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No. 2 Houston vs. No. 15 Cleveland St. preview, picks for first round of 2021 NCAA Tournament

The Houston Cougars and Cleveland State Vikings meet at Assembly Hall in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament. We’ve got everything you need on both teams ahead of the game here.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 14 American Tournament - Cin v Hou Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Update March 19: Here are the updated bet splits for No. 2 Houston vs. No. 15 Cleveland State as of March 19th at 7 a.m. from DraftKings Sportsbook:

Houston: -20: 56% of action, 56% of bets
Cleveland State: +20: 44% of action, 44% of bets

Over 134: 65% of action, 78% of bets
Under 134: 35% of action, 22% of bets

Update March 18: Here are the updated bet splits for Houston vs. Cleveland State as of March 18th at 1:30 p.m. from DraftKings Sportsbook:

Houston -20: 57% of handle, 59% of bets
Cleveland State +20: 43% of handle, 41% of bets
Over 135: 66% of handle, 75% of bets
Under 135: 34% of handle, 25% of bets

One of the least talked about teams among the top two seeds in all of college basketball has to be this Houston Cougars team. They are playing very good basketball and will meet up with the Cleveland State Vikings in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 19th as heavy favorites to move on. This game will get rolling at 7:15 p.m. ET from Assembly Hall and can be seen on truTV.

No. 2 Houston: 24-3 (14-3 AAC): Automatic Bid

KenPom rating: 6 Overall, 8 Offense, 16 Defense
NET ranking: 5, (2-1 VS Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Quentin Grimes
Key stat: Houston leads the AAC in turnover margin with a 3.78 average.

Houston excels on both ends of the floor, and Kelvin Sampson has a team that can make a run. The Cougars have the third highest field goal percentage in the AAC and were the top team defensively in that category. Houston dominates in the rebounding margin, and their 9.1 average ranks No. 8 in college basketball. Reserve freshman forward J’Wan Roberts averages 11.5 minutes per game and is questionable to play with a thumb injury.

Watch for Quentin Grimes to keep shooting from long range. In three games during the AAC Tournament, he made 14 of 26 3-pointers for 53.8%.

No. 15 Cleveland State: 19-7 (16-4 Horizon): Automatic Bid

KenPom rating: 151 Overall, 199 Offense, 121 Defense
NET ranking: 160 (1-3 VS Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Torrey Patton
Key stat: Cleveland State shoots 31.7% from three-point range, which was 10th out of 12 Horizon League teams.

Cleveland State has been led by their defense this season, allowing the second lowest field goal percentage in the Horizon League. Offensively, the Vikings will need to play a lot better as they rank near the bottom in free throw and three-point shooting percentage. Shots will need to fall for an upset to happen.

Watch for Cleveland State to find ways for senior guard Craig Beaudion to shoot from long range. He doesn’t shoot it all that much, but he shoots at 40.7% from three, which is by far the best mark among players who receive significant minutes.

March Madness Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

Spread: Houston -20
Total: 135
Moneyline: Houston -3335, Cleveland State +1400

The Pick

Against The Spread Pick: Cleveland State +20
Point total pick: Under 135
Pick to Win: Houston

Houston ranks No. 303 among 347 teams in possessions per game, and this will be played at the Cougars’ pace. By limiting the total number of possessions in this game, Cleveland State will stay within the 20-point spread, and there won’t be enough points scored for the over to cash. The Cougars can make a deep run in this tournament, and they don’t need to prove anything by running up the score against a No. 15 seed.