Houston fans have been graced with the best team since Phi Slama Jama rocked the NCAA Tournament in the mid-1980s. They draw a first-round matchup against Cleveland State in the tournament’s Midwest Region, and if they win, they’ll face either Clemson or Rutgers in the Round of 32. Can Houston crack the Elite Eight for the first time since 1984? It all starts with a win in the Round of 64, and here are the college basketball betting lines and best bets for tonight’s NCAA Tournament action.
Cleveland St. vs. Houston | College Basketball Betting Lines
Date: Friday, Mar. 19, 2021
Start Time: 7:15 p.m. EST
Houston, led in per-game scoring by Quentin Grimes, ranks fifth both at KenPom and in the NCAA’s NET rankings. They boast the seventh-best offense and 15th-best defense, giving them a balanced roster that can survive tough tests from highly specialized opponents.
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Meanwhile, Cleveland State does not fare so well in the rankings. They didn’t sneak into the tournament like some other low seeds, as they were the top seed in the Horizon League’s tournament, but they rank a lowly 153rd at KenPom and 160th in the NET rankings. They fare much better defensively than offensively, as their defense ranks 123rd and their offense 200th. KenPom assigns them the highest luck rating, which is another reason to approach them with caution.
Only three of Cleveland State’s players average double-digit scoring, and two of those players, Tre Gomillion and D’Moi Hodge, clear that threshold by just 0.5 points per game.
Lastly, FiveThirtyEight gives Cleveland State just a 4% chance to win, the worst of any 15 seed. That makes Houston a safe moneyline bet (although you won’t make much money), and you should rest easy if you have them winning in your bracket.
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Cleveland State vs. Houston Spread College Basketball Betting Lines
Unsurprisingly, Houston are massive betting favorites. They should win this game handily; it’s just a question of by how many points. While I expect their offense to overwhelm Cleveland State’s defense, I suspect that their gameplan will be based around strong defensive play. That may make covering a 20-point spread difficult for Houston.
Houston has a 20-point advantage across the market, and if you’re interested in taking them to cover, you’ll find the best juice (-108) at PointsBet. Likewise, PointsBet also has the best deal on Cleveland State (-108).
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Cleveland State vs. Houston Total College Basketball Betting Lines
I’m curious about how many points we can expect Cleveland State to contribute. Their offense ranks concerningly low at KenPom, and they may struggle to generate the offense necessary to cash the over. This total is 134.5 at most books, and you can find the best juice on the under at PointsBet (-108). Should you favor the over instead, you can also get the best deal on that line at PointsBet (-108).
Matt’s Bet – Under 134.5 Points
With both teams playing at a slower pace, the under immediately holds intrigue in this matchup. Likewise, Houston ranks third in overall defensive efficiency, creating scoring issues for Cleveland State’s 136th-ranked offense. Houston has shown a willingness to remove starters in blowouts this season, also pointing towards the under.
Check out the AwesemoOdds home page for more sports betting content, including Midwest Region March Madness picks and predictions for the NCAA Tournament.
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