Central Florida guard B.J. Taylor (1) drives to the basket in front of Houston guard Galen Robinson Jr. (25) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball quarterfinal game at the American Athletic Conference tournament Friday, March 9, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
- No. 6 Houston (6-0) heads to UCF (3-1) on Saturday, Dec. 26, at 2:00 pm ET
- Both teams have won three of their past four games against the spread
- The odds for the game, as well as matchup analysis and a pick, can be found in the article below
Earlier this month, every player on the Houston Cougars’ roster had COVID-19, prompting the program to halt its schedule for a 15-day hiatus. But now, thankfully, they’ve returned to health and will play their third game this week, on the road against UCF on Saturday at 2:00 pm ET.
#6 Houston has played and beaten some high quality opponents, but the UCF Knights have a few impressive victories of their own. The Cougars are favored on the road, as you’ll see in the odds below:
Houston vs UCF Odds
|Houston||-375||-7.5 (-115)||Over 134.5 (-110)|
|UFC||+300||+7.5 (-105)||Under 134.5 (-110)|
Odds as of Dec. 25th, 2020.
How They’ve Fared So Far
The only “loss” of Houston’s season to this point was the loss of game action, as they were unable to play games from Dec. 6-19. In that span, one Cougars coach didn’t see the team at all. For a time, they practiced with as few as six players and did not have their full roster available for their return game on Dec. 20 against Alcorn State.
Fortunately, Houston’s adversities off the court haven’t affected the on-court results. All six of their wins have come by double digits, and three of those wins have come against top 75 teams according to KenPom’s rankings — including #15 Texas Tech.
Houston has three players who are questionable for Saturday’s game due to an “undisclosed” reason, but none of them are noteworthy from an on-court contribution standpoint.
UCF has only played four games, thanks in part to COVID-19 challenges that some of their prospective opponents have had — including Houston, who they were supposed to play on Dec. 15. But considering their limited action so far, the Knights have gotten excellent bang for their buck in terms of strength of schedule.
All four opponents have rank inside KenPom’s top 100, including two inside the top 30 (Michigan, 16th, and Florida State, 26th). UCF took a beating against Michigan, 80-58, despite making all their free throws and committing only nine turnovers.
In their most recent game, on Tuesday, UCF beat a struggling Cincinnati team that has lost four in a row. The Knights forced 19 turnovers and shot 9-of-21 from 3-pt. range for a 75-70 win.
2021 Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year Odds Tracker
Houston has covered the spread in four of its six games this season, including three of its past four. Their only ATS losses came by a half-point and 2.5 points, respectively, on a pair of double digit spreads.
Also, three of their covers have come by 9.5 or more points. That’s the mark of a successful ATS team.
HIGHLIGHTS – Enjoy the action from Tuesday’s big win over Temple#ForTheCity x #GoCoogs pic.twitter.com/YBI8K86wzg
— Houston Men’s Hoops 🏀 🐾 (@UHCougarMBK) December 23, 2020
UCF has covered in three of its four games, as well as five of its past six when dating back to last year. This will be the Knights’ fourth consecutive game as an underdog. They have covered in their past two.
When you have two teams that are trending positively against the spread, it helps to have a tiebreaker of sorts when weighing your final decision. Perhaps the recent head-to-head history can help.
Houston won last year’s lone matchup, 78-63, covering a 9-point spread. All three of UCF’s top scorers from that game have moved on from the team, while only one of Houston’s top three have done the same.
🗣 How’s that number 1️⃣0️⃣???@Cjwalker_14 with an #SCtop10 appearance 👌 pic.twitter.com/0wHwOtCPyP
— UCF Men’s Hoops (@UCF_MBB) December 23, 2020
For that reason, we like Houston. We also like that they’re second in NCAA Division I in offensive rebound percentage (43.0 percent), while UCF is 304th in offensive rebound percentage allowed (35.6). That spells a lot of second chances for the Cougars, which should help the favorites cover.
Pick: Houston -7.5 (-115)
Jordan Horrobin is a sports journalist whose MLB, NHL, NFL and NCAA work has appeared in outlets such as The Athletic, MLB.com, the Detroit Free Press and more. He is currently based in Toronto, also working as a contributor for Forbes.com and a freelance editor for Sportsnet.