NCAA basketball on Friday night and it is the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament. In this matchup we will see the Houston Cougars take on the Louisville Cardinals at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tennessee. The game has a start time of 3:00 pm (Eastern) and will be televised on ESPN. Vegas odds have the Cardinals listed as 18 point favorites, while the total sits at 148.
Analysis: The Houston Cougars come into this game at 17-15 after they pulled the upset of SMU yesterday. They have now won 5 of their last 6 games. The Houston offense comes in putting up 71.4 ppg, to rank 178th in the nation. They do shoot the ball well, ranking 97th in shooting overall (45.7%) and 80th in 3 pt shooting (36.7%) but they are also 268th in FT shooting (67.1%). The offense is led by Tayshawn Thomas, who averages 15.5 ppg, while also leading the team in rebounding (8.1 rpg) and blocks (87). Danuel House (13.7 ppg) and Jherrod Stiggers (11.2 ppg) also average in double figures for the Cougars. Defense is not a strong suit of this team as they rank 244th in scoring (72.4 ppg), 220th in defensive FG% (44.5%) and 200th in 3 point defense (34.6%). The Cougars also rank 203rd in turnovers per game (12.6) and 202nd in rebounding (34.3).
The Louisville Cardinals come in at 26-5 overall and 15-3 in the AAC. They had an easy time of it in the quarterfinals, beating Rutgers by a score of 92-31. The Louisville offense has been high scoring this year as they have averaged 82.1 ppg to rank 10th in the nation. They also rank 29th in shooting overall (47.5%) and 64th in 3 point shooting (37.4%), but they are not good at FT shooting hitting just 65.4% of their freebies, to rank 317th. Russ Smith leads the offense with 17.5 ppg, while Montrezl Harrell is second in scoring (14.0 ppg) and leads the team in rebounding (8.2 rpg). Luke Hancock (11.9 ppg) and Chris Jones (10.5 ppg) also score in double figures for the Cardinals. Defensively the Cardinals are very good as they rank 15th in points allowed (60.8 ppg), 16th in FG% defense (39.3%) and 6th in 3 point defense (29.0%). Louisville ranks 35th in rebounding (37.8 rpg) and 30th in turnovers (10.5 tpg).
Pick: The Cardinals are starting to turn it it again. In the last 3 games they beat SMU on the road by 13, UConn at home by 33 and last night they beat Rutgers by a whopping 61 points. The Cardinals also beat Houston by 15 and 39 points this year. I know Houston has been playing better of late as they have won 5 of their last 6 games, but they are off a tough physical upset win over SMU and that loss in the last 6 games was by 21 at a weak UCF squad. Louisville is now playing for a number 1 seed so blowout tournament wins should help them. They could win this one by 25.
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