Northern Kentucky vs. Houston NCAA tournament first round predictions and odds

Marcus Sasser celebrates with Jamal Shead

March 5, 2023; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Houston Cougars guard Marcus Sasser (0) reacts with guard Jamal Shead (1) after scoring the game-winning basket against the Memphis Tigers on the FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

  • No. 1-seeded Houston is a 19.5-point favorite over 16-seeded Northern Kentucky in Round 1 of NCAA tournament play
  • The Northerners have won five straight games while Houston suffers a loss in the AAC Tournament Finals
  • Below are the latest Northern Kentucky v Houston odds, analysis and best bets

If defense is your thing, you’ll surely get into the first round in the Midwest region of the NCAA tournament, where the top-seeded Houston Cougars (31-3, 18-16-0) take on the 16th-seeded Northern Kentucky Norse ( 22-12, 14-17-0ATS).

The Norse have had five straight wins, including an upset against Youngstown State in the semifinals of the Horizon League tournament before beating Cleveland State in the finals and finding their way into the March Madness bracket.

Houston, meanwhile, had won 22 of its last 23, including 13 in a row, before being knocked down by the Memphis Tigers in the American Athletic Conference Finals.

This will be on Thursday (March 16) at 9:20pm ET from the Legacy Arena at the BJCC in Birmingham, AL. You can watch the game live on TNT.

Northern Kentucky vs Houston Odds

team spread money line In total

[16] Nordic Northern Kentucky

+19.5 (-110) +1300 Over 122.5 (-110)
-19.5 (-110) -2800 Un 122.5 (-110)

The Cougars – who have the best odds of winning the NCAA tournament at +550 – are big favorites with 19.5 points and -2800 on the money line for an implied win probability of 96.55%. The game offers a total of only 122.5.

Northern Kentucky has been an underdog eight times all year, going 3-5 against the spread. Their strong schedule likely had something to do with it: They were only 259th at KemPom while the Cougars checked in at No. 92.

The winner of this game takes on the winner of No. 8 Iowa vs. No. 9 Maroon.

Odds as of March 16th at DraftKings Sportsbook.

Northern Kentucky vs. Houston Latest Results and Trends

The Norse’s home stretch – where they literally fought for their NCAA tournament lives – shouldn’t be overlooked. They earned a 63-61 win over Cleveland State to capture the Horizon title. This came a day after top seed Youngstown was upset 75-63.

Marques Warrick, son of Syracuse legend Hakim, led the Northerners into the final with 18 points, six rebounds and three steals. He has led Northern Kentucky in seven of their last eight games and has averaged 19.1 points as team-best this season, including a deft 39.1% lead from long-range.

It’s pretty much the only point of attack to lean on. The Norwegians score an average of 67.8 points per game (285th) and shoot 43.2% from the field (262nd).

However, like the Cougars, defense is their calling card. They allow teams to score just 63.3 points per game, which ranks 28th in the NCAA, despite their defensive efficiency ranking 121st at KenPom. The Norse are overturning their opponents, averaging 9.4 steals per game, tied for seventh best tire and 15.7 total turnovers (23rd).

If there’s one glaring weakness, it’s their inability to defend the three-point line. Teams clip at 36.6%, falling to a low 332nd in the nation.

Northern Kentucky vs. Houston head-to-head

16 Midwest region seeds 1
22-12 season record 31-3
67.8 points per game 76.0
63.3 counterpoints per game 56.5
49.8% Effective FG% 52.7%
51.3% Effective FG% of the opponent 42.5%

On the other hand, anything Northern Kentucky can do, Houston can do better defensively.

The Cougars rank third on KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric and allow just 56.5 points per game a year — second only to North Texas and only one of four schools to keep their opponents under 60 points per game.

Opponents have an effective field goal percentage of 42.5% against Houston, which is the third best mark in the NCAA. The teams shoot just 36.5% from the field and 28% from long range, both placing second overall, and they are first in shot block percentage, beating one attempt out of six.

Of course, those stats didn’t matter as they lost 75-65 to Memphis in the last game, the first time in 14 competitions that they’d allowed an opponent to reach the 70-point plateau.

Jwan Roberts had a monster game in the loss, recording 12 points, 20 rebounds and three assists. Houston was missing top scorer Marcus Sasser (groin), and he’s still listed as questionable as of Thursday.

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Northern Kentucky vs Houston Prediction

The Norse are 7-1 ATS in their last eight games while the Cougars are just 1-5 ATS overall in their last six.

There’s really no chance of the 1-seedling losing to the 16 here – and that’s only happened once in the previous 136 games – but trying your hand at 20-point spreads is never a pleasant experience.

Instead, let’s look at the very low total, a kind of homage to the type of defense both teams can play.

Despite being against fewer opponents, Northern Kentucky has only been held under 60 points in two of its last 19 games. If Houston gets anywhere near his season-scoring average, that total will be blown out of the water.


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Eric Rosales

Sports journalist and editor

Sports journalist and editor

NBA Northern Kentucky vs. Houston NCAA tournament first round predictions and odds

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