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No. 10 Rutgers vs. No. 2 Houston preview, picks for second round of 2021 NCAA Tournament

The Houston Cougars and Rutgers Scarlet Knights meet in the second round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament. We’ve got everything you need on both teams ahead of the game here.

Houston Cougars forward Reggie Chaney guard Quentin Grimes and guard Marcus Sasser celebrate against the Cleveland State Vikings during the second half in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.  Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights made school history on Friday, picking up an NCAA Tournament win for the first time since Ronald Reagan’s first term in the White House. They’ll face a Houston Cougars team that ran the Ohio Valley Conference champions off the court on Friday. This game starts at 7:10 p.m., and will be broadcast on TBS from Lucas Oil Stadium.

Let’s take a look at the second round NCAA Tournament matchup in the Midwest Region.

No. 10 Rutgers: 16-11 (10-10 B1G)

First round result: 60-56 over No. 7 Clemson
KenPom rating: 34 Overall, 74 Offense, 14 Defense
NET ranking: 38, (5-9 vs. Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Ron Harper Jr. (15.4 ppg)
Key stat: RU blocks a shot on 14.1% of possessions good for 15th in the country.

It was a big win for the Scarlet Knights in the first round, the first for RU since 1983 in the NCAA Tournament. Geo Baker had 13 points, none bigger than his layup with 10 seconds remaining to ice the final score. They held Clemson as a team to just 15-40 from the floor, and forced 11 turnovers in the upset win in Round 1.

But they’ll face a team that’s more athletic in the Cougars, and the rim protection of Myles Johnson (8.7 rebounds per game, 2.5 blocks per game) will be essential to stopping UH from getting to the rim.

No. 2 Houston: 25-3 (14-3 AAC)

First round result: 87-56 over No. 15 Cleveland State
KenPom rating: 5 Overall, 6 Offense, 13 Defense
NET ranking: 5 (2-1 vs. Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Quentin Grimes (18.0 ppg)
Key stat: Houston is the No. 1 team in America in eFG defense at 43.0%.

Houston has won six of their last eight games by 23 points or more, haven’t lost at home or on a neutral court all year, and rebounds nearly 40% of their misses. They defend aggressively as a unit, and since their pause for Covid they have continued to improve each week. They aren’t being talked about too much as a potential Final Four team, but they can play with anyone in America.

Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook*

Point spread: Houston -9
Point total: 132.5
Moneyline: N/A

The Pick

Against The Spread Pick: Houston -9
Point total pick: Over 132.5
Pick to Win: Houston

UH is possibly the most underrated team in America right now and just comes at you in waves. Rutgers went 10-10 in the tough Big Ten, but went 1-6 vs. teams that finished in the Top 10. The win was in December against an Illinois team that isn’t what they are now, and most of the losses are blowouts. They struggle with real talent.

And they get run off the court on Sunday.

* Rutgers games are unavailable to be bet at DraftKings in New Jersey due to state regulations.

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