SMU (9-3) at Houston (14-1)
When: Sunday, January 31st, 2021
Where: Fertitta Center,
Time: 1:00 ET | TV: ESPN
Opening Odds: Houston -8/139.5
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Houston Cougars coach Kelvin Sampson has something brewing in the Lone Star state and should be considered a Final Four contender come March. The sixth-ranked Cougars will host the SMU Mustangs on Sunday afternoon at the Fertitta Center, as they continue to run away with the American Athletic Conference. Houston was without leading scorer Quentin Grimes on Thursday after spraining his ankle in practice, but it didn’t matter. Reserve guard Cameron Tyson, who appeared in just seven games and played a total of 59 minutes in the Cougars’ first 14 games, exploded for a career-high 31 points in an 83-60 triumph over the Tulane Green Wave. Houston is 9-1 in the AAC with Wichita State a distant second at 4-2. The Mustangs are next at 5-3, but almost blew their game on Thursday against Memphis. SMU blew a 16-point, second-half lead, but held on for a 67-65 victory – their third in four games. It was the team’s second straight game without coach Tim Jankovich, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday. Jankovich missed the 78-65 victory at UCF on Jan. 23 after experiencing symptoms. No word yet if he’ll be able to coach on Sunday. Houston has won six of the last seven meetings, including a 74-60 victory on Jan. 3 in Dallas. The Cougars dominated the glass, outrebounding the Mustangs 45-32. The under is 5-2 in the last seven meetings.
Feron Hunt scored 17 points and Emmanuel Bandoumel added 15 in the Mustangs win over Memphis on Thursday. Kendric Davis, who averages 17.3 points per game, was just 2-of-13 from the field and scored only six points but managed to chip in four rebounds and eight assists. The win came right after SMU lost on the road to Memphis 76-72 in the first of a back-to-back with the Tigers. Davis was on his game in the first meeting with Houston, scoring 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting. SMU’s defense, which ranks 63rd in field goal percentage, limited the Cougars to just 39.1 percent shooting in the first meeting. The over is 4-1 in SMU’s last five games overall. The Mustangs will be at Tulsa on Wednesday.
Tyson’s big performance off the bench was no surprise to his Houston teammates. Two years ago, Tyson shot 42.9 percent from 3-point territory while at Idaho. He drained 9-of-15 on Thursday against the Green Wave. Tramon Mark, who started for the injured Grimes, scored 16 points, and Justin Gorham pulled down 15 boards – his seventh straight double-figure rebounding game. The Cougars led 44-14 at halftime and cruised through the second half. Before Thursday, the Cougars had not played at home since they avenged their lone loss to Tulsa via a convincing 86-59 win on Jan. 20. Houston boasts the nation’s top defense in terms of points allowed (56.5) and field goal percentage (36.4). They also rank third in defending the 3-pointer at 25.4 percent. The Cougars will play at East Carolina on Wednesday.
Outside of Houston, this conference is a joke. The Cougars can hang with anyone in the country because of their defense and it will be fun to watch them in March. They should win this contest going away.
Pick: Houston -9.5