Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson, left, talks with guard Marcus Sasser (0) during a time out in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Temple Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
- The No. 5 Houston Cougars will visit the SMU Mustangs at Moody Coliseum on Sunday at 7:00 PM ET.
- The Cougars are coming off their first loss of the season after falling to Tulsa.
- See below for updated odds and our picks ahead of the game
The college basketball season roars into January action after a relatively quiet and subdued December with a full load of conference games on the first weekend of 2021. One of the more interesting conference games on the docket comes in the AAC, where No. 5 Houston will try to avoid losing back-to-back games.
The Cougars face unbeaten SMU in a test of their mettle and their ability to respond to a setback. They’re a small road favorite in this matchup but what’s the best bet for this game?
Houston vs SMU Opening Odds
|Houston Cougars||-136||-2.5 (-104)||Over 137.5 (-114)|
|SMU Mustangs||+116||+2.5 (-118)||Under 137.5 (-106)|
All odds taken January 2 at FanDuel.
Cougars Fresh Off Loss
The Cougars had risen to a No. 5 national ranking and were riding high as they went to Tulsa to face the Golden Hurricane in the last week of 2020. Trailing for much of the game, Houston rallied to take a 64-63 lead into the final seconds but they ended up fouling Tulsa with 0.1 seconds left. Tulsa made both shots and eked out a win.
It was an unexpected blow for Kelvin Sampson’s team as they were a 9.5-point road favorite. Now they’ll need a win against SMU to avoid a two-game losing skid and maintain a high seed for the upcoming NCAA Tournament. There is little question that Houston is still a strong team, but the Cougars need to avoid getting caught in a prolonged rut.
UPSET ALERT 🚨
Tulsa takes down No. 5 Houston to give them their first loss of the season! pic.twitter.com/hTuD1IRAms
— ESPN (@espn) December 30, 2020
They are a team that’s built around a strong defense as they are No. 11 in the KenPom Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. The challenge is the offense, which has steadily been the case under Sampson. They can defend and rebound, but they can go through shooting droughts. Finding consistent offense is the key to their success.
SMU Offers A Tough Test
SMU is unbeaten but what is a mystery is the quality of that unblemished record. They have notched wins over Dayton and Temple, and that’s something. Remember, Dayton might have been a No. 1 seed in the 2020 NCAA Tournament had that event been played. However, this season’s Dayton team is a lot worse. The Flyers aren’t very good at the moment.
There are seven schools that remain undefeated with at least one victory over a top-100 KenPom team:
* Winthrop https://t.co/mQUGw60aNC
— CBS Sports CBB (@CBSSportsCBB) January 1, 2021
SMU also recently defeated the Temple Owls on the road but again the question is how impressive is that win? Temple hasn’t played many games due to COVID-19, so the Owls are also a mystery. SMU did defend the 3-point line quite well, holding Temple to 9 of 31 shooting on long balls, so that’s a good sign.
What’s The Best Bet?
SMU has yet to lose a game this season but that unbeaten streak seems like a bit of a mirage. On top of that, Houston is highly unlikely to lose two straight games. They’re the cream of the crop in the AAC and should rebound nicely in this one. Laying a short number on the road, take the Cougars to win and cover.
For over 15 years, Dave has been working in mainstream media and sports betting. He hosted a station on Sirius Satellite Radio for four years, and is currently a senior writer for AskMen. He’s interviewed hundreds of hundreds of high-profile sports stars like Shaquille O’Neal and Floyd Mayweather.