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The Houston Cougars will take on the Villanova Wildcats in the first Elite Eight game tonight. Can the Cougars start fast or will the Wildcats control the pace? Joey Ruiz takes you through the matchup and shares his pick.

Houston vs Villanova Prediction: Can the Cougars Start Fast?

Houston has been one of the most impressive teams in the tournament to this point. They come into this game after double-digit wins over UAB, Illinois, and then most impressively a 12-point win over number 1 seed Arizona. Houston has gotten the job done this year with their incredible effort on the defensive side of the ball and on the offensive/defensive glass.

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Houston is currently ranked 10th in adjusted defensive efficiency, 3rd in defensive effective FG percentage, 9th in defensive 3-point percentage, and 9th in defensive 2-point percentage so they have been a very stout defensive team. The one thing that Houston struggled with on defense is defending without fouling as they are 291st in defensive foul rate.

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Villanova is the number 1 free-throw shooting team in the nation so Houston will need to make a concerted effort to keep the Wildcats off the free-throw line as Villanova has a significant advantage in that category. Another thing that I really like about Houston is that they are capable of playing at different paces throughout the game. UAB tried to speed them up and Houston was able to score 82 points on a lackluster UAB defense. Illinois tried to slow the game down but Houston's defense neutralized Cockburn and made Illinois very dependent on their outside shooting. Then, they completely slowed the game down against a very fast-paced team in Arizona and Houston dominated in the half-court on both sides of the ball and pretty much controlled that entire game from start to finish.

In Villanova's last game against Michigan, they had issues keeping the Wolverines off the glass. Michigan had a large size advantage with Dickinson and Diabate inside and was able to get 14 offensive rebounds in the game but could not take advantage as they only shot 34.4 percent from the floor as a team and just 50 percent from the free-throw line. This does not bode well for Villanova in this matchup as Houston is one of the best rebounding teams in the nation.

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Houston is currently ranked 3rd in the country in offensive rebounding percentage and Villanova is ranked 197th in defensive rebounding percentage so I think the Cougars will have a distinct advantage on the glass tonight. Josh Carlton and Fabian White Jr are very hard to handle on the inside and think they may be able to get Villanova's bigs into foul trouble. This is another concern for the Wildcats as they run a very tight rotation and really only play 6 guys for the entirety of most games. Villanova has been incredible in the second half of games this year due to their consistency, experience, and ability to knock down key free throws but they have been most susceptible in the first half of games this year and Houston is the complete opposite.

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Houston have been absolute juggernauts in the opening half of games this season, and I think they get off to another fast start tonight. With that being said, I am rolling with Houston 1H ML at -135 for 1U as one of my most confident college basketball picks of the night.

Houston vs Villanova Pick

Pick: 1 unit - Houston 1H ML (-135) (Bet $135 to Win $100)

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Article Author


Joey has spent the last 6+ years betting on sports with a focus on basketball and baseball. Basketball is his main focus, and not many people know more about mid-major basketball than him. Whether you need advice on a Saturday night primetime game or a Tuesday night back-alley SWAC/MEAC game, Joey is your man.


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