Sunday will feature a matchup of top-25 teams and American Athletic Conference foes as the No. 25 Cincinnati Bearcats (20-3, 9-1 in the AAC) travel to Hofheinz Pavilion to take on the No. 12 Houston Cougars (22-1, 9-1 in the AAC). This is the first game of a home and away series for the two as they will conclude the regular season facing each other at the beginning of March.
For Cincinnati, they come into this one having won eight games in a row since their surprising 73-71 loss to East Carolina at the beginning of January. For Houston, they have only lost one game all season, a 73-69 loss at Temple on January 9th. While they don’t play quite the competitive schedule that other schools do, they have beaten No. 21 LSU earlier in the season and are continually proven that they are the real deal. The two will square off on Sunday with tipoff scheduled for 4:00 pm ET.
In this contest, the Houston Cougars come in as 5-point favorites playing at home. The over/under for this game is set at 129.5 points.
By The Numbers
On the defensive end, both of these teams have been some of the best in the nation. For Houston, they currently rank 6th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 60.5 points per game. Not too far behind them, though, is Cincinnati, who comes in at 10th in the country, allowing 61.5 points. Both teams do a nice job defending the interior, with Cincinnati averaging 4.8 blocks per game (26th in the nation) and Houston averaging 4.7 (36th overall). Houston is also one of the best on the boards, ranking 13th overall with 29.32 defensive rebounds per game and the second best in opponents’ field goal percentage as they are allowing opponents to shoot just 36.3% from the field.
Offensively, Houston ranks 114th in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 75.5 points per game. They are especially tough from behind the arc, averaging 8.9 threes per game (73rd overall). For the Bearcats, they rank 131st in scoring, averaging 75 points per game.
Bearcats Looking For Signature Win
While Cincinnati has a fantastic record, they lack that signature win over a top-25 team. A win over the No. 12 Houston Cougars would not only give them that signature win, but it would also go a long way in determining who wins the conference.
Leading the way for the Bearcats is junior guard Jarron Cumberland. On the season, Cumberland is averaging 18.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. He is also shooting 42.7% from the field and 41.9% from behind the arc.
Beyond Cumberland, Cincinnati only has one other player averaging double-digits in scoring. Keith Williams is currently averaging 10.9 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. While they may lack top-end scoring beyond Cumberland, they do have depth. The Bearcats have four other players averaging eight points or better, including Tre Scott (9.5 points, 6.4 rebounds), Justin Jenifer (9 points, 3.3 assists), Nysier Brooks (8.1 points, 5.7 rebounds) and Cane Broome (8 points, 2.6 assists).
Houston Looking To Create Separation In The Conference
While Houston has played spectacularly this season, they also could use another win over a top-25 team to cement their position as one of the best teams in the nation. In addition to that, a win over Cincinnati would put the conference more firmly in their hands as the season winds down.
Leading the Cougars are Corey Davis Jr. and Armoni Brooks. Davis, a senior guard, is averaging 15.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal per game. For Brooks, a junior guard, he is averaging 14.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
Beyond those two, Houston has six other players who average five points or better per game. Galen Robinson Jr. is the next highest at 8.3 points per game. He is also averaging 3.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 1.3 steals.
Take Cincinnati And The Points
The biggest difference in Sunday’s game between the Bearcats and Cougars may just simply be the home court advantage that Houston will have. Both play terrific defense, and both are good, but not great, on the offensive side. With all of that in mind, I see this being a low scoring affair that may come down to one or two possessions. With teams so evenly matched, it is hard to like a team too much either way. As a result, I have to go with the team being spotted the points, and that is Cincinnati in this one. For my money, I am taking the Bearcats and the 5 points.