Houston vs. Alabama: Betting Odds, Picks, and Predictions (12/11/21)

Houston vs. Alabama Betting Odds

These are two of the hottest teams in college basketball.

Both Houston and Alabama have won four of their last five games, and both have recorded marquee wins during the stretch. Houston took down Oregon back on November 24 while Alabama took down Gonzaga just last Saturday.

Both teams have also managed the way into the top-15 of the last AP Poll, with Houston at No. 14 and Alabama at No. 9.

Finally, these two teams play a very similar style of basketball. Both will play aggressive defense on one end and shoot 3s on the other.

But in a battle between such similar teams, which one has the edge?

Houston Cougars Odds

Kelvin Sampson’s style of basketball – a style that led to a Final Four appearance last season – is predicated on two things.

First: Offensively, the Cougars jack it up from 3 and grab offensive rebounds at a ridiculously high rate. The Cougars take about 40% of their shots from deep and grab over 36% of available offensive rebounds.

However, the Cougars are rather efficient at both. Houston shots over 38% from 3 and over 57% from 2, both of which add up to the ninth-best effective field goal percentage in the nation (57.2%).

Second: Defensively, Houston forces long, grueling possessions on defense that end in inefficient deep shots. The Cougars:

  • Force the 24th-longest average length of possession
  • Allow the fifth-fewest percentage of shots at the rim
  • Allow the fourth-highest percentage of shots from 3

Houston is incredible at dictating their opponent’s shot selection. If you don’t play according to Houston’s rules, the Cougars will block you at the rim (18th in block rate, 16.2%) or force turnovers (12th in defensive turnover rate at 25.9%, second in steal rate at 16.4%).

All in all, Houston allows the ninth-lowest effective field goal percentage (42.4%) and is second overall in defensive efficiency.

Alabama Crimson Tide Odds 

Like Houston, Alabama will chuck it a lot from deep. The difference is that Nate Oats takes a very specific, analytics-driven approach.

Nobody in the country has a higher rim-and-3 rate than the Crimson Tide, who take more than 94% of their shots either at the rim or from beyond the arc. As a result, Alabama avoids those inefficient jump shots that Houston tries so hard to create.

Alabama is also very stout defensively, ranking 22nd in defensive efficiency. However, the Crimson Tide aren’t forcing turnovers (266th in defensive turnover rate, 17.4%) and Alabama is 48th in adjusted defensive Shot Quality despite ranking 27th in defensive 3-point percentage (27%).

Add that in with Alabama opponents shooting 62% from the free-throw line, and I’m expecting some regression from the Crimson Tide defense.

For example, Gonzaga went just 9-for-23 from deep and shot 13-for-25 from the free-throw line in the nine-point loss to Alabama. If the Crimson Tide face the Zags again, I’d expect major regression in those areas.

Prediction and Pick

My pick: Alabama -1.5 (+100 at DraftKings)

There are two things I know about this game.

First: Alabama is going to play much quicker than Houston. Alabama is top-20 in tempo while Houston falls outside the top-250. That’s the only discernable difference between the two teams.

Second: Both teams are horrendous at the free-throw line. Houston and Alabama rank 304th and 305th nationally in free-throw shooting, respectively. That will make for an even more unpredictable game.

This game is too difficult for me to handicap, and so I’m going to follow the sharps instead. This line got pushed from Bama +1.5 to Bama -1.5, and the team is 4-1 against the spread at home this year.

So, I’ll follow the smart money, lay 1.5 with ‘Bama, and hope they out-run and out-gun the Cougars.

Tanner joined Lineups to cover everything, but he has vast experience in, and unlimited passion for, Major League Baseball and NCAA Basketball. He’s a McGill University grad and former (Canadian) Division-I alpine ski racer who now spends his time drinking beer and betting home underdogs. Patrick Mahomes is a poor man’s Tom Brady.

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