rusty, scoring just three points on 1-of-10 shooting, all from 3-point range. Arizona will need Kriisa to be more efficient from the perimeter if it’s to have a shot of advancing.

Houston Cougars vs. Arizona Wildcats Betting Pick

This should be a fantastic matchup, and it’s no surprise that this spread is so short. Arizona has the length to score against Houston’s stout interior defense. The keys will be whether Arizona can take care of the ball and hit enough 3-point shots to extend Houston’s defense to the perimeter.

I’m admittedly a bit concerned about the first key, as Arizona has turned the ball over on 18.2% of their possessions this season, which ranks 163rd in the country. We just saw Houston force Illinois — a team that ranks 153rd in turnovers — into 17 blunders. And while the Wildcats are awfully talented, they’re also awfully young, as their five starters are all underclassmen. Kelvin Sampson’s been here before, while this is Tommy Lloyd’s first rodeo as the leading man after serving 20 years on Mark Few’s staff at Gonzaga.

The great equalizer will be the 3-ball. Arizona shoots it at a 35.4% clip and Houston ranks 323rd in opponent 3-point rate. The opportunities will be there for ‘Zona. However, they’ll need Kriisa to be on his game, as he accounted for 30% of the team’s makes from deep. That might be a big ask after seeing how he played Sunday night.

This spread seems just about right to me in a game that will be tightly contested. If I had to choose, I’d lean with the underdog Cougars. I’d also lean to the under, as both teams matchup extremely well against each other on the defensive end.

The picks: Lean Houston +1.5, lean under 145.5

Houston Player Props

  • Taze Moore Under 13.5 Points (-110, DraftKings)
  • Taze Moore Over 4.5 Rebounds (+125, FanDuel)
  • Josh Carlton Over 10.5 Points (-115, DraftKings)
  • Jamal Shead Under 11.5 Points (-102, FanDuel)

Arizona Player Props

  • Dalen Terry Over 3.5 Assists (+105, DraftKings)
  • Bennedict Mathurin Under 2.5 Assists (+115, DraftKings)
  • Dalen Terry Over 3.5 Rebounds (-133, PointsBet)
  • Bennedict Mathurin Under 18.5 Points (-113, FanDuel)

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