While the path to the Sweet 16 of the 2019 NCAA Tournament for the Kentucky Wildcats and Houston Cougars wasn’t always easy, the two teams both got the job done. Now, it sets up a matchup between the No. 2 and 3 seeds in the Midwest region and a chance to head to the Elite Eight on the line.
The winner of this game will face either the UNC Tar Heels or Auburn Tigers, both of which looked incredibly good in their second-round victories.
For John Calipari and the Wildcats, they knocked off Abilene Christian 79-44 in a dominant effort across the board. They then proceeded to hold off everyone’s favorite Cinderella pick in Wofford by a score of 62-56.
On the other side, the Cougars made quick work of their two opponents, defeating Georgia State 84-55 and then rolling past Ohio State 74-59 in the second round. Kelvin Sampson’s team looked great in the two wins, but they’ll be tested in a big way against Kentucky.
Kentucky vs. Houston Preview
*Note: Betting info and updated lines courtesy of OddsShark
- Kentucky Wildcats (-2.5) vs. Houston Cougars
- Over/Under: 135.5
One big topic to monitor will be the status of Kentucky forward PJ Washington. Calipari revealed the news that Washington would miss the tournament opener due to a sprained foot, which he addressed on Twitter.
There’s been no timeline set for exactly when the forward will return to action, but Reid Travis has stepped up big in the two games without him. During the opener against Abilene Christian, Travis scored 18 points with nine rebounds on 8-of-10 shooting and totaled 14 points with 11 rebounds in the win over Wofford.
As for the Houston side, it’s been the Corey Davis Jr. show through two games. The senior guard poured in 26 points with seven rebounds and six assists in the opener and followed that up with 21 points, six rebounds, three steals and two assists against Ohio State.
The Cougars also received an impressive performance from Galen Robinson Jr. in the victory over the Buckeyes. The guard scored 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting while tallying six steals and five assists for good measure.
Kentucky vs. Houston Prediction & Pick
It’s going to be interesting to see if the Cougars can shut down Kentucky in the post. Even if Washington remains out, Travis has been a handful for opponents and has shown the potential to take over in key moments. On the other side, the Cougars trio of guards in Davis, Robinson Jr., and Armoni Brooks are proving to be an elite group currently.
One key aspect of this matchup to note is the defense on both sides. Houston currently ranks as the No. 8 best team in the country in terms of points per game allowed at just 61.2. Kentucky isn’t far behind, coming in ranked No. 36 while giving up 65.4 points per game. This could be where the potential absence of Washington comes into play most, as the Cougars defense has been lights out and both sides need as much firepower as possible.
While there’s a decent chance Kentucky will be slightly favored, I’m going to roll with Houston to get the job done and move on to the Elite Eight. Back-to-back wins by 15-plus points in the big dance has my full attention.
Prediction: Houston Cougars 70, Kentucky Wildcats 64
Pick: Houston Cougars +2.5