NCAA Tournament Champion Sleeper choose: The Houston Cougars

While a lot of the air surrounding a prospective NCAA Tournament champ was dedicated to Gonzaga and Baylor — and rightfully therefore — one of many beauties of March Madness is the fact that group ultimately crowned champion that is national truly earned that title by winning six (or potentially seven for a First Four team) games before being immortalized in that season’s version of “One Shining Moment.”

Wagering on college basketball during the pandemic has been challenging for a host of reasons, including no fans at most games, questions surrounding player availability due to COVID-19, and programs coming in and out of “pause” for various lengths of times. Those pauses have affected powerhouse teams with wildly varying results — Villanova did not play for nearly a month yet has maintained a level that is high of and it is rated 3rd in the united states. Michigan State, which recently came back after a three-week spell regarding the sidelines, is vulnerable to lacking the NCAA Tournament for the time that is first 1997.

Next month, the field of 68 will gather in an manner that is unprecedented the NCAA has opted to make use of hawaii of Indiana as a tournament “bubble,” with games to be played at Division we schools across their state as well as in Indianapolis, website for the Final Four. A conference currently celebrated for the unpredictability and love of underdogs which includes activities gambling operators throughout the nation hectic for an month that is entire adding another layer of potential chaos.

In An season that is unprecedented this, an unlikely champ seems suitable after perhaps not having the ability to crown one in 2020. Which brings us to an outsider choose for the consideration: the Houston Cougars, whom bring plenty of potential bang for the money at +2200 (William Hill), +1800 (PointsBet), or +1700 (FanDuel).

Playing within the shadows that are long the Lone Star State

To be clear, this is not your parents’ Houston Cougars of the mid-1980s. There’s no Hakeem Olajuwon or Clyde Drexler dunking on opponents like in the full times of “Phi Slamma Jamma,” whenever Houston reached back-to-back NCAA Tournament name games in 1983 and ’84 but destroyed to new york State and Georgetown.

Kelvin Sampson’s group is a outfit that is balanced. Houston is No. 5 in both polls and comfortably atop the American Athletic Conference with a conference that is 10-2 and 15-2 mark overall. When it comes to advanced level metrics, there was lots to like in regards to the Cougars — according to KenPom, they rank eighteenth in offensive effectiveness and defensively that is fifth making Houston one of just six schools to rank in the top 20 on both sides of the ball.

Yet, it can be argued Houston may be only the third-best team in its state. No. 2 Baylor is currently undefeated and running roughshod in the Big 12 — the Bears disposed of No. 6 Texas, itself a darkhorse that is trendy pick anywhere from +1500 to +1800, by dual digits on the highway Wednesday evening. Iron sharpens iron in high-major seminars, therefore the not enough high-caliber opponents into the AAC is among the few facets against Houston making a deep NCAA Tournament run.

Depth and protection travels, though

Sampson’s calling card at their past stops in Washington State, Oklahoma, and Indiana before showing up in Houston ended up being their give attention to protection, as well as in purchase to relax and play his demanding design on that end for the court, he requires figures. The cougars have nine players averaging at least 11 minutes despite the season-long absence of forward Fabian White due to a torn ACL. They are holding opponents to 57.5 points per game on 36.9% shooting, both marks good for second among Division I teams. Houston is also fifth nationally in 3-point field that is defensive portion, restricting groups to 26.4per cent from beyond the arc.

On offense, Marcus Sasser has made leaps and bounds from their freshman to sophomore period, averaging 15.7 points, and Quentin Grimes — pacing Houston at 16.2 points per game — has discovered a comfort area in their 2nd period because of the Cougars after their transfer from Kansas. The Cougars will perhaps not remind anybody of Gonzaga or Iowa offensively they crash the boards like nobody’s business.

As since they shoot just 41.4 percent, which could eventually be their downfall in a one-and-done setting, but a team, the Cougars are also the fourth-best rebounding that is offensive a 40.4% price in 2010, in accordance with KenPom.

Senior Justin Gorham is rebounding at an 18.9% price regarding the glass that is offensive which is also fourth-best in the nation. pic.twitter.com/O9d0LacPiA

— Sean Marty (@Theseanmarty) January 7, 2021

Justin Gorham is averaging 10.2 rebounds, nearly half of them coming on the end that is offensive Houston leads the country in unpleasant rebounding by gathering 40.8% of its missed shots. Grimes and fellow 6-foot-5 guard Dejon Jarreau are active regarding the cup, averaging 6.7 and 5.4 rebounds, correspondingly.

But how about the bracket and intangibles?

Most bracketologists have actually pegged Houston as a No. 2 seed, that offers a chance that is 50-50 of Gonzaga and Baylor until the Final Four. The Cougars do not have opportunities that are many significantly improve their competition application and vie for a No. 1 seed, though they nevertheless play AAC archrival Memphis twice and is in a position to grab a very respected Quad 1 road win in the event that Tigers’ current NCAA NET position holds.

One final element to think about regarding the side that is plus the Cougars is their team culture. They were well on their way to a third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance season that is last and both Jarreau and Brison Gresham had been regarding the 2019 group that reached the Sweet 16 and provided Kentucky all it may manage before enduring a 62-58 loss. And Sampson comes with your final Four look on their application with Oklahoma in 2002.

In amount, things look like dropping into spot for Houston to possess an opportunity at success month that is next. The Cougars will not be the flashiest team at the NCAA Tournament, but they might be the one that fattens your wallet for them.(* if it all breaks right)

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