The 2021 March Madness betting action goes on Sunday with the second-round matchups, so I’ve prepared the best betting pick and odds for the Midwest Region showdown between the No. 10 Rutgers Scarlet Knights and No. 2 Houston Cougars at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Cougars are firm 8.5-point favorites for Sunday’s clash. They entered the Big Dance as the No. 5 in the NCAA NET Rankings, while the Scarlet Knights are No. 38. These two schools haven’t met each other since 2014 when they split a two-game series.
Rutgers eliminated the No. 7 Clemson Tigers in the first round
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights were listed as 2-point favorites for their first-round matchup with the No. Clemson. They beat the Tigers 60-56, nearly blowing an 11-point lead. It was a proper defensive battle, and the Scarlet Knights allowed just one point to the Tigers in the last 4:12 of play in the second half.
Rutgers leans on its stout defense, yielding 90.4 points per 100 possessions (14th in the country) on 41.7% shooting from the field (86th) and 32.1% from downtown (89th). Furthermore, the Scarlet Knights average 7.7 steals a night (53rd) along with 5.2 blocks (9th).
The problems are on the other side of the floor, as Rutgers scores 108.4 points per 100 possessions (74th). The Knights are making only 30.8% of their 3-pointers (302nd) and a miserable 63.3% of their free throws (336th). Junior guard Ron Harper is tallying 15.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, while senior guard Jacob Young is adding 14.3 points and 3.4 assists a night.
Houston dominated the No. 15 Cleveland State for its seventh straight win
The Houston Cougars are rolling on a seven-game winning streak following an 87-56 thrashing off the Cleveland State Vikings in the first round of the 2021 NCAA championship tournament. Kelvin Sampson’s boys scored 50 second-half points and had no problems covering a massive 20.5-point spread.
The Cougars are one of the best defensive teams in the country this term. They allow only 89.9 points per 100 possessions (13th in the nation) on 37.1% shooting from the field (1st) and 27.5% from beyond the arc (4th).
Houston scores 119.6 points per 100 possessions (6th) while making 44.4% of its field goals (158th), 36.1% of its 3-pointers (71st), and 74.1% of its free throws (65th). Junior guard Quentin Grimes notches 17.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, while senior guard Dejon Jarreau adds 10.6 points, 5.3 boards, and 4.2 dimes a night.
- 2-4 ATS in the last six outings as underdogs
- 14-4 ATS in the last 18 games overall
- 6-1 ATS in the last seven games played on Sunday
The Scarlet Knights have to bring their best offensive game if they want to upset the odds in this clash. Even then, the Knights will have to put on another strong defensive performance, as Houston scored 76 or more points in seven of its last eight outings while hitting a 90-point mark three times in that span.
The Cougars look poised and ready to rumble in the national championship. Those 8.5 points could be too much if Rutgers put on a very strong defensive performance, but the Cougars should control the flow down the stretch and advance to the next round.
Pick: Take Houston Cougars -6.0 at -150
Houston is an elite defensive team, and Rutgers is not far away from an elite level. Therefore, I’m betting on the under, expecting to see a proper defensive battle for all 40 minutes.
Also, the Cougars prefer to play at a slow pace, recording just 65.0 possessions per 40 minutes (322nd in the country). The Scarlet Knights average 67.7 (211th). The under is 9-4 in Rutgers’ last 13 outings, while the over is 9-3 in Houston’s previous 12 games overall.
Pick: Go under 132.0 points at -110