Illinois vs. Houston March Madness prediction: Cougars the pick

For the second straight 12 months, Houston and Illinois are in the identical area of the NCAA Event bracket. However in contrast to final season, when the Elite Eight collision course was averted when the Illini misplaced early, Illinois survived a last-second contest with Chattanooga and can face Houston in Pittsburgh to start the eight-game Sunday slate.

Illinois and Chattanooga might not have performed probably the most top quality recreation of the primary spherical, however the Preventing Illini battled from down double digits within the second half and averted a defeat to the Mocs on the buzzer to advance to the second spherical. Chattanooga had two seems to win the sport within the closing seconds and led for 38 minutes, however the Illini survived, 54-53.

Houston used its red-hot capturing at first of its first-round recreation in opposition to UAB and held off a number of comeback makes an attempt from the Blazers. The plurality of brackets had Illinois making the Candy 16 and the Illini are the upper seed, however the market sees the Cougars as a significantly higher workforce. The Cougars gained, 82-68, and led by not less than eight the whole second half.

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I circled this as a possible Houston spot when the bracket got here out, and although we’re not getting the perfect quantity with Houston laying a number of possessions, the Cougars are clearly the higher workforce. And extra importantly, they’re the extra constant workforce. Andre Curbelo and Trent Frazier are apt to crumble at any level, and the protection of the Cougars all the time travels, even when this recreation is ugly.

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When groups have had the power to neutralize Kofi Cockburn and stop straightforward open seems for the Illinois shooters, it’s not exhausting to close down the Illinois’ offense. Houston takes away post-ups and 3-pointers higher than any protection in the whole nation, and for that purpose I’m anticipating Houston to haven’t any points dispatching Illinois.

Solely an important Curbelo and Frazier recreation will make this shut. As a result of we’re not getting the perfect of the quantity, I wouldn’t lay greater than 4 factors.

The play: Houston -4 or higher

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