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Houston vs. UAB Preview: Cougars are going to bully the sensational Jelly Walker

Even without Marcus Sasser, Houston can still make a Final Four run

NCAA Basketball: American Athletic Conference Tournament Championship-Houston vs Memphis
Houston won the American Athletic Conference championship over Memphis on Selection Sunday.
Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

How to Watch:

South Region, first round

Tipoff time: 9:20 p.m. ET Friday

TV: TNT

Location: PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh

DraftKings line: Houston -8.5, O/U 136

There are few things that are loved the way Ken Pom loves Houston. It’s not the fake “Keeping up with the Kardashians” or “Love and Basketball” type of love. It’s the real stuff, like what you see in an Adam Sandler rom-com. It’s genuine. It has commitment, and it’s passionate.

The lack of impressive wins doesn’t neglect the way Houston is viewed in the metrics. Ken Pom ranks Houston as the fourth best team in the country. The Cougars rank 10th in offensive efficiency and 11th in defensive efficiency.

Houston kills you on the offensive glass ranking and is third in offensive rebounding percentage. Houston is No. 1 in the nation in field goal defense and is great at clamping down when needed.

Houston lost star Marcus Sasser in late December, and that took a huge hit to their national championship chances. However guards Taze Moore (10.3 points) and Jamal Shead (9.0 points 6.0 assists) have stepped up.

UAB has all the ingredients to be a 12-seed Cinderella. They have a lovable combo scoring point guard in Jordan Walker, who became an internet sensation after he scored 40 in the Conference USA semifinal game. Jordan Walker has been a sharpshooter with 115 threes this year.

But I think Houston extinguishes any hope of a UAB run here. Houston pressures for 40 minutes. UAB does not have a consistent ball handler outside of Walker. UAB had 16 turnovers in the Conference USA final, and half of those came in the final six minutes when Louisiana Tech brought on its full-court press.

UAB also had 20 turnovers in their opening conference tournament game against Florida Atlantic. Kevin Sampson is a going to make someone else on UAB beat them. I just don’t think UAB has the juice.

Prediction:

Houston is going to aggressively press UAB. Two things are going to happen after the first half, Houston is going to be up by double digits, or it’s going to be two or three possession game. If UAB can survive the first wave with a barrage of Walker threes, there is a chance Houston can be in trouble. If Michael Ertel and KJ Buffin are also making shots, this could be a grind. Overall Houston is going to be too nasty on the boards with Josh Carlton and Reggie Chaney. Fabian White makes enough plays late. Houston survives a late UAB surge, and the Blazers get the backdoor cover.

The pick: UAB +8.5

Houston 71, UAB 64